Catching on up...New Braunfels, The Deli shows, and writing songs

I told you I'd stay vigilant, and Blake Olson didn't even have to remind me to do it.  Proud of myself? Maybe a little.  If I reach through the mush and music that are constantly moving around throughout my mind, I seem to recall promising to pick up where I left off, somewhere around the Deli shows a few weeks back.  Buckle your safety belts and rev up them engines, we're off to a rip rockin' start...

Actually, hang on.  Stop with all the engine revving, we may have to throw the old gal in reverse for a few minutes and back up a few. There were some days in between the Tavern on the Gruene jamtacular and the Deli gigs, most of which were spent at various bars and locales in and around New Braunfels.  I spent Monday night with Peaches and Rio at the cabin I have since dubbed the Songwriter's Compound, a place of magic and spiders that is ultimately conducive to getting things done, and by things I mean writing songs, making coffee, and tagging the walls with John Moreland quotes.  I would return to Songwriter Compound the following week, but slow the hell down, man.  We'll get there, I promise.

Songwriter Compound - View

Tuesday began with yet another fantastic bloody mary at the Black Whale pub in downtown New Braunfels with the dynamic duo of Rio Tripiano and Jon "Peaches" Schmig taking us around and showing us the best places to day drink in town.  Some of you may remember ole Peaches from his stint as merch dude/driver/road wrangler for we Damn Quails in the second and third year of our so called career.  He's currently in the employ of another little band you've probably heard of known as Uncle Damn Lucius.  If you don't know Rio Tripiano, he's a songwritin' guitar pickin' madman with a heart of gold and a hat full of well written songs and more than a few oversized rings on his fingers.  He's the current upstairs tenant of the Songwriter Compound and kind enough to let me crash his digs from time to time when I happen to be bumming around New Braunfels town.  We've had some pretty epic twitter moments in the weeks hence, which you can follow on our twitter account, of which I am the keeper, master, and commander. 

Rio Tripiano - Songwriter and Ring Bearer

Our ragtag crew started out with a bloody mary and some cigarettes on the front porch.  By a stroke of luck and a well timed text message, I was fortunate enough to engineer a meeting with my well traveled friend at the Whale. After a single beer, we decided we should all take a short walk up the street to Scores for a few more beers, jager bombs, and cigarettes we could smoke indoors.  I had a blast swapping stories, and after an all too fast few hours passed by, I slowly but surely bit back the hangover that had been chewing on me since I rolled out of bed that morning. Before you'd ever think it possible, afternoon had given way to early evening and previous obligations on WTF's (cute, right?) part required the parting of our ways.

We paid our tab at scores and made our way to that (nearly) last bastion of smoker's hope as well as one of the great live music venues of South Texas known as Billy's Ice House. Billy's was one of the first real venues we played when the Quails first began our forays into the Texas Music market just after the release of Down The Hatch. We've always been well received and well taken care of at Billy's and there's a lot to be said for a place that you can still smoke a cigarette on stage and play the damn guitar at the same time.  The drinks are cheap and the bar staff is top notch, and there's live music pert near every night of the week.  On this particular Tuesday, we got a chance to catch Kevin Galloway of Uncle Lucius playing an acoustic set, which was a treat to say the least. I've enjoyed crossing paths with Uncle Lucius from time to time over the past few years, most recently during Music Fest at Steamboat. They have phenomenal songs and a live show to match, but seeing Kevin perform in a stripped down environment with a cello for accompaniment was refreshing as hell and entertaining to boot. Twas a cosmic music made for the children of Aquarius, draped like a blanket of stars collapsing 'neath the light of a blood red killing moon.

After soaking up some songs and a little more jager, my buddy Rio was kind enough to drop me off at Gruene Hall so I could spend some time at one of my favorite places and get a little lost among the tourists and the regulars, not to mention watch a certain and particular beerslinger work some bar magic.  Gruene Hall is a magical place, and the songswap that was going on in the front portion was exceedingly excellent. I met a man from Michigan that was a big Turnpike Troubadours fan and was kind enough to give me a lift back over to Billy's so I could catch my buddies Kyle Reed and Nate Rodriguez swap some tunes before last call.  I was invited to play a few songs of my own, which I did, and eventually caught a ride back to Austin and crashed out at Blake's after a much needed and well deserved shower. 

