Separate performances by current Texas State Musician Joe Ely and his longtime pals from Lubbock, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, happen with relative frequency around town. But a reconvening of their formative 1970s band the Flatlanders generally happens only once in a blue moon. Or perhaps, in the case of this week’s solstice lunar event, a strawberry moon.
The Flatlanders also have a song about a melon moon, though they didn’t play it on this warm Friday night at Hogg Auditorium on the University of Texas campus. But they revisited plenty of favorites from their early days, adding in some newer tunes and a few choice cuts from their solo careers to please a packed house that showed up for the Cactus Cafe’s annual fundraising concert.
Highlights included “One Road More,” from their debut album recorded in 1972; “Julia,” which helped re-start their collaboration as part of 2002’s reunion record “Now Again”; and Gilmore’s classic “Dallas,” which brought many in the crowd to their feet. They also hit upon a few highlights from a few Texas songwriter peers, including Al Strehli’s beautiful “Keeper of the Mountain,” Terry Allen’s hilarious “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” and Lucinda Williams’ rousing “Howling at Midnight.”
Providing first-class instrumental support throughout were frequent Flatlanders rhythm section anchors Jimmy Pettit on bass and Pat Manske on drums, with longtime Robert Earl Keen guitarist Rich Brotherton making a surprise appearance to round out the lineup. Late in the show, Hancock’s son Rory joined in for a few additional electric guitar accents and solos, standing out in particular on Butch’s masterpiece “Bluebird” in the encore.
Opening the show was the CBGBand, named for the first initials of its four main members: Colin Gilmore (Jimmie Dale’s son), Bonnie Whitmore, Graham Weber and Betty Soo. Joined by violinits Tamineh Gueramy and drummer Falcon Valdez, they took turns in the lead, each doing a couple of songs. They chose the late Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues” as the closer, delivered reverentially with the vocals mostly floating over a steady kick-drum beat.