Let’s get to the point – I’m not a fan of contemporary commercial country music.
There are a few exceptions – I like Jamey Johnson and the Dixie Chicks (although they’ve basically been blackballed from the industry), and an occasional song or two, such as Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.”
But the stuff that’s passed off as country, which is basically classic rock with pedal steels and twangy vocals laid over the top with suburban redneck lyrical themes – not my cup of tea.
But country’s cousins – outlaw country, Americana, bluegrass, Western swing – I dig.
So I headed to Rodeo Bar & Grill at Broadway at the Beach with some trepidation on a recent Saturday night to check out local house band, the Josh Brannon Band, and to find out first-hand what the venue formerly known as Blarney Stone’s Irish Pub was like in its new incarnation as a supposedly Texas-styled roadhouse.
Accompanying photographer Matt Silfer, we arrived shortly after 10 p.m. and it was slim pickin’s and when the Josh Brannon Band went on stage around 10:30 p.m. there still wasn’t much of a crowd.
But by that magical witching hour – 11 p.m. – the floor was awash with gobs of young hotties, couples and the randoms singing and dancing along to JBB.
I was impressed by the band’s musical chops – and choice of material. While I was there, the band stayed away from the cheesy country fare that litters the current country charts, in favor of more thoughtful stuff, and even threw in a cover of the Charlie Daniels Band classic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Then the band took a break and a deejay started spinning – not country hits – but electronic dance music and hip-hop – yes, for several minutes country-themed Rodeo Bar and Grill basically transformed into one of its Celebrity Square neighbors – say Club Boca, Malibu’s or Revolutions. And for the most part, the crowd partied on…save for a few older patrons that looked like somebody shot their favorite horse.
And then JBB came back on stage and there was an even larger crowd – full of several bachelorette parties, dudes that came because they knew the girls would be there, some obvious tourists, and the usual Myrtle Vegas-y douche bags who wouldn’t have known or cared if it was the Josh Brannon Band or Hank Williams, Jr. performing.
Mixed in the set, the Josh Brannon Band played several original songs, which were well-received and didn’t turn into the proverbial bathroom-break-go-to-the-bar that unfamiliar material often inspires in hard-to-please or indifferent crowds.
But there’s the kicker - that’s really an impressive feat – playing original material on a Saturday night during tourist season at a bar based at a tourist attraction. Chew on that that for minute.
A few weeks ago correspondent/Music Notes columnist Paul Grimshaw sent me a pitch proposing that we give the cover treatment to the Josh Brannon Band – so that’s why I was there at Rodeo, besides it being my birthday weekend – on a recon mission to determine if JBB was indeed cover-worthy.
Here’s Grimshaw’s pitch that he sent me: “Josh Brannon, the new face of Grand Strand country music, has taken his college-days fan base from three years ago, and turned himself into a bona fide local celebrity. Not only has he landed a lucrative house band gig at Rodeo Bar & Grill, he’s finished work on his first full length original country project with an upcoming CD release party in the works - and he’s accomplished this all before his 25th birthday.”
So I took the bait and you can read Grimshaw’s report on our home page.
But it’s not simply a profile of Brannon – we’ve done that in Music Notes – it’s a look at the local country scene that appears to be on a cyclical upswing with the opening of new country-themed venues, and we attempt to frame Brannon and band mates within that context, to provide depth and meaning.
But don’t take my word for it – click on our cover story and find out for yourself.
Kent Kimes, Editor