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March Madness Music Festival, Day 3 (Dallas, TX)
-Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa –

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One of the perks of being the host city for the NCAA March Madness, is, apparently, the March Madness Music Festival.

I must confess: I was clueless that this even took place each year (the concert series) but once the lineup leaked out, I knew I had to attend it, particularly on the final day of the three-day event.

The weather conditions had deteriorated since Friday, and this Sunday afternoon was plagued with rain, albeit not too heavy. Still, that couldn’t dampen any plans to see one of the few people to walk this planet who is worthy of being called both a music legend and icon: Bruce Springsteen, and his storied E Street Band.

They were the headliner for the Capitol One JamFest, but first, the people of North Texas and some of those who were here visiting for the final-four tournament were treated to the first ever Dallas show from The Wind and The Wave.

The duo of Dwight Baker and Patty Lynn may reside in Austin, Texas, but they’ve been so busy touring nationally and internationally, they’ve never made the trek up this way. I’ve been awaiting this for awhile, though (I was a fan of Patty’s last project, which disbanded a little over a year ago). I wasn’t the only Wind and the Wave fan there, either, and three girls stood out in the crowd, two of whom held up a small, paper cutout “W”, while the one in the middle had a “+” raised in the air.

They gave everyone an enjoyable 43-minute set, which incorporated some backing drum tracks, while Patty and Dwight used an acoustic and electric guitar, respectively.

The music was far different from which I had heard her sing over before, but that’s not to say I didn’t like the more folk sound the band mined, and “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head” was a captivating opener. Dwight added some backing vocals/harmonies to the mix when they were singing, and was typically the one to speak to the crowd when they weren’t. He even often thanked everyone for sticking it out with them in the rain and cold; and at tone point even joked he was going to keep playing until his gear got so wet it would shut off (luckily, that didn’t happen).

“…It’s not at all good, but it ain’t that bad…” went a line from one song they harmonized on, after which Dwight suggested that be the “theme song for the day”. It was a far cry from the night before, where he said they played a sold-out club in Minnisota and thought they were doing well, but today found themselves going, “We’re opening for Bruce Springsteen. Yeah, we did it!”

Their first single, “With Your Two Hands”, seemed to get the biggest reaction from the spectators, and several people around me began talking about how much they enjoyed the song and the band itself. Then they concluded with a nice rendition of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me”, which was one song that saw Patty trading her acoustic guitar in for a mandolin.

I highly enjoyed it, and was glad I was able to witness The Wind and The Wave’s first show in Dallas. And with their debut album due out this summer on RCA, they’ll hopefully be getting back this way more often.

Pat Green // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

Pat Green // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

The eclectic lineup transitioned into a full country swing when the current Dallasite Pat Green and his band took the stage.

He set the tone immediately and showed everyone he was going to rely on humor as much as his music, when he pretended to slip on an imaginary wet spot on the stage (at least imaginary now that the staff had cleaned it off). He flashed a grin, laughing at his own antics even as he approached the mic and said something about this being a Sunday, but feeling like a Saturday and looking like a Friday, before encouraging everyone to “get hammered”. “I’m not going to work tomorrow, and you probably aren’t either.” he stated before they got underway.

He brought his young daughter out late in the first song, though she was reluctant about it, and ran backstage as soon as he put her down, while he and his band rolled things along into “Baby Doll”. The fun antics continued when Green began flicking guitar picks everywhere, from throwing them at one of his guitarists, to tossing them at the spectators, before reaching into his pockets — which seemed a bottomless pit of picks — and pulling out more to toss out.

It was that charm that made it so easy to love him. In all honesty, I’m very picky when it comes to country music, but Green had me won over just seconds into his 63-minute long set, and it was because it was so readily apparent that he was an entertainer. He wasn’t just there to sing some songs and go on his merry way. No, he was here to make sure people were enjoying themselves as much as he was. It’s worth noting that he was on cloud nine about the fact that he was opening for Bruce Springsteen, and he mentioned that fact many times, including saying he was more excited by the fact that Max Weinburg would later be on this stage. “…I mean, Bruce is great, but he’s the best drummer ever.” he said, then added that if anyone was here to “see the big fat guy up close”, than they were getting it now.

His Texas pride shone bright when he mentioned the best thing about being from Texas was “being from Texas” while the second best thing was “the girls from Texas”, leading in to a newer song, about how “…the girls from Texas are just a little bit better…” Most everyone shared that sentiment (or should I say truth?), while “Galleywinter” and “Don’t Break My Heart Again” were some other highpoints.

During “Texas On My Mind”, one lucky fan got a gift they’ll cherish forever, when Green, whose young son had now joined him when he brought a new guitar out to his dad, took off the one he had, and handed it to the fan. He later signed it (after they wiped enough of the water off for the Sharpie to actually work.” “…I’m the happiest fool who ever walked on two legs.” Green stated during the closer “Wave On Wave”, again voicing his excitement over opening for The Boss, and on his birthday, no less. A portion of that last song was left to the audience to sing, and Green wasn’t hesitant to flash a thumbs down at everyone, letting them know they weren’t nearly loud enough. They got there, though.