Billy's Ice Jagerbomb

We headed back to Norman the following morning and began the process of preparing our collective livers for a legendary and unprecedented two night stand at the Deli.  If you've been following us for any amount of time, you know that the Deli is our home base of operations and the center of the musical universe as far as we're all concerned.  The Deli is where we learned how to play together, where we developed that all important and intangible mental connection that defines the way we fit together musically.  The Deli staff also happen to serve the most fantastic Jager Bomb on the face of the planet, and I definitely know my business when it comes to that particular beverage. I've been told it's the off brand energy drink on the gun that makes them so good, but I think the overall awesome vibe of the place has made its way into every single shot glass and big red cup. It comes out in every single drink served or beer poured, and the vibe is absolutely palpable.

Thursday night was magical, a full band acoustic set reminiscent of the old days when we took the stage every single Monday night with a rotating cast of Norman's finest players and blew the lid off the joint with gusto.  It also marked a first in the life of young Kevin "Haystack" Calhoun, the youngest and second most recent addition to the Quails lineup.  He's been playing with us almost a year now, but the fiddlin' wunderkind had never before taken the Deli stage with the band.  It was a helluva first show for him. 

The newest member of the band is one Mr Warren Field, a big bad mother of a bass player that used to play for Heater and also landed some awesome bass parts on Camille Harp's album. We love his ass, and the only reason I forgot to mention him in the first draft is because my brain no work good. 

The band fell into our old rhythm just like a good pair of worn in shoes,  comfortable and loose, but tight enough to keep the whole damn mess together. The lineup for the night included Stephen Baker, our insanely tasty saxophone player, Blake "Black Lemon" Lennon, guitarist/lap steel/mandolin extraordinaire, and none other than the goddamn magic man himself, Adam "Biggie" Rittenberry.  Biggie is one of my best friends and it's been a rough past year not having him to my left.  He is the most innately talented harmonica player I've ever seen or played with, and it was one of the happiest nights of music I've made in a long time. Our good friends Parker Milsap and Michael Rose, a musical powerhouse in their own right, were kind enough to stop by and play a few songs with us that damn near brought the walls down around the stage that Bob Moore built.  Those kids (and I say that because they're still young as shit and I seem to be getting older by the day) started out playing a few early sets on a few Monday nights and, due to the fact that they were a few years too young to be allowed entry if they weren't actually on stage, would wait outside the window on stage right and watch us rock and roll from the sidewalk until we could invite them in to guest on a few songs.  They used to set up lawn chairs and lounge around on the sidewalk, provided the weather was good, and it's really great to see them doing so well on the national circuit.  Little bastards even played the Ryman Auditorium a while back and we're proud to call them both compadres.   If you haven't seen them already, keep a big old open eye out for them.  

Biggie - Back in Action at the Deli

The Friday night show was great, but due to a family illness, Biggie wasn't able to make it out.  I also had a bunch of crazy guitar malfunctions that threw me for a loop and put a hitch in my musical step for a the first part of the night.  I was desperately wishing I could swap out several eyeballs for two. Luckily, my friend and favorite guitar player in the world Mr. Alan Orebaugh was kind enough to loan me one of his many amazing Telecasters with which to finish the set, and things turned around before the night was over.  After another nearly four hour set, the Deli had been thoroughly and once again rocked. 

The next day, we took off for Kansas City sans Gabriel Marshall, who had suffered a minor but painful injury and was unable to make the show because of it.  In typical Quails style, we made do with what we had, and instead of cancelling our first show at the Riot Room, we put Haystack on guitar and backup vocal duties and brought the house down to the cheers and applause of a nearly packed house.  I took some requests for Gabe songs and played my own effed up versions of them, which the crowd really seemed to enjoy.  We've actually toyed with the idea of a bizzaro set, in which I would perform Gabe songs and he would perform mine, but we've never actually gone through with it.  I've re-enabled comments on this blog, so if that sounds like something you'd like to see one of these fine days, make a little comment and let me know what you think.  Just don't post a bunch of dick jokes and drug references.  Or do, what do I care? Isn't that really the really real reason that Al Gore invented the internet in the first place?

