LarsonFest 2018 is in the books. It was held October 5, 6, & 7, a three-day festival like this town has never hosted. When I heard of it I knew I wanted to be a part of it, and when I was asked to emcee the event the word “yes” was out of my mouth before the question was finished being asked. I would like to share my thoughts on the event from my perspective.
Let’s start at the beginning. The Local Legends festival was held on October 7, 2017 at Kimberly and Eric Stevens’ newly opened Stick’s Place, and was a benefit concert for CASA of Red River. David Falnes organized 13 local bands to perform and $4,000 dollars was raised. You can read about that event in our October 2017 issue at TheHubNTX.com, past issues.
Then came Terrible Tuesday in 2018 when we lost Don Larson, local music fan #1 (The Hub of NTX May, 2018 issue cover story). It was this incident that instigated the Local Legends festival to change its name to LarsonFest. The name was changed to honor Don and how much he meant to all the bands around here. Every band in town, and even some from out of town, wanted to participate to honor Don. It quickly- or should I say rapidly- accumulated more than 40 acts. David, along with Brandon Mundt and his wife Erica, volunteered to put this show together.
Planning- Everything from compiling a list of acts down to the details of keeping everything at the show running on time is a daunting task. I attended several planning meetings and got to witness the show being given life.
With 41 acts scheduled, communication is vital. I don’t have the finite number of performers that played, but I estimate it at around 160. Disseminating information to that many players on what to do to keep this show running smoothly was not easy, and sometimes frustrating. But, with very few exceptions, every player knew what was expected. And looking at it from the outside, I have to give credit to the participating bands for communicating with other bands to make sure everyone knew what was happening.
Shows of this magnitude are not put on without some expenses, so some initial capital was needed to purchase things (like tee shirts) for the event, and it took a lot of hustle by the organizers to land the sponsors for this to happen. They even had a fundraiser at Texas Roadhouse for additional operating capital.
Promoting- Radio stations 104.7 The Bear, 106.3 The Buzz, News Talk 1290 AM, and television station KFDX Channel 3, and (of course) The Hub of NTX all plugged LarsonFest 2018 or did stories on it. A huge thank you for the promotion! Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were inundated with posts for weeks, if not months before the event. The organizers did a great job getting the word out there.
Showtime!- I could probably write a book on all the bands I saw play and everything that I witnessed over the three days of the festival, and keeping it brief here will be difficult.
Friday was metal night. Nine bands raising the roof with hard and heavy music. Kicking off the show was Fury. These guys haven’t done a show in nine years, and Orlando Arredondo the singer overcame a life threatening ailment and was able to perform in this show. They were followed by Singular Alloy, Coalition, Beyond The down, Pvt Wilhelm, Skinhook, Suspense (from Pampa), and Trigger The Dead.
Another band that was scheduled to close out Friday had to cancel, so the band A New Day Falls out of Vernon stepped in with a few days notice and filled the slot, and really polished off the night.
$3,000 dollars were raised for CASA of Red River on this day.
There were 16 acts on Saturday starting with Empty Angels, a band with some legacy musicians in it, Nathan and Ian Clark. Then was Cellar Door, followed by the masked trio Gypsy Railhead. I heard the first blues being played at the show by The Indications, and then the sassy energetic set by Jaguar (out of Oklahoma) was a big hit. Ranch Factor 2018 contestants Clint Vines And The Hard Times showed us that Wichita Falls is well represented with their set.
Bryson Lawrence came in the afternoon and played some acoustic songs in the dive bar between set changes on the main stage.
It was during the Killdevil set that Don’s sister Sue came up to me with tears in her eyes and told me that this was Don’s favorite music. Then came a band called BLC, which to this day no one really knows what that stands for. They were followed by the elder statesmen of the Wichita Falls music scene, AA Bottom, then RIP, and Everything In Between.
The Downtown Royalty Band included their newly released single Row in their set. Robert Paulson reminded everyone that Michael Hayes is not just an acoustic performer. It Hurts To Be Dead (The Hub of NTX May, 2017 cover story) brought their best, as usual. Then the winner of The Hub of NTX 2018 Battle Of The Bands winners, OddFellas came next, and to close out the night was Leddit Ride (The Hub of NTX April, 2017 cover story).
$5,000 was raised for CASA of Red River on this day.
Sunday kicked off at noon with four of the seven acts I played with, starting with Harvey Toalson. As you may or may not know, Harvey and I play our acoustic type show every Tuesday night at Stick’s Place, but it is a rare occasion Harvey has a full band behind him and it needs to happen more often. Next was Rio Trio, which is Chris Brackett and Adam Aguilar along with myself, a combination of players who have backed up several performers under different names. Shane Mercer And The Mercenaries and Armadillo Flatts are two of them, which played next.
The next few acts alternated between the main stage and the dive bar, starting with Greg Neff (in the latter). Then on the main stage was Randy Summers who had come out of his semi-retirement from performing to play this festival. I was honored that he asked me to play in his set. It was the first time I had performed with him.
Johnny Bones did an acoustic set and then Romeo Whiskey featured Brandon and Erica Mundt, two of the organizers of the event, and Jim Maertz, who provided the sound system for Saturday’s show.
Rusty Dillard came down with flu like symptoms and had to cancel his set in the dive bar, so Harvey Toalson stepped up and filled his slot. And then back on the main stage came Therapy, whose classic rock, blues, and jazz set really was spectacular!
Terry Thompson took the next acoustic set, and then Moxy showed us that there is more than one way to play the blues. It was Ground Floor And Rising playing in the dive bar that caught a lot of attention. There must have been 80 to 100 people in there captivated by their performance. They were followed by one of WF’s most tenured rock and blues bands, Mr Meaner. Award winning and one of the busiest bands in town, Deep In It played next, and to close out the night was James Cook. James’ band is one of my favorite bands that I play in, and when he got Hazel and Sej Miles (Ground Floor And Rising) to come onstage with us and sing backups it really brought down the house. And the acoustic song he finished with was the perfect way to close out the festival.
$2,000 was raised for CASA of Red River on this day.
Don’s family- About 20 members of Don’s family came from as far away as London, England to be at this festival. They were presented with a plaque, posters, and a guitar which was signed by all the performers of LarsonFest 2018. Many tears were shed, stories told, hugs given and well wishes offered. Don Loved music and we all loved Don.
Staff and crew- It would take another complete page to acknowledge all the volunteers, stage hands, bartenders, waitresses, runners, and security that were involved, but I want you to know that without you, all the world would be chaos.
Kimberly and Eric Stevens- Thank you for hosting LarsonFest 2018 at Stick’s Place. Your undying support for the local music scene in our town is unmatched.
Summary- $10,001.15 was raised for CASA of Red River.
It was an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to emcee this event. I have never seen a musical community with the fellowship and camaraderie that this town has. I got to meet and shake hands with every player in every band, and got a snapshot with almost all of you. Thank you all!
In front of the slideshow presentation continuously running pictures of Don on a screen next to the stage, from the downbeat of Fury’s opening act to the final song of the festival by James Cook, I have to say that every act brought the best of what they had as if Don Larson was standing in front of the stage with his beer in one hand and horns up in the other. Personally, I think he was.