Hot Texas Winter Weekend @ The Pub Station Ballroom
Hot Texas Winter Weekend
- Casey Donahew
Friday, January 10, 2020
- Aaron Watson
Saturday, January 11, 2020
Pub Station Ballroom (2502 First Avenue North, Billings, MT 59101)
General Admission/All Ages
7PM Doors/8PM Show
$30 Advance/Day of Show for Individual Concerts
$51 2-Day Ticket for Both Concerts
Tickets on sale Friday, 10/18 at 10AM
Ticket price does not include Etix service fee(s). Service fees(s) vary by purchase method and are applied at checkout.
*ONLINE ONLY presale available Thursday, 10/17 from 10AM – 10PM Pub Station’s Facebook fans and email subscribers.
If you build it, they will come. This might be the mantra of one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, ‘”Field Of Dreams,” but it’s also a pretty accurate description of the career of Texas music sensation Casey Donahew.
The Burleson native, (with the help of his wife Melinda,) has painstakingly carved out an impressive niche for himself on the country music scene over the past 17 years, attracting a solid base of loyal fans who flock to his legendary live shows. Building his career from the ground up one show at a time, he’s managed to perform on countless stages night after night in front of thousands, topped the Texas music charts 18 times, released all of his albums independently to critical acclaim, and forged a path all his own through the music scene without the aid or muscle of a major record label or power-suit management company.
Though he seems like a born natural when it comes to performing, Casey actually fell into music gradually. He grew up on a farm the first few years of his life and quickly grew to love riding and team roping, a sport he still enjoys today. His grandfather, who loved to play and sing, gave Casey his first guitar growing up, but it wasn’t until college at Texas A&M that he first began to teach himself to play and really focused on writing songs. A big fan of 80’s and 90’s country, Casey had always admired the storytelling in the songs of that period, and when a wild-eyed Oklahoma boy named Garth Brooks began swinging from the rafters and employing all sorts of crazy, rock show antics during his concerts, Casey was immediately hooked.
“I’ve just always liked the country songs from the 80’s,” says Casey. “It seems like a time when there was a lot of great songwriting going on, and I just enjoy people who can tell a story with a song. And I’ve always been a big Garth Brooks fan, since the beginning. First there was George Strait, and then here came this guy from Oklahoma, Garth Brooks. And you’d see George standing there playing guitar, but then Garth comes along running all over the stage, playing guitar and singing all these songs that he wrote. And the thing I was always most enamored with about Garth was that he wrote most of those songs. He was just one of those guys who did it all. And he started in Stillwater, not too far from the Red Dirt scene. You could really take a lot of Garth Brooks songs and put ‘em on a record of mine, and I think it would fit right in.”
It was during his college days that Casey also discovered another rowdy artist who was forging his own path across the Lonestar state in a big way, Pat Green. When his fraternity hired Pat to play one of their parties back in those early days, Casey was instantly inspired by Pat’s way with a song and his ability to connect with an audience. “Pat Green was really the guy who started it all for me in college. He just did a great job connecting with fans, and later on when we started playing, we really tried to mirror how he did that. He was one of those guys who I thought was a great entertainer, and really told stories that people wanted to hear and could relate to, and I think that’s what made him so popular.”
Transferring to the University of Texas/Arlington, Casey began traveling around with his girlfriend/future wife Melinda to catch shows by Pat, Randy Rogers, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and other acts who were bubbling up just above the surface on the burgeoning Texas music scene at the time. And it wasn’t long before he was testing the waters himself, playing a regular acoustic gig at Fort Worth bar the Thirsty Armadillo, trying out the songs he’d been writing since high school.
“I had moved back and was going to UTA, and just started following some of those guys around,” he recalls. “We’d go see guys like Randy play at the Thirsty Armadillo when he was just starting out and the scene was just barely beginning to go anywhere out here. Pat was selling Billy Bob’s out, and we’d go see him, and Ragweed was just starting to break in that timeframe too.
