SXSW: At Scoot Inn, a ‘backstage’ peek at life of a legendary roadie

There were two things happening at the eastern fringe of SXSW on Friday afternoon.

In the sun-splashed dirt courtyard of the Scoot Inn beer garden, the Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion was in the final stretch of a three-day run — Erika Wennerstrom’s enormous voice on “Extraordinary Love” was swamping the place like a tsunami, drowning out pockets of disinterest.

But inside Scoot Inn proper — what was on this afternoon the “Roadie Lounge” — the star of the afternoon was a legend on a different level. Ben Dorcy, who maintained his title of “oldest living roadie” by working until the week he died at the age of 92 last September, was being celebrated with sneak peeks at a documentary 13 years in the making.

Every now and then Amy Nelson, daughter of Ben’s longtime employer Willie, would try to bring the two events together, speaking to the outside crowd of the virtues of “Lovey” — as Dorcy was known to those close to him. But still, a separation remained: The show and … backstage.

For an event honoring the original roadie, it was only natural.

Erika Wennerstrom plays during The Brooklyn Bowl Family Reunion at Scoot Inn during SXSW Fri., March 16, 2018 JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

It was fitting that the Scoot Inn would host — it is one of the few Austin bars old enough to encompass the legacy of Dorcy, who was born in 1925, two years before the first jukebox. After serving as gardener and valet to John Wayne, Dorcy would hit the road for 65 years with the giants of country music.

Inside the dark and cool interior of the historic bar, the first 15 minutes of the documentary: “Lovey: King of the Roadies” began with Dorcy aboard Willie’s bus, sharing a joint with his old boss and recounting stories of misbehavior and wild times. It is a professional and polished film of music legends sharing what is legendary to them. Among the many icons on screen, we don’t lose sight of who the star of this show is. There’s Dorcy, shuffling along on his cane, his countenance weathered to sharp angles. In portraits, his eyes are inscrutable. In snapshots with friends, they are alive with joy.

RELATED: Remembering Ben Dorcy, ‘King of the Roadies’ and a Texas legend

“He took care of all these stars with this star power,” Amy Nelson said. “And he had that same kind of star power. He could have been an actor, too. He was hanging around all these amazing people and he chose to serve them.”

Amy Nelson — there on Friday alongside her co-producers of the film, David Anderson and Lana Nelson — co-directed the film with her cousin Trevor Doyle Nelson. Her love for the man who was part of the Willie Nelson Family band, and by extension, her own family, was apparent in her conversation … and also in the years she has spent on the film.

All along, she pictured Dorcy at events like these and on the red carpet at the premiere. “It was hard to keep working on (the documentary) after he was gone,” she said. But Austin’s High Brew Coffee stepped in at that moment to help push the project forward.

Now Amy Nelson says the film is nearly complete and she hopes to have details like publishing and licensing complete in time for the fall film festival season.

Ben Dorcy got his start in the music business working for Hank Thompson, but also was connected to Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash.

Inside the Scoot Inn, Dorcy’s fellow roadies are lined up for free custom earplugs being given out this afternoon by MusiCares. Those not on barstools having their ears peered into are watching the screen as Jamey Johnson sings a cover of “Night Life.” Toward the end of the clip, Dorcy is shown in the plaza of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, when a fellow in a Batman costume sidles up to him. “Where are the drugs going?” he asks. Is it a real moment or a setup? Either way, Dorcy’s reaction is authentic: “Get away from me!” he snarls.

The room erupts in laughter. These pros know, the meek don’t survive 65 years on the road.

RELATED: The Year in Willie, a look back at Nelson’s busy 2017

Dorcy was connected to Willie for many of those years, but he also worked with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Ray Price, George Jones and Waylon Jennings, among others.

In his later years, Dorcy was connected to a similar run of “Texas music” artists: Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Kevin Fowler, Josh Abbott, Cody Canada and, particularly, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.

As it turns out, it’s no accident that Dorcy stayed on the road with the younger generation — those artists and their roadies worked together to take care of the man who had no living relatives.

“All of these fellow roadies were becoming like his sons,” Amy Nelson said. “They would network and figure out where Ben was going and where he going to work and where he was going to spend the holidays and how they were going to pay his rent.”

“It was amazing to see this brotherhood and how they came together to take care of their fellow roadie.”

It was in this spirit that Joel Schoepf (former roadie who now works for John T. Floore Country Store) and John Selman (Willie Nelson stage manager) created the Live Like Lovey foundation, to help benefit other roadies who need financial assistance.

A silent auction at the Scoot Inn on Friday, featuring items ranging from Willie-signed bandanas to original Jerry Garcia art, helped raise funds for the roundation. Looming over the auction was a huge framed movie poster for the “Lovey: KIng of the Roadies” documentary.

Before he died in September, Dorcy did see a cut of the hour and 40 minute film about his life. His judgment?

“He loved it,” Amy Nelson said. “After 20 minutes, he was like ‘I like it.’ And when it was over he said, ‘I love it.’”

“Thank God.”

360 First Spins: Nate Ruess, Hilary Duff, Hudson Mohawke, Miguel, Adam Lambert

Every Tuesday our music writers Deborah Sengupta Stith and Eric Webb take over Austin360’s Periscope account spinning a mix of the week’s new releases, popular and underground alike for 360 First Spins.

