Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bolivar's Back

If you are looking for some interesting entertainment this weekend, head on down to the Stingaree Music Festival and The Texas Crab Festival, two events which are co-happening at Bolivar Island (more correctly an island-like penisula and known officially as Bolivar Peninsula). You can find a wiki-byte of history of this interesting island here

You can find a much better and fully documented brief history of this important Texas hisory location here at

If there is any festival that deserves a portion of your expendable recreation dollars, Bolivar has got to be one of the most deserving recipients.

You can find details about the festivals here and it began yesterday and will end on Sunday, May 31st.

Like many native Houstonians, I grew up spending a lot of time with family and friends on Bolivar. The beach is big, even by Texas beach standards, and the fact you could drive on the beach made setting up a weekend fishing camp all the easier, since you didn't have to tote a tent and the voluminous supplies one needs when setting up a beach saltwater fishing camp from a parking lot or roadside across the oft-times rattlesnake filled sand dunes.

Many of my transplanted Houstonian friends fell in love with Bolivar over other area beach communities. It was almost always WAY less crowded than Galveston or Surfside beaches, and the isolated nature of the area just made it seem that little bit further from civilization than lots of places so close to big cities and towns.

So of course, Ike just devastated, if not decimated, the island and it's inhabitants. Before the storm, there were lots of beach houses at Bolivar and its neighboring towns. They were more rustic, more middle class, more real than the swankiendas that blanket Galveston now, and were more akin to what Texas beaches looked like 30 and 40 years ago. And that includes a lot of trailers, which is something you don't see on the pricey Galveston beachfront.

There were a couple of small grocery stores and a small motel and a couple of bars. I played not a few times at the infamous "Ships Wheel" in the 1980's, playing with inner-loop blues acts that went over well with the roadhouse, hard-drinking and hard living crowds that frequented it. Known as "The Wheel or Wheel" locally, it had a pretty good mix of weekender Houston beach home owners and renters and the full time residents.

Lots of good bands passed through The Wheel over the years. The last time I played there, back in 2002 over the Labor Day Weekend, I worked with a hard touring 9 piece Jimmy Buffett cover outfit out of Louisiana. Mutual friends had recommended me to them to fill in for their drummer who was taking a year off the road to birth and begin raising his first child.

I had met the band in 2001, when playing a benefit show in Clear Lake City, Texas. I was playing with a smaller and different Jimmy Buffett cover band, again as a substitute, and was wowed when the huge 9 piece band followed our set with some massively arranged and orchestrated Buffett songs as well as their own strong original music, all done in that twangy-bluesy-rocking-countrified rare mix that is Gulf Coast Music.

So I ended up playing one night of a two night run for this large 9 piece band as my audition for playing more gigs with them. They had some great originals and were covering nearly the entire early and mid-Jimmy Buffett catalogs. The band leader and I didn't quite gell for some reason, but I got along famously with the rest of the band. I later did a couple of gigs with them at this very cool floating bar and restaurant on Lake Travis just outside of Austin.

The Gulf Coast of Texas, Lousisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have a unique flavor to their music. If you want to call it country-rock music, it is, but with a bluesy feel, topped off with the twang that only a band that has two guitarists playing through big tube amplifiers can provide, because often one is using a single coil guitar like a Stratocaster or Telecaster and the other guitarist is playing some kind of humbucking equipped guitar.

So this weekend down at Crystal Beach, one of the communities on the Bolivar Peninsula, you can find good eating and lots of GREAT music with the proceeds going to help rebuild that community.

I'll write more about Bolivar and some of my adventures and memories from there later, but for now, it's time to go get in the water!

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