After I got back to OKC on Sunday, I loaded up my luxury sedan with a guitar and a few changes of clothes and headed on back down to New Braunfels.  I made a beeline for Gruene Hall and spent a few hours drinking cold Budweiser in a perspiring bottle and marveling at the dedication and work ethic of the best beerslinger at the oldest dancehall in Texas.  It was gospel Sunday and the band was on fire for both Jesus and song, a fire which was fed by mimosas. 6 point beer, and the fervor of a good sized crowd for a Sunday afternoon.   I've always felt that playing music, especially with a band, to be akin to the feeling that most people get when they attend church.  It's an ethereal connection shared by a group of players, one that perpetuates itself through the crowd like a grass fire and eventually feeds right back to the band, creating a loop of energy that feeds off itself until the last beat gets dropped and the last beer goes crashing into the bottom of the barrel. 

After a few post shift beers, we spent the remainder of the night at Tavern on the Gruene, making new acquaintances and conversing in between casual bar games and re-ordering beverages.  Sunday night gave way to Monday morning, and I headed out to the Songwriter Compound and spent the evening listening to John Moreland tunes and enjoying the solitude and siren song of the river rolling on down towards the ocean. 

Rare occasions of collaboration aside, songwriting is an intensely personal and quiet occupation.  It's been years since I was able to sit by myself in a peaceful and low key locale and just let the words and music come pouring out of me.  I spent the entire day Monday just chasing down lines and melody, following them down whatever path they decided to choose and reining them back in towards the main path whenever they strayed too far.  Ideas began to take shape, and before the week was out, I had several ideas and two completed, solid songs.  There is no substitute for silence and solace when it comes to writing songs.  You can sit around at coffee shops with your head buried in your lyric book, you can navigate your vehicle whilst tossing ideas back and forth in your mind, but when it comes to actually getting a little work done, a place that's free of distraction and outside influence is key.  I had forgotten that, but it didn't take a whole lot of time to reacquaint myself with the idea.

Monday night is mine.  You can't have it.

This, dear valued and trusted reader, is where this particular entry gets the axe.  I'll continue playing catch up until we can finally rejoin the present somewhere in the next week or so.  There's still quite a bit between hee and thee, so keep your eyes peeled for the next riveting chapter of this here blog I'm writing.  Catch you on down the road,

Bryon White/TDQ


Welcome Back to The Party

I know it's been forever, so I'll start off (as usual) by apologizing for letting this most useful and viable line of communication dry up.  I am the least organized and most scatterbrained person I know, and seeing as I've always been the only person around to remind myself to type up a new blog every week, the new blog inevitably does not get finished if it even gets started at all.  It is for that very reason that I'm transferring that particular responsibility to Blake Olson, our most organized and patriotic tour manager.  So Blake, if you're reading this, remind me to do another blog a week from today.  Not today as in the day you're reading it, but the day in which it was published, which I can only assume will be added on to the eventual posting via some tiny robot that's programmed to accomplish that task.

This past weekend was a phenomenal grouping of days that contained two gigs, both of which were uniquely marvelous in their own special ways. Let's start with Friday and work our way kicking and screaming through the weekend.  Sound good?  Ok then, now we're making some freaking progress.

 Friday night was a free show at Gruene Hall.  You know, Gruene Hall.  It's arguably the most famous venue in the entire nation-state of Texas. Shit man, John Damn Travolta filmed part of Michael there.  If you're one of the few people reading this that actually find themselves baffled about the existence of Gruene Hall and don't appreciate my sarcasm on the point, just click the words "Gruene Hall" and ye shall be mystically transported along the waves and wires of the information superhighway you call the internets and I call a cluster-fuck of "information" to the homepage of the hall itself.  If you've never been, I recommend taking an afternoon or evening out of your busy schedule, driving to New Braunfels, and ordering the coldest beer you'll ever have from the pretty girl behind the bar.  Even if there's no show going on, the place has a distinct air of history about it. Sit down, take a breath, drink a beer, and revel in the history smoked into the walls around you. 


