Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homer's Backyard Ball: Amarillo Mudfest

When I go home to Amarillo I look forward to a number of things. Visits to grandparents and other family. Long conversations on the porch. Hugs from siblings. Just catching up. I have never gone home to Amarillo anxious to catch some great live music, but that all changed this weekend with Homer's Backyard Ball.

Homer's is a barbecue cook-off and fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation set on a large patch of pasture near Amarillo's waterpark. The lineup this year caught my eye. Matt Martindale (of Cooder Graw fame), Tommy Alverson, Tejas Brothers, Band of Heathens, and Eleven Hundred Springs were all huge draws. That, as well as promise of potentially delicious barbecue, made this visit home something extra special to look forward to.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The FAQ section of the website elaborated on the BYOB policy, emphasizing that it is limited to the amount of alcohol one can move into the festival under human power . . . dollies, wagons, and carts would be okay. This impression--that some folks would be going hog wild--was reinforced as we stopped to get a couple beers to take out to the pasture. Upon hearing I was headed to Homer's, the manager of the liquor store looked at my paltry stash of brew and informed me I would need substantially more. Earlier that day he sent a series of kegs out the door toward Homer's on dollies. He finally agreed to let me leave with my minimal quantity but advised I make friends with some of his better-prepared customers.

As we approached the concert site, it occurred to me that the previous days' torrential downpour would potentially turn the pasture into puddles, the green grass into goo and gunk. We slid the vehicle into a disturbingly soft field, and set off through light mud toward the tunes. As we approached, people were walking the opposite direction drenched in the brown stuff--coated in a sticky dark mud. While some would see this as a warning, we took it as a challenge. These people were obviously fools who made a conscious decision to swim in mud, living some sort of Texas Panhandle meets Woodstock fantasy. We would escape unscathed.

Minutes later, sunk up to my calves, I began to reassess. We found a patch of grass struggling to stay on the surface against the rising tide of mud and set up some chairs, dropping the cooler with a very soft thud. Mom and Matt set off in search of food as Gary and I began to appreciate the chaos unfolding around us. We realized most of the crowd had been drinking . . . for hours. For many hours. And drinking a lot. This, naturally, provoked random mud tackles, giddy mud-wrestling, angry mud-wrestling, and two-stepping which turned into mud-wrestling.

Mom and Matt returned to inform us that the competition barbecue had been long consumed. They found the only food available: calf fries or Rocky Mountain oysters. Whatever the euphemism, we'd be eating the nether regions of bulls.

Fortunately, this dinner complemented the accordion-spiced country coming from the Tejas Brothers. It also worked well with outlandish straw cowboy hats matching random facial hair on stumbling cowboys. And, when I entered a porta-potty after a man with a massive grey handlebar mustache, furry calf-skin blazer, and massive sombrero, it all just made sense.

While the mud reduced the crowd size, it left behind a group either too dedicated to the tunes or too immobilized by various forces to give up. Tejas Brothers had a fun and exciting show. Band of Heathens were remarkable with multi-instrumental talent and a barrage of great, great guitar action. But then the fist fighting started, and we thought we'd escape--unfortunately leaving before a personal favorite, the Dallas-based Eleven Hundred Springs, took the stage.

The trek back to the car was fraught with peril. We were blinded by the highbeams of F350s while struggling to keep our feet on fairly solid ground. Our boots had accumulated an improbable quantity of muck, turning each step into a workout. Finally at the car, we removed the muddy weights and delicately slid into seats--happy to be headed to warm showers, a healthy meal, and blissful sanity.
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