I had also discovered Matchbox 20 during that time, and I don’t know what it was exactly, maybe the timing of that first CD when it came out it, but that whole record just speaks to me. It’s one of those records I still listen to...something about the way he writes songs translates to the way I felt in life at the time, and it still does. And that’s something you try to capture and recreate and hopefully through your writing you help people through hard times or get people through situations in life. I don’t know if there was ever a specific point where I said, ‘Hey I’m gonna do this for a living,’ but I just enjoyed writing songs and playing. It was a way to get my feet wet -- and I learned a lot playing at the Armadillo. And it was a way into the industry and to see how other people did it, and we learned a lot of stuff in those first couple of years.”
Within a few years Casey had conquered the small club circuit and was packing out larger places like the Fort Worth Horseman’s Club. He released his first independent CD, “Lost Days,” (which included the autobiographical nod to his home turf, “Stockyards,”) and the song quickly became a huge hit for the new band, even among fans who had never visited the Texas city. “Stockyards is one of those songs we started out with. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I’ve never been anywhere quite like the North side of Fort Worth. Its just one of those places…I grew up in all those bars, and there’s such a history down there and it’s something I think everyone can relate to. It’s weird, it seems like we go far from Fort Worth and people still sing that song, it’s one of those things people relate to -- everyone’s got their own Stockyards if you will, their own place they grew up that they remember going to the bars and running the streets and getting into trouble, I guess.”
Around this time, with his wife Melinda spearheading management and booking for the band, Casey impressed the owners of Billy Bob’s enough to land a gig playing the legendary club where he’d attended so many shows as a fan himself. Within two years of his first show there, Casey was drawing nearly 4000 eager fans, and he’s never looked back since.
In 2006 he released a second self-titled CD that included “White Trash Story,” a raucous, redneck story tune that instantly became a fan favorite. He followed that up with a live CD recorded at Bostock’s, (the Stephenville bar that gave Casey one of his first big breaks), then returned to the studio in 2009 to make, “Moving On,” a project described as “rattling, rolling and rumbling like a youthful Robert Earl Keen fronting Reckless Kelly. That project sold an impressive 32,000 copies thanks to his growing legion of fans, as word spread like wildfire among the college crowd about this underground indie sensation. The fans have always been foremost on Casey’s mind as he built his career, and he makes his music with them in mind. For Casey, it’s never been about accolades, or awards, or even major label attention or fawning. It’s simply about the music. And his fans recognize and appreciate that. Taking a page from the live performance playbook of one of his heroes, Pat Green, Casey fuses genuine, honest lyrics with a contagious, take-no-prisoners energy onstage, making sure everyone is along for the ride -- which, more often than not, is a wild one.
“I think we definitely make music for our fans…we don’t worry about much else except making the fans happy and making ourselves happy, and we’ve been real lucky and fortunate in that I think we came along and started this band at a time when social media was really kind of starting to get some legs. And that really made it possible for a band that really didn’t have a lot of radio support to thrive and succeed…you know we were able to keep people interested and with social media they were able to share it with their friends in such a fast way that it really spread the music to a large group of people quicker than it could have ever before.”
Over the last 17 years, Casey has racked up 18 #1 singles, and become a national headliner, playing coast-to-coast and selling out venues such as Billy Bob’s and The Grizzly Rose multiple times. Donahew has over 120 MILLION on-demand digital music streams, and over 330 MILLION streams on Pandora.
Donahew has released eight independent albums to critical and commercial acclaim. Donahew’s "Standoff," quickly topped the iTunes Country Chart at #1, and his follow-up 2016 album "All Night Party", hit #3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, and #13 on the Top Album Sales Chart and Top Current Album Sales Charts. In 2017, a 15th anniversary record titled, "15 Years, The WIld Ride", was released. The collection featured updated recordings of Donahew’s most popular songs from the first part of his career, as well as a recording of Matchbox 20’s 3AM, a song Casey played for years live before finally recording the classic hit.
