Little Scene: The M.V.P.’s Of The Weekend – Eleven Hundred Springs
“It’s criminal these guys aren’t HUGE!” my buddy said to me last night. And why aren’t they, I thought? I think it’s because it’s too smart for people. What’s too smart? Their brand of country music, the real brand of country music, not the rock influenced “Texas Country” we get now, little twang and distorted electric guitars. Sadly, it always takes seeing them to remind myself HOW great this band is, and how much I love them. And how heartbreaking that every weekend’s M.V.P.’s still aren’t every day’s CMT M.V.P.’s and millionaires. Eleven Hundred Springs is the best country act going right now, bar-none.
I’ve been going to see Eleven Hundred Springs for 11 years, since their residency at Adair’s in Deep Ellum. Hell, I’ve been seeing the principal members, guitarist/vocalist Matt “The Cat” Hillyer and bassist Steve Berg since at least 1993, when they were rock-a-billy stalwarts Lone Star Trio, and through their psycho-billy phase into the big rock of Strap. And through all of these entities, Matt Hillyer has always been a weekend bar stage’s M.V.P., talking about how the work week is done, how it’s time to have fun, tip your bartenders, and generally connecting with any crowd he is placed in front of. The likable frontman knows how bad your week was, and does his best to lead his band and help you forget about what was so awful over the previous 5 days, encouraging you let loose, dance, sing, have some drinks and be blown away by the talents of his band.
Over the 11 years I have been an EHS fan, I have seen them in an array of bars, clubs and situations, from opening for Randy Rogers (blowing him off the Billy Bob’s stage), playing to 35 people in a Springtown dive, to being one of the earlier bands on 2007’s amazing Wall Of Sound festival at Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field. Yet, the best shows I have seen them put on are in rock clubs. It’s as if the rock crowd gets it more than the country crowd, which is a shame. While they are off touting the Pat Greens, Cory Morrows, Cross Canadian’s, and the Nashville dreck, Eleven Hundred Springs have released a slew of brilliant authentic country albums, teetering somewhere between Bakersfield, outlaw, and the original Texas honky tonk country for a sound that’s classic and fresh all at once. If you don’t believe, just wait until fiddlist Jordan Hendrix sets the bow on fire unleashing a fiddle solo that will make your jaw drop. You’ll believe then.
Last night in Fort Worth at Lola’s on 6th, Eleven Hundred Springs put on just one of those shows. Those shows that take you to a wholly different place, and they make it look just so easy. This is a seasoned act that knows what they are, who you are, and how to transcend you to a state of frenzy, and pace a show better than almost everyone. The nice thing about seeing them in an original music based venue, is that they don’t have the need to fill up time with classic country covers (which they do better than anyone, BTW) and you get a performance that is all Eleven Hundred Springs.
Why they aren’t huge? It certainly is criminal. This should be the biggest act in all of country. I’d love to see them in front of a Kenny Chesney crowd, whipping them into a frenzy to the point people leave before the headliner. I don’t normally like to do a hardsell. But this band deserves it. They are the real deal, always have been and always will. Raise a glass to the existence of Eleven Hundred Springs, and get out to a show. They play enough you can find them on a stage in front of you with reasonable ease.
So do it. And forget what the previous 5 days have given you.