At this point in our side bar about Gruene Hall, I'm going to take the approach of the old "pick your own adventure" books from my youth and allow you to calmly and carefully choose your own path at this point, giving this story a bit of a personal touch.  So, if you're NOT a smoker, continue your adventure by reading passage A located below.  If you ARE a smoker, climb on down to passage B (located just south of passage A) and see how your story ends up.  If you're really REALLY adventurous, traverse on down all the way to passage C...but I don't recommend that way, brave explorer.

Passage A

Sit down, take a breath, drink a beer, and revel in the history smoked into the walls around you. 

Now take a few calm, collected moments and breathe the fresh air of a truly historical structure in a truly historic area of south Texas.  Everything turned out okay here, and there's no second hand smoke to contend with the oxygen so desperately trying to make its way into your lungs. Tip your beerslinger, check out some pictures nailed up on the 137 year old wooden walls, and go home safe in the knowledge that you experienced a true piece of Texas history without even having to get your hands dirty.  Your adventure is over, and it was just fine.

Passage B

 Sit down, take a breath, drink a beer, and revel in the history smoked into the walls around you.

Now, take a moment to quietly curse the fact that modern day bureaucracy and laws have finally completely and totally encroached upon your God given right as a man (or woman) in America to light up a cigarette and smoke it in a bar. And this is not just any bar, mind you.  This is Gruene Fucking Hall, the original Texas dance hall, a structure in which literally millions upon millions of cigarettes have been lit up and smoked down over the past CENTURY with the fervor and fury of an addict hot on the heels of a sweet, sweet fix.  There is absolutely no denying how authentically incredible the entire place feels, and all you want is to be able to light up a smoke like the cowboys of old and smoke it to the filter while you sip your own beer at your own table next to the actual woodburning stove that keeps the bar area the perfect temperature when it's uncharacteristically frigid outside.  Rise from your table, brave adventurer, and head on around through the wooden door that takes you out of the bar and on to the ancient planks that make up the Gruene Hall dance floor. Walk around a bit, maybe cough up a few quarters for a game of 8 ball and put down a rack in a place that has most assuredly seen its fair share of skull trauma from pool cue fights.  Actually, screw it.  Head out the back door and smoke a damn cigarette in the open air of the Texas night.  Relish each and every single slow puff and drag, deposit your butt in the nearest ash can or card board box full of empty beer bottles, tip your incredible beerslinger, and head on home. Your adventure ends here, fairly similar to the non smokers, only we had more fun together AND we got to smoke.  Plus there was almost a pool cue fight...remember that?  Man that was awesome.

Passage C

Sit down, take a breath, drink a beer, and revel in the history smoked into the walls around you.

You just had to risk it, didn't you.  Even after the warming, you decided to skip on down to old passage C and see if maybe, just maybe, fortune and glory awaited you at the end of your quest. You rise from your table, blatantly disregarding the well deserved tip that you neglected to give your incredible beerslinger, and make a beeline towards the stage, hoping to take a selfie of your face in front of the mysterious and fabled "Willie Door" rumored to exist somewhere in the vicinity of the men's room.  You notice a loose board behind some old sound equipment, so why not just reach on up there and give it a pull? As you do, a wayward road case shifts and crushes your puny adventurers body against the 137 year old wooden planks of the floor.  As your vision goes dark, you can't help but recall the words of your helpful yet foreboding narrator and the unheeded warning that would have saved your life had you simply listened.  You die penniless and glory-less outside of the Gruene Hall men's room, mostly because you were a dick and forgot to tip your beerslinger.