On March 29, 2019, Casey announced his latest release, "One Light Town". Released on July 26, 2019, and produced again by Josh Leo, "One Light Town" features 15 new songs, 7 of which were released to fans when the album was announced. The album features songs written by Casey as well as writers including Tim Nichols, David Lee Murphy, Brad Tursi, Matt Ramey & Trevor Rosen, Jeff Hyde, Jon Randall Rodney Clawson and Wynn Varble.
And though his dream may soon grow much, much larger than a double wide, and reach heights even he couldn’t have imagined, Casey is quite content with all he’s accomplished thus far in this little career that could. “I don’t see anyone coming to make a deal where we’re gonna change what we do. I’m not sure how far we have left to go, hopefully forever, but you know nothing lasts forever, so I’m always mindful of that and prepared that one day this ride could be over. And I’m pretty proud of everything we’ve accomplished. I hope there’s more, but if it were over tomorrow, I could look at my wife and say I was really proud of everything we’ve accomplished. I’m really excited about this record. I think the songs on here are great, and are a big step forward, and the fans, whatever their expectations are, I hope we blow em away!”
“The symbolism of the bandana for me is like the American working-class heart: hustle, grit ... hard work. Anywhere you find those things, you find that red bandana. It's old-school but it's also timeless.”
Old-school but timeless: That’s how Aaron Watson characterizes his bold new full-length collection, Red Bandana, but he could also be describing himself. As a singer-songwriter, husband, father of three, and self-made musical success, the 41-year-old Texan has forged a slow and steady path to country stardom by both honoring tradition and embracing the unknown. He’s more comfortable than most walking the line.
Red Bandana not only reacquaints fans with an artist serious about song craft and sonic diversity; it also marks a career milestone for Watson. Twenty years after he released his debut studio album, 1999’s Singer/Songwriter, he’s found an imaginative way to commemorate his two-decade journey. The new record comprises 20 songs he wrote by himself, with tracks and musical moods that hit on every era of his life.
At Red Bandana’s heart is a couple of tunes that give the album its title. First, “Riding With Red” elevates the lessons and the example offered by older, wiser cowboys. The real-life inspiration for the touching ballad? Texas cowboy poet Red Steagall, whom Watson considers a friend and mentor.
“My boys love Red. They just gravitate towards him; he's a legend, ”Watson says. “And in the song, you think that Red's passed away. But I wanted to write from that perspective so that people who have cowboys like that in their life will, after hearing that song, go hug them and know, ‘I don't need to take that person for granted.’”
Imagining the loss of such a large presence, “Riding With Red” seamlessly transitions into Red Bandana’s title track, an elegiac cowboy poetry benediction sure to leave a lump in anyone’s throat.
You’ll find equal parts sadness, joy, nostalgia, hope, familial love, and strength throughout the new album. That was the design of Watson, who wrote the bulk of the songs during reflective mornings on the ranch in Buffalo Gap, Texas on his beat-up first guitar bought from a pawn shop.
Some of the sounds that set a tone or help tie Red Bandana’s tracks together were captured right there among the comforts of home and family. Consider the first thing you hear on the album —ambient chimes that lead into the mission-statement opener, “Ghost of Guy Clark.” Watson actually recorded the sounds of wind chimes handed down to him by both his grandmothers.
“I recorded their wind chimes in the closet at my house, and that's how the record starts off,” Watson says. “Because there's just an eeriness, a lonesome feeling when you hear those wind chimes.”
The eeriness is well-placed: “Ghost of Guy Clark” is a lyrical dream sequence in which Watson encounters and receives songwriting advice from a late legend. The song’s message is important enough that he follows it with a cathartic instrumental track, just to let the words sink in a little longer. And once the horn-tinged “El Comienzo Del Viaje” settles you, here come the driving beat and hard-lived lyrical message of “Dark Horse.”
It’s an ideal way to begin a new chapter following a period of greater awareness and chart success. The Underdog, Vaquero, and the hit country single “Outta Style” put a lot of new eyes and ears on Watson, from Texas and beyond. Yet the grassroots success didn’t translate to any traditional label deals, so he did what he does best: He worked harder and doubled down on his efforts.
