Back when North Texas’ twentysomething rockstars were singing into hair brushes to Oasis in the bathroom mirror, Brandin Lea was singing his own music into real microphones in front of thousands of real people all over the country.
In the mid-aughts, Flickerstick was easily the biggest band in Fort Worth and one of the biggest in Texas. And this was long after Bands on the Run, the now-infamous VH1 reality show (really a perverse and protracted battle of the bands) that Flickerstick ultimately “won” by basically refusing to participate –– and, of course, by being the best group on there. Though every unequivocally “cool” band in North Texas would have killed to have been on the show, hipsters wrote off Flickerstick as fame sluts or, worse, heartthrobs. The rest of the planet, though, knew better. During one South by Southwest festival, I left an empty sanctioned showcase by one of those unequivocally “cool” North Texas bands for an outrageously packed nonsanctioned Flickerstick gig right down the street. (I know, I know. Popularity doesn’t always equal high quality, but it did in this instance.)
For whatever reason –– possibly disillusionment or frustration, probably because it simply was time –– Flickerstick broke up, but even before Flick went bye-bye, Lea had begun a side project. The February Chorus’ early, protean lineups included no lesser lights than Chance Morgan (who would go on to form The Burning Hotels), Jordan Roberts (who would join Calhoun), Austin Green (who would join Telegraph Canyon), and Taylor Craig Mills (who would form Mills & Co.). After about a year of pounding the boards and after releasing an EP (which contains one of my favorite local jams of all time, “On a Train”), Feb Chor was no more, and everyone, rightfully or not, blames Lea. No one knows why, but he shelved music for partying (though just like nearly every other muso in town he always loved partying; nothing new there).
The good news is that –– five years later –– Brandin Lea is back. Whether it’s for good, we don’t know, but anytime one of the best songwriters and vocalists in the state starts working hard on his craft again after a long time off, you’ve got to celebrate. Is Lea now backed by some insanely talented cats with decades of experience? Not exactly, but based on recordings of recent rehearsals, I can say that Jetta in the Ghost Tree is vintage Brandin Lea: strong, melodic riffage with a dramatic, epic edge and Lea’s distinctive Broadway-style voice.
Jetta in the Ghost Tree’s debut show is Thursday, Nov. 7, at Lola’s Saloon with Un Chien (see above) and possibly a couple other bands.
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