So Gruene Hall provided us with yet another tremendous sized crowd of intensely focused and courteous show goers.  Every time we play the hall, several distinct groups of radically righteous fans turn out in droves, sit quietly at their seats, and hang on every word we say and every note we play.  It's the kind of crowd that laughs at all of your jokes (even the lame-ass ones) and pays such close attention that you could swear the world outside had completely ceased to exist and you, the artist, have finally become the thing that all artists secretly and subconsciously want to become...the absolute center of someones universe for three and a half minutes.  It's a world in which you can do no wrong, where all of the petty problems and conflicts that muddy up your daily life get sent to the backburner and you become somebody else entirely. A person both capable of performing miraculous feats of rock and roll and worthy of the abilities and so called talents used to perform them.  As a group of guys that choose to make a career out of playing the songs that they write in front of people that actually pay to watch them do it, we count ourselves lucky that we're even allowed inside a place like Gruene Hall with an instrument in our hands, let alone paid to make music with it. 

After the Gruene Hall show, we loaded up and headed over to a private and rather cozy establishment known as the Farr Barr to pursue further musical enlightenment from libations and fellowship.  In other words, we drank more and played more songs.  Blake's buddy has transformed a functional but rather boring old garage into his very own private speakeasy, complete with a fancy antique wooden bar with glass cabinet, Golden Tee machine, and a Gadsden flag hanging proudly on the wall.  On the wall opposite the Golden Tee machine sits an 80's model soda vending machine, stocked full of Lonestar beer that only costs a quarter. If you're broke as hell and don't have your own quarter, there's a Crown Royal bag full of them hanging from the side of the machine next to the quarter slot that you can borrow from.  The Farr Barr is a traveling musician's paradise, a place where you can drink all night and play songs as loudly and drunkenly as you want without fear of reproach or reprisal from anyone.  Plus they have a huge freakin' dog.

Saturday morning, we avoided a rather substantial pile of someone's vomit on the way to the vehicles and hit the road caravan style with the Sprinter leading the charge while Blake and I followed in his truck.  After the three hour long and intensely nauseating drive from New Braunfels, we decided to stop off for some important supplies at the local tobacco shop, which we were told was "right by the Hastings" by a different friend of Blake's familiar with the area.  We retrieved our sundries from the shop and asked the clerk there if he knew where the La Quinta Inn was located.  "Sure" he said. "It's just over on the other side of the Hastings."  Fan...tastic. I finally started to understand that the little swatch of downtown Brownwood that we were hanging out in was basically the only bastion of civilized society for dozens of miles in all directions around us, and that the Hastings (being the biggest store around) was apparently the most easily recognizable monument in town.  We all took a few hours to enjoy the reasonable La Quinta accommodations as they were a head and shoulders above the kinds of places we're normally used to staying at, then headed to load in at Waylon and Ray's.

From the outside, Waylon and Ray's looks a lot like most any of the older buildings that make up the eerily quiet downtown area in Brownwood, Texas.  We loaded our gear in through an unassuming door that led right onto the massive stage positioned on the second level of what turned out to be a three tiered space.  The dance floor area was an entire level below the stage, creating an effect like playing in a balcony for all the tiny people dancing and twirling around down below.  We had a great turnout for our first time playing in town, so we celebrated with a few more libations and a relatively comfortable bed to pass out in at the La Quinta. 

The next day, the Sprinter containing Warren (bass) and Kevin "Haystack" Foster (fiddlin' wunderkind) headed north for Oklahoma while Gabe, Tom and myself went on back to Austin for a pre-pre-production meeting and Bloody Mary's at Casino El Camino on Sixth Street.  After consuming the bulk of a bloody mary adorned with  accoutrement the likes of a fried taquito, a Swedish meatball, a mammoth sized stick of celery, assorted Mediterranean olives, a martini onion, and a few pieces of pickled okra, I split off from the fellas and took an unforgettable stroll down Sixth Street in the company of a highly enlightened and well traveled friend I became acquainted with over the weekend via a gloriously random series of completely unrelated events, which began with my sneaking in to the Shovels and Rope show in OKC the previous week and ended in the yellow sunlight on Sixth Street a few hundred miles to the south. We drank draft beer at the Jackelope in between spats of laughter and a half dozen or so trips out to the sidewalk, where we could smoke our filthy cigarettes a safe distance away from the clean-living trendies and civilized social networkers of the younger generation of Austinites.  We ended our parlay on a high note and I spent the rest of the evening frequenting various Super Bowl parties around town and at Blake's apartment complex, eating party food and drinking Pina Colada flavored frozen wine pouches before passing out early.

