BALLYHOO! is Sleepin on the Couch in Texas

Deep Ellum, Texas has been an undeniable hub for local and touring music acts, and the live music capital of North Texas just happens to be celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. One music venue just on the outskirts of the main drag, the Deep Ellum Art Company, is half art gallery, half music venue, and 100% chill. Locally, they pull most of the reggae acts that travel through the area, and last night, the wind blew in Ballyhoo!, Joey Harkum and Texas boys Audic Empire for their first Lone Star State stop on the Sleepin on the Couch Tour.

After clocking out of the day job and hopping in the truck, I made my way through the hustle and bustle of rush hour traffic, some reggae gold cranked loud, and my camera gear sitting shotgun. Having just attended Cali Vibes the previous weekend and seeing Ballyhoo! on the big stage there, I was excited to see them in a more intimate setting around my neck of the woods so soon. I arrived at the venue and went to pull into my usual parking spot, to find a big tour bus occupying the entire side of the street. Thanks Howi! I guess I can let it slide this time –  it’s for a good cause right?

Shortly after a security check and handing my ticket over, opening act Audic Empire took the stage. They started things off with a group photo of the band, including the crowd in the background, citing they usually do this ceremony from backstage but wanted to include the beautiful audience in this tradition tonight.

“On the Loose” warmed the concert-goers up as the first song to pump through the amplifiers.

Ronnie and James took turns commanding the microphone throughout the night, showing the crowd that diversity of sound I, myself, have come to love about these Austin locals. The band’s musical abilities were on point, despite having a last minute fill-in on drums (the show must go on, and Paul Valenzuela killed it!) Running through the setlist with confidence and having great crowd interaction between songs kept the place hyped for the bands ahead. “Come and Toke it”, “.45” and “Start to the End” were just a few of the high-energy heaters they threw on the crowd that chilly Thursday evening. Their time ended with one more all-inclusive photo, and soon the house music was playing while the load-out began.

Hailing from Maryland, Joey Harkum and band made their way up to the stage to claim their time with fans as the night flowed on. Sporting an upright bass in the band is one of the things I enjoyed seeing as a music lover, and it added so much flavor to the already one-off brand of Americana Joey brings to the table. I watched as acoustic gold poured out of that wooden guitar of his, backed by a talented gang of musicians, wondering what it must be like to travel the U.S. and see all those faces smiling back at you every night as you expose your soul to a new audience each day! The four-piece band’s set included “Regrets”, “Storyboard”, “Whiskey Song, and “Hold Steady” to name a few, and they couldn’t have sounded sweeter. The venue had the sound system dialed in and the band was good and loud, with more great tunes filling the airwaves before signing off for the night and letting the headliner do what they came here to do. 

Around 10 o’clock, the Maryland rockers took their positions on stage and let it rip.

“She Wants to Destroy Me” spearheaded the setlist and Ballyhoo! was officially disturbing Deep Ellum’s peace.

Song after song, the mob of music lovers got their fill of Howi Spangler’s grooves, and the on-stage theatrics were on-point too; guitarists jumping on stage boxes and towering over the crowd for face-melting solos, bringing an audience member on stage to play Howi’s guitar for a song, and I’m pretty sure at some point I saw some cow-print cowboy hats being worn on stage! The good times continued with the title song “Sleepin on the Couch”, followed by “Blaze This Weed”, “Antisocial”, “Selling Out”, “Gas Station Burrito” and many more in between and after. Joey Harkum and the crew of Audic Empire even jumped back on stage for a jam-session party before wrapping up the night.

No amount of traffic would have stopped me from getting to this show. Three great bands that have every bit of business sharing a stage with each other, while also sharing this tour with Mike Pinto, Joint Operation and Cloud 9 Vibes on other legs of this adventure. There are still plenty of dates left in Texas, Louisiana and Florida for the tour, ending with the 311 cruise sailing out of Miami March 8th. Get out and see this show, you won’t be disappointed!

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