Perhaps the best thing about Green is that he’s a real country artist (at one point he stated his opinion of the current country music, or “Nashville Country”, and it wasn’t too flattering.) He’s more along the lines of Nelson and Cash, and if you’re going to be a country musician, you can’t really find better footsteps to follow in than those. And given he has a very successful career under his belt, then you know he’s doing something right.

Fun. // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved Fun. // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

The rock portion of the day got underway when Fun. took the stage; and a lot of people (younger people I should add) seemed more excited about seeing them than they were about The Boss.

Nearly everyone was engulfed by their set right from the start, as some visuals of paint being thrown onto a canvas was shown on the massive video screen on the back of the stage, set to the tune of “One Foot”. “Is that all you got?” asked frontman Nate Ruess during the song, looking up at the sky, which was again pouring down rain.

He got himself in some trouble later on in their set, when he said things were about to get “dirty” and decided to roll around on stage. He got up, his pants and even shirt soaked with the water that had fallen on stage. “I dare you to do that, Boss.” he shouted. It was met with an massive amount of boos. After all, there are some musicians you don’t disrespect, even if it’s meant as a joke. Springsteen is one of those musicians, and there wasn’t much humor in it, either. They quickly got “At Least I’m Not as Sad as I Used to Be” going, and during one break — after having thought about it —, Nate stated that Bruce wouldn’t do that because he’s “smarter” than that.

Every song was a sing along, whether it was meant to be or not, and fans loved “All the Pretty Girls” and “It Gets Better”, while a cool instrumental break led in to “Barlights”.

They even covered The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the end of their 56-minute set, though none of their fans were content with that being the end, and after a minute or so they returned, making them the only band of the night to do an encore. Which, by the way, was “Some Nights”.

By the looks of it this night, I’m one of the few people who has not jumped on the Fun. train. I still haven’t, though their set had some really good moments, and all the touring they’ve done has made them incredibly tight. And considering Nate pointed out that this was only the second show they had done in the last seven or eight months, they were still pretty finely tuned.

Bruce Springsteen // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved
Bruce Springsteen // March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

The rain was again falling by the time The E Street Band walked out on stage, and they were greeted with all the fanfare they’re deserving of.

Springsteen brought up the rear, walking on stage with a basketball resting in the palm of his hand. He and one of his guitarists then had a tip-off, hitting the ball out towards the crowd, using that as the signal to start a fun (and appropriate) cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”.

That was the beginning of a nearly three-hour long show that would fit the “legendary” mold the band is known for doing.

Some new songs from the “High Hopes” album were thrown in, but for the most part, this was all about the classics.

“Badlands”, their second track of the night, was the first moment of overwhelming excitement form the crowd, as they sang along to every word, even rivaling that of The Boss, who, early on, was shredding on his axe, proving just why after all these decades, he’s still The Boss.

Tom Morello (who was filling in for Steven Van Zandt) often gave him a run for his money as far as guitar skills went, though. He was an excellent replacement for this mighty band, and even picked up the slack of backing vocals, adding them on some tracks, and he even sang lead on parts of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. By the way, the more rock version of that track (which is found on “High Hopes”) breathes new life into that old classic, and will hopefully make it a staple for a little while into the future.

They did take breaks in between songs, and when they did, Springsteen used that time to chat with the crowd and get them ready for what was coming at the next. “Can you feel the spirit?!” he sang, prompting everyone to sing along with him, using that as the eventual segue into “Spirit in the Night”.

Of course, for anyone who saw their last Dallas show (which happened almost exactly six years prior), there was a big empty place on this stage. The band has had a few years to get accustomed to it, but that doesn’t make it any less empty.

“Here’s the most important verse!” roared Springsteen “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, as he made his way back to center stage from the walkway that led out to the crowd on stage left. “…And the Big Man joined the band…” he sang, while a montage of photos of Clarence Clemons was shown on the screen behind them, including some of the promo pictures he and Bruce took for the “Born to Run” album.

The E Street Band left, and Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa were the only two left on stage, doing an acoustic version of “Thunder Road”, with her adding backing vocals at various points to it.

March Madness Music Festival (Reunion Park - Dallas, TX) 4/6/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

Compared to the full throttle pace they had been going at all night, it was a very slow way to end the set, though it was an excellent end to it, and, much like the concert itself, that rendition of that fan favorite was unforgettable.

The high from this show will be one that lasts a long time. It was worth braving the weather for, because while the rain fell hard at times, the Rock ‘n’ Roll hit harder, which made it easy to forget about everything else and get lost in the music.

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