That longhaired, goateed, outlaw deejay Brett Dillon was spinning insane music on KHYI-95.3 The Range this morning.


Bill Kirchen’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” and Delbert McClinton’s “Bright Side of the Road” were just a couple that revved up my day with an internal “hell yeah.”

At 8 pm tonight, Dillon will be at the White Elephant Saloon hosting the semi-finals of the 5th Annual Texas Music Showdown.

Jack County and Four Left Turns are in a head-to-head battle to see who goes to the finals next week. Both band’s offer rough-edged country rock with grit. Ought to be a good show tonight, and a hell of a finish next week.

A few weeks ago, I was on the judges panel when Four Left Turns advanced to the semi-finals. The other judges included Dillon and singer songwriter Austin Allsup.

I’ve filled in as a judge numerous times over five years and I’m usually the only one who criticizes the bands. I try to be positive and offer constructive criticism, but honesty can still be uncomfortable to hear.

The bands remain on stage while judges pass around a microphone and make comments. The audience is mainly composed of the band’s relatives and close friends.

Dillon is host and emcee so he’s not going to verbally slap a band. The other judges are usually musicians. A musician will talk smack about another band all night long in private. But badmouthing peers in public is taboo. So that leaves me as the mouthy jerkwad. (Being a Fort Worth Weekly reporter means I’m perfectly suited).

The tricky part is, I’m also a musician. The contest ends at 11 pm and then Brad Hines takes the stage. It’s tradition for him to invite judges to play a few songs.

It can be…how do I say?…interesting to go on stage, sit on a stool, lean into a microphone, and earnestly perform original songs to a crowd filled with the angry friends and relatives of disappointed band members who just lost a contest and then were forced to listen to your know-it-all critique.

A crowd so quiet you can hear a pin drop is a good thing for a singer-songwriter – unless you’ve just finished a song and are waiting for applause.

But that’s OK. An alligator would envy my thick skin after nine years at the Weekly.

My philosophy on judging is the same as writing: “Express your true feelings in a colorful way but without malice, and you’ll never have to apologize even when you’ve long forgotten whatever it was you wrote or said.”

Of course, tell that to somebody’s Aunt Clara after she’s had a few beers.