Newgrass, New Guard
Thank goodness for Fred’s Texas Café. Now that the Wreck Room is gone (R.I.P.), the ancient diner and backyard hang-out is all that remains of underground culture in the once exceedingly underground area of West 7th Street.
Great joints are everywhere over there, sure. You got Ten, the Shamrock Pub, Chimy’s, the Bronx Zoo, Pop’s Safari Cigar Bar and Wine Room, “JJ’s” (a.k.a. J&J’s Hideaway), former Wreck owner Brian Forella’s new rock club, 6th Street Live (soon to change names officially to Lola’s), and the new 7th Haven, among others.
But other than JJ’s, which, like the Wreck, will be pounded into rubble soon, the only place in West 7th whose charming character, familial spirit, and rich legacy compares to the Wreck’s is Fred’s. Co-owner Terry Chandler’s establishment, mind you, is a world away from the Wreck and will not – I repeat, will not – replace it. For one thing, Fred’s serves up gourmet wild-game entrées and my favorite burgers. (The restaurant won our 2007 Best Of Readers’ Choice award for best hamburger.)
For another, the Wreck’s vibe was downtown alley whereas Fred’s is country dirt road. There’s no other place here in the Fort where the indie-hipster, the good ol’ boy, the sorority sister, the punk rocker, and the businessman can share a picnic bench and maybe a beer in perfect harmony. And even though a million countrified bands have played the Wreck, Fred’s is a better fit for a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’.
There’s just something about the outdoor stage, the rickety wooden fence, and the plastic patio furniture that screams, “Yee-haw,” which is why Fred’s should be an excellent spot for the Rolling Trainwreck Country Music Show. “Country,” however, is a slight misnomer. Traditional and alt-country bluegrass is more like it. Featuring the Electric Mountain Rotten Apple Gang, 100 Damned Guns, the Boxcar Bandits, and the Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Rolling Trainwreck may be just what the doctor ordered to help us all recover from the Wreck bon voyage party/weekend. The banjos and fiddles get going at 6 p.m. on Saturday. For you neophytes, a word of encouragement: Yes, bluegrass, like other forms of traditional genre music – such as heavy metal, rap, and Nashvegas country – is an acquired taste.
To the outsider’s ear, many of the songs may sound the same. But take heart: While the four bands at the Rolling Trainwreck do share similar instrumentation (banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, and so on), I bet they’ll prove distinctive enough to keep your attention: EMRAG is prone to melancholy, even when firing off twangy notes like a Gatling gun. The Whiskey Folk Ramblers are more dynamic, straddling the line between newgrass and Appalachian traditionalism, Boxcar Bandits are fun and mix up time signatures to good effect, and 100 Damned Guns are borderline poppy with strong harmony vocals and are probably the closest of the bunch to pure newgrassers.
The music should wrap up at around 10 p.m., and admission is a paltry $5. Fred’s is located at 915 Currie St. For more info, call 817-332-0083 or visit www.myspace.com/fredstexas.
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