“I wanted to show the industry that I'm like a one-man wrecking machine,” Watson says. “That I own my label, I own my publishing, I wrote all my songs. That country music is my only option. I have no Plan B; this is all I've got. So, for me, everything is on the line.”
Don’t mistake his urgency with a willingness to cut musical corners. Watson is flexing his songwriting muscles more than ever before, delivering thoughtful lyrical concepts through the filters and the styles that have captured his musical imagination over the years. “More than being known as an artist, I want to be known as a songwriter. I think that's the greatest title. All my heroes are songwriters.”
Those heroes are saluted substantially in many tracks on Red Bandana: “Country Radio” touches on a romance and nostalgia for simpler, sway-worthy childhood musical memories. “Legends” evokes the full-throated glory of Waylon Jennings with its irresistible hook of a line, “Just like my heroes/I’m as free as the wind.” “Am I Amarillo” would fit right into an’80s George Strait record. And you get visions of Johnny Cash when you hear the train sounds (recorded by Watson at his ranch) and the darker lyrical themes on “Trying Like the Devil.”
Of that last one, Watson says it might surprise some of his fans to know that he often faces and wrestles with personal demons. He’s felt misunderstood at times whenever he’s been portrayed as an infallible family man, nothing more.
“I can't handle the pressure of people thinking that I have it all together,” Watson says. “I want to be that guy that I'm like, ‘I'm screwed up, but I keep trying.’ And the first time I sang [‘Trying Like the Devil’]to my wife she was like, ‘Wow. Guess you're just going to air the dirty laundry.’ And I said, ‘It's what you got to do, girl.’”
Emotional truth defines any Aaron Watson record, but it’s especially urgent and raw in unexpected spots on Red Bandana. The record ends with a simple tribute to those who lost their lives in the 2017 Route 91 Harvest festival shooting in Las Vegas(“58”), but shades of the same grief and empathy for humanity help to fuel the up-tempo, Tom-Petty-style anthem, “Old Friend.” Petty passed away a day after the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In his grief following the two events, Watson came to a realization: “Music is so healing and music is that one thing we share in common. And that's where I wrote ‘Old Friend. ’I wanted it to have a Tom Petty vibe about it, but that song is about being kind to your neighbor and treating others the way that you want to be treated. You know, the golden rule.”
Watson fit so many ideas and sounds into one record seamlessly with the help of a new-to-him producer, rising Nashville star Jordan Lehning. An expert arranger who has assisted the likes of Rodney Crowell and Kacey Musgraves, Lehning was able to help Watson balance the stunning, emotional songs with less serious moments that could serve as a kind of country-radio gateway. After all the heartstrings pulled in “Blood Brothers” and “Home Sweet Home,” there are sexy toe-tappers like first single “Kiss That Girl Goodbye,” “Burn Em Down,” and “Shake a Heartache” to lighten the mood. For advice and approval on the commercial appeal of a song, Watson turns to his precocious youngest child. “When my daughter likes a song and she forces me to put it on an album, what am I supposed to do? My hands are tied. I have no control over my wife or my daughter. I do as I'm told.”
Armed with 20 new songs, Watson feels more than ready to get out on the road and incorporate Red Bandana into his historically high-energy live concert dynamic. Even before the official tour begins, Watson says he’s already been having too much fun on stage.
“Our show right now is not even a fraction of what it's going to be, but I swear, we start, we're having fun, I look down at the clock and we've been playing for 75 minutes,” he says. “There's been shows where I'm exhausted, but the second I hit that stage and I see people are excited for me, oh man. That's the greatest high. Those fans are the reason I’m here and keep showing up night after night.”
Tickets available at thepubstation.com, Pub Station Box Office (2502 First Avenue North), or by calling (919) 653 - 0443
Dates and Times
- Friday, January 10, 2020 – 12:00 AM
The Pub Station
Things to Know About The Pub Station ● The Pub Station offers live music and entertainment several nights each week. ● You'll find a huge selection of microbrews on tap, including lots lof locals. 🍻 ● The atmosphere is casual. ● They serve up pizza from Pie Guys Pizzeria. 🍕 Yum! ● Happiest Ho...