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Our first impressions of this week’s new tunes? It’s a good week for mediocre pop and a great week for interesting R&B and electronic stuff. Check out our Spotify playlist featuring a mix of this week’s tunes, plus more new music released this month.

nateruessNate Ruess “Grand Romantic” – Listen on Spotify

DSS: The thing Fun.’s lead singer does well is grandiose pop-rock delivered with seize the day, heart on the sleeve emotion. The best tracks on this album are the ones that could be the soundtrack to a post-millennial “Dead Poet’s Society.” Some of the slow stuff, including the lightly twangy Beck collab “What This World is Coming To” (which will be all over rock radio this summer), gets a little too sappy for me.

EW: The cover instantly turns me off, which I realize is not fair. I’m willing to give it some time to grow on me, but from the days of The Format to the first Fun. album to the second one to that grating single with Pink, Ruess’ has gone schmaltzier and schmaltzier. I’m not feeling it.

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ToyyPRhBeck “Dreams” (single) Listen

EW: I have been waiting my whole life for a Beck song that I really, truly like. This reminds me of Darwin Deez crossed with Mark Foster (which is not fair, because both of those guys bite on Beck pretty hard.) Love the nervous guitars and the soft bridge that leads into his most radio-friendly chorus since “Loser.” It’s all of the weirdness of Beck, but for the masses (me).

DSS: I’m not a huge Beck lover. This is better than a lot of his stuff but I probably won’t be putting it on any of my playlists any time soon.

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Normally, Beck = snooze.

adamlAdam Lambert “The Original High” Listen

EW: The thing about Adam Lambert is that he is a bad boy, but a bad boy by way of “American Idol.” (All the profanity seems shoehorned in to meet a quota.) Hardly anything on this album transcends shiny gay club stock beats, but Lambert’s clarion voice elevates it. There are a couple standouts, though: “Ghost Town” is giving me Sam Sparro “Black & Gold” vibes, and “Rumors” (featuring my patron saint of self-destruction, Tove Lo) is deliciously Weeknd-esque.

DSS: This is standard radio ready pop straight out of the music machine.

hmHudson Mohawke “Lantern” Listen

DSS: The Scottish EDM producer delivers a rich platter loaded with enthralling, experimental atmospherics. The music veers from jarring discordant changes into lush and lovely soundscapes and back again. Great collabs with Miguel and Jhené Aiko come as a fantastic bonus. The album stands up without them.

EW: Before this, I had only a vague, elementary understanding of what a Hudson Mohawke was. Now that I know he doesn’t sound like Zedd, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with how subtle this is in places.

Wait for the drop.
Wait for the drop.

bbBen Browning “Turns” Listen

EW: If you like Cut Copy, you’ll love the guy from Cut Copy’s solo album. “Turns” is synthpop with cheerful sleaze, drawing on some of the ’80s aerobic video charm of Miniature Tigers’ “Mia Pharaoh.” “Friends of Mine” recalls Cut Copy’s “Lights and Music,” and “Life Dudes (Tripping Through Royal Park)” is a stargazing MIDI dream.

DSS: This definitely makes my beachy, summer fun playlist.

Miguel  “#wildheart” teaser tracks Listen

migDSS: Miguel’s new album drops June 29, but with five standout tracks dropped on Spotify today, color me teased. I think the return of D’Angelo has pushed the bar for modern R&B and soul music stratospherically. These songs find the falsetto crooner, skipping obvious constructs to present deeply stirring, musically challenging love songs ready to disrupt the bedroom music industry.

EW: I’m glad Miguel never takes the easy way out on his tracks. Makes me feel like he respects me. In a sexy way.

 

hilaryHilary Duff  “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” – Listen

EW: This is the store-brand version of glossy celebripop. I don’t expect Hilary Duff to turn out anything artistically adventurous, but I would hope for at least a couple of things on par with “Come Clean.” (IT’S A LOW BAR, I KNOW.) Everything sounds the same, with Garage Band beats bought in bulk and apathetic vocals. It seems like HilDuff was going for Carly Rae Jepsen, but she ended up with Costco.

DSS: Kind of like being trapped in the bubblegum-scented hair accessories section of your local Claire’s Boutique.  

 

msMates of State “You’re Going to Make It” (EP) Listen

DSS: I liken this to a summer cocktail, a bit syrupy, but fun. After you knock a couple back, you’re dancing in spite of yourself.

EW: They have no idea what kind of band they are anymore, do they?

 

verVerité “Sentiment” (EP) Listen

EW: While not terribly original, Verité is at least doing glitzy-glitchy indie pop very well. There’s more than a little MS MR in “Wasteland,” which nails the sound Ryn Weaver is trying to nail, and there’s a lot of MS MR in “Colors,” which sounds like a really fun “Secondhand Rapture” bonus track.

DSS: There’s a dark undercurrent that I appreciate, but I feel like I’ve heard these songs before.

Alpine “Yuck” Listen

alpDSS: I’m not sure what’s going on in Australia right now, but there’s a ton of super interesting new music coming from down under (see also: Hiatus Kaiyote, Courtney Barnett). This six-piece indie pop outfit has crafted a truly enthralling collection of soulful pop songs.

EW: Slinky, neo-soul beats with cooing bedroom vocals makes for delicious dissonance. It’s like Eisley covering FKA twigs.

 

kacey-musgraves-pageant-material-2015-billboard-650x650Kasey Musgraves “Dime Store Cowgirl” Listen

DSS: Dear Kasey Musgraves, you are always welcome in the Austin City Limits.

EW: If we keep playing the individual tracks on each episode, we’ll cover the whole album eventually, won’t we? Fine with it.

 

 

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‘Til next time!