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Localities :: The Local Music Scene

{Ed. Note: We used to despise our local music scene, out of sheer ignorance, but then we went to a local show and got our asses stomped musically by a bunch of players, pickers, and singer-songwriters who happen to be making great shit. We regret our omission of these artists over the past years of this blog’s existence and Localities is a feature which aims to remedy that oversight and apologize for our Musical Asshole Disease that prevented us from doing this prior. Over the coming months, as we make better efforts to venture to local shows and talk with local musicians, we’ll be featuring them here. We’re making amends, y’all.}

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Seven years ago I was immersed in a scene: Bars, alcohol flowing like a river, dancing on tables. I wore an apron then and took steak orders on Wednesdays in a dive populated by fellow good-hearted and dedicated alcoholics. Walnut Street then boasted one record store and too many dance clubs, a respite for sorority girls who frequently forgot jackets in the dead of winter and men who felt like the popped collar trend was something worth pursuing. There was enough of Usher’s music blasting out of those doors to stifle even the folkiest of hearts and back then there was no point in seeking out the local music scene because there just wasn’t one. Those memories of bad, unpracticed punk bands playing a bar on the side of town your daddy told you not to venture into stuck. Though the town of Springfield is my old stomping grounds and though it’s just an hour from here, geographically the closest local music scene, I’ve been holding a belief that investigating what might be happening there was a losing endeavor. Aside from taking that short jaunt down the highway occasionally for a wedding reception or a set by our friend’s great Dwight Yoakam cover band, we’ve stayed away. Too many shit memories and not enough of a scene to replace those old ones with new. There was no point.

But Saturday last there was a show. An under-publicized show, found out about simply by chance, in a tiny bar called Lindberg’s, the oldest in a town with a population of 160,000. Hotel got booked, gas got bought, and we packed up the car and headed down I-44. We like to mix the drink with our music because the two compliment each other so well and as such, ventured out the bar the bar early. There we were met with the biggest damn gathering of 40-year-olds this side of an antique fair in War Eagle and a pack of smokes that couldn’t hit the lungs because of the massive thunderstorm brewing out on the patio. This did not bode well. The Rainmakers were playing and are very big in The Netherlands, according to the many older retirees we encountered, and the lead singer dude was rad enough to place a damn fan strategically in front of him so his gray hair flowed whilst he belted out tunes that had 60-year-olds pumping fists. Awesome indeed, just not our scene.

The weather took a turn for the worse and things looked grim, both musically and meteorologically. But music saved, as it always does. What we didn’t expect was that along with being immersed in the rain, we too got baptized into the local music scene that has sprung up in Springfield since we had departed. When before there was nothing, now? Now there was something. We populated the metal chairs outdoors with local musicians and promoters and everyone imbibed whilst we rambled on about house shows and tiny record labels and bands I’d never heard of. It was an education and now we’re sharing those lessons with you, dear reader. We’d like to introduce you to the local music scene of Springfield, Missouri.

Not just were we lucky enough to meet musicians making great music, we were fortunate enough to meet pickers crafting songs that happen to be right up our proverbial music alley. Folk seems easy – just write a song, add a guitar or banjo, and amble along slowly with feeling. But getting it just right is hard. It’s not the easiest task to stand out when so much of the genre seems confined to using a set of standards that everyone feels they need to use. It’s rare to find someone doing it within those standards yet in their own way (and in this state, no less) and that’s why it was a fucking treat to meet a dude named Brian Azevedo. Azevedo fronts The Cropdusters, played that night with Sweetwater Abilene, and released an album late last year with his Dallas County Deadshots that has blown us away. It’d be a surprise if just one of these bands struck our fancy, given our previous opinion of music in Springfield (which we’re clearly revising now, SHIT) but this fellow is involved with at least three bands that we find mighty worthy of words here.

Douglas County Deadshots is a record that resides in a vein similar to that of the Olentangy John album we loved so much this year. It’s sparse and yet amazingly full, packed with country-tinged tales of poverty told on a guitar and sung words about backwoods hangings and troubles with wine and bills. It is not eminently relatable to most but the tales contained herein manage to be because more than words, they are feelings and ones that are universal at that. Loss, sadness, and let-downs, backed up by a voice bathed in rust and guitars that seem to wail just outside the cabin window. Yet still, there still seems to be a hope. Azevedo sings of carrying on despite all of it. Willie of “Wailin’ Casket Blues” might have been an asshole but he didn’t give up (though he did get his). Poor Sam Jones didn’t deserve it but he got his, too. In that respect, Douglas County Deadshots is a piece of truth: We all get it in the end, good or bad as we walked through life. It’s harsh and it’s enough to make you wanna quit, that trouble that they say comes in threes, but when it’s all put as beautifully as it is on Douglas County Deadshots, it doesn’t sound too terribly pointless after all.

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