by Julian Spivey
The inaugural Yadaloo Music & Arts Festival took place in North Little Rock’s North Shore Riverwalk Park on Sunday, September 24 bringing a lot of fun and Texas country music to central Arkansas.
The festival, which focused on Americana and Country Music acts in its debut run (and hopefully in the future), began mid-afternoon with local acts like Bree Ogden, Ashtyn Barbaree and more. The event also featured food trucks, arts and crafts vendors and a kiddie section giving the entire family something to do.
Texas country performer William Clark Green took the stage around 5:30 p.m. and there were clearly many in the audience who are major fans of his. I’ve enjoyed a handful of his songs over the last few years, but this was my first time seeing him in person and he puts on a helluva show.
Green, a 33-year old from Flint, Texas, has released five albums, but took off in the Texas music scene with his third release Rose Queen in 2013. The album’s title track would prove to be one of the biggest hits among the crowd on Sunday afternoon.
Green opened his probably 45-minute set with “Next Big Thing” off his 2015 release Ringling Road. He would perform more tracks off that album than any other during his show, including my two favorite cuts from his discography “Creek Don’t Rise” and “Sticks and Stones.” Green would also play the title cut from Ringling Road, which he said before the performance was his mom’s least favorite song of his. It’s a little more “out there” than much of his repertoire featuring the story of drug addicted circus performers.
Green would finish his show with potentially his most popular song to date, “She Likes the Beatles” off Rose Queen, which was a No. 1 hit on the regional Texas Music Chart in 2013. The catchy tune is the tale of a relationship that just works, even if the two involved are often polar opposites. Green and his talented band through in snippets of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” at the beginning of the performance and finished their performance with the “na na na nas” section of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”
The Yadaloo Festival performance was my fourth time seeing Jason Boland & the Stragglers, one of my absolute favorite acts from the Red Dirt Country genre. The band has been going at it hard on the road for 20 years now and have built up a very loyal following in central Arkansas thanks to many performances at the Rev Room just across the river from where the Yadaloo Festival took place on Sunday.
Boland and his terrific band is down to a four-piece (at least for this show): Boland on vocals and guitar, Grant Tracy on bass (the last remaining original member with Boland), the fantastic fiddle player Nick Worley and Jake Lynn (at least I believe that’s what Boland said from the stage) on drums. Drummer Brad Rice and guitarist Cody Angel have left the band since I last saw them live.
The group began their show with “Hank,” which is truly one of the finest protest songs about real country music not being played in mainstream country music and was actually released a while before many even started making that claim. After this great opener the band would launch into one of its biggest crowd favorites in “Pearl Snaps,” which was the title track off their 1999 debut.
Boland had a shorter set for the festival than you’d typically see him play so he mostly stuck to crowd favorites and honky-tonkers and didn’t get to perform much from his most recent album Hard Times Are Relative from last year. The one track from the album he did perform was the standout love song “I Don’t Deserve You.” He would follow this up with another love song, and the sets most quiet tune, in “Lucky I Guess,” off 2013’s Dark & Dirty Mile. Also making the set off that album was the raucous “Electric Bill,” which has become a fan-favorite since the album’s release.
Boland & the Stragglers would amp the crowd up with high-energy performance of concert staples like “Somewhere Down in Texas,” which may be his most popular song, the frequent cover of the Don Williams hit “Tulsa Time” and “My Baby Loves Me When I’m Stoned.”
The band would also rock the audience with terrific performances of “Blowing Through the Hills” and “Pushing Luck.”
Boland & the Stragglers would end their set, as they always do, with my personal favorite track of their discography in the Bob Childers-penned “Outlaw Band,” which is has been one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen all four times I’ve seen them perform it now. The performance features some of the best fiddling you’ll ever hear by Worley, who also plays a mean mandolin on the song.
After the Boland & the Stragglers performance the night would wrap up with another Texas country music standout in Stoney LaRue, who’s set I was unable to stick around to hear.
I sincerely hope the Yadaloo Festival people had a great turnout for the entirety of the day – for the performances I was in attendance for – I’m not quite sure how much money they would’ve pulled in. Hopefully it was enough to continue to do these for years to come because the talent they brought to the festival is the kind of stuff I’d love to see more in the area.