CIT took a a field trip to Tolbert’s in Grapevine on Sat night to catch the King Bucks.
The short version: Solid A. Maybe pushing for an A+.
First, the venue: Tolbert’s is in the historic part of Grapevine, a nicely-preserved/redone small-town Texas downtown area. Lots of multi-step-up sidewalks, street parking, and one- or two-storey storefronts and offices. It’s got that “this is the only street in town that matters” feel of your average one-A Texas town. Nice to walk thru, even on a cold evening like Sat. If you haven’t been to Historic Grapevine, it shouldn’t take much of an excuse for you to go.
Tolbert’s itself is a chili-parlor also reminiscent of small-town Texas. A bar running the entire length of the left side of the single long room, stage in the back with a small clear area in front for a bit o’ dancin’, and tables throughout. You’ve been in places like this before.
Food is basic but good. The Fredericksburger (bacon and your choice of cheese) gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. The draft beer is cold, cheap, and comes in a good sized glass. It’s enough to bring a smile to your face. it did mine.
The band is way better than your average bar band. Danny, Chad, Keith, Joe, and Chris have all played in tons of area bands, often with each other. You can tell. They seemed to have a planned first set, but I am convinced the second was made up on the fly. These guys have so many classic country songs on the internal CD player they could easily be unbeatable in “Golden Age of Country Stump-the-Band”.
A ton of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Porter Waggoner, and the like was the order of the evening. Mostly rockin’, some slower, all played and sung as well as you can ask. We all know Chad and Keith can sing, as they have on countless records and bar sets over the years. Danny Balis’ voice, however, is a relatively recent, and welcome, find. His baritone, while not quite in the Johnny Cash class of resonance, reminds of, and may surpass, Waylon, Merle, and even The Man in Black Himself at times.
By my less-than-expert count, the boys played none of their own stuff, neither off the band’s album nor off Danny’s solo record. Instead, they played two+ hours of old-timey country and honky tonk. You knew some of it, you had heard others somewhere before, some of it you have never heard before. Mostly up-tempo, but enough slow numbers to allow the many 40-something white guys in the audience to grab a dance with their squeeze.
This was the first time I have seen Joe Butcher play live, and I have to comment on his musicianship. Pedal steel is a cool instrument under any circumstances, but Joe’s skill is noteworthy, as are his guitar and singing. On a stage full of talented and experienced guys, Joe stands out as slightly more equal than his co-luminaries.
Joe and Chad, and Keith to an extent, interjected a bit of entertaining banter, but it was pretty much all music all night.
There are plenty of bands rattling around the area doing far more cutting-edge stuff, who are more creative and who may interact with the audience more or better. But you are not going to find a tighter, more professional group of musicians who enjoy their craft more than the King Bucks. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better show, too.
Really glad we went. Tolbert’s is worth a visit, either for dinner, a show, or both. And the King Bucks are on our list of bands we plan to catch again. They should be on yours too.