Monday morning, the three of us headed to south Austin and met Dave Abeyta at a rehearsal space called...well...Space, actually. For those of you non-musical types that don't know much or even anything at all about the process of recording an album, I shall proceed to explain the process of pre-production using terms and phrases that even the layman can easily understand.   This is going to be part one in my series of short but informative articles entitled...

The Layman's Guide to Making a Damn Record

 Lesson 1: Pre-Production

Pre-production is getting together a few dudes (or chicks) that think they're ready to record a new album, putting them in a small room together with the record producer, and playing a selection of new songs they think they will eventually want to completely track out and put on an album. Then you feed all of them some fajita tacos, crack open a few tall boys, and  go on about your day. It's really a way to make sure your songs are put together properly before you start spending cash on an expensive studio that you can afford for any longer than humanly possible.  Lesson 1 complete. Moving on...

For those of you that don't know, Dave Abeyta is the mad tone scientist that plays lead guitar for none other than that older generation of Braun boys collectively known as Reckless Kelly.  He's also our producer for the second record and one helluva dude to boot.  Gabe and I sat down with Tom playing brushes and snare and went through all the new material that could potentially end up on the album.  It was a real load off to actually be sitting in a room and physically working on a record again.  Being in the studio is something I have always really enjoyed and even though it was pre-production, I still felt like we had accomplished quite a bit in a small amount of time, most of which didn't even pertain to the job.  Dave has a lot of fantastic ideas for the direction and overall vibe of the songs, which are right in line with the way we've been performing and evolving them over the past year and change.  It's going to be good.  Really good.

With preproduction over in the mid afternoon, it was time for Tom to get some much earned and needed sleep for his early flight in the am back to his wife and kiddo and Gabe and I to signal our old pal and former merch guy Peaches for a ride down to New Braunfels. We hit up some of that good old North Carolina Moonshine we picked up a few East Coast tours back and rode down to the hill country to catch up with several of our old New Braunfels pals at Tavern on the Gruene, including quite a few of them Midnight River Choir boys and a whole slew of others, most of which are pictured below.  Helluva night that continued on into the morning with a good old after hours jam on the river.

I'll pick up on the Deli weekend and Kansas City in the next installation of this newly reignited blog you're a readin'. A final note...

Some of you know about the difficulties we've had as a band over the past few years, and for those of you that don't, I can't really talk about much of it.  Suffice it to say that circumstances beyond our control were the reason our new record has taken so long to come to full and final fruition, but those circumstances are behind us. If you're a follower of we Quails on any of our various social media outlets, then you're probably already aware of our Kickstarter campaign to raise money to record, release, and promote the second record.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, head over to www.thedamnquailsband.com and check out the short video of us explaining how badly we want to make this record for our fans.  If you're able to help, there are a ton of really great incentive packages, including stuff like a luncheon with the band, a copy of the album on vinyl with autographs, a custom song written by yours truly about whatever you like, private shows, house concerts, and lots of other stuff.  You will get your moneys worth, whatever you decide to contribute. The way the work has gone so far and the songs that we're choosing to record are solid as a rock and it's going to be a record you'll want to have been a part of.  Even if you've got 10 bucks to pre-order the digital download, every little bit helps.  If you know someone that digs live music and hasn't heard of us, burn them a copy of Down the Hatch and inform them of our plight.  Our fans are the greatest on the planet and we can't survive as a band without each and every one of you, and your fantastical word of mouth capabilities are staggeringly awesome.  We're down to 8 days and we could really use your help.  Thanks so much for all you do, catch you on down the road.

Bryon White/TDQ