• SumoMe

This weekend, in perhaps the greatest live show I’ve ever seen, Ray Wylie Hubbard performed as both the legend he is and as one of the most accessible people around. Ray started off strong and fast and never let up–exciting the crowd by growling off snake farm. It just sounded nasty, and yeah, it pretty much was. With a memorable chorus, the raunchy and righteous crowd took over at times, leaving Ray shrugging, smiling, and stepping away from the mic.

Ray’s 14 year old son, Lucas, was also on stage to prove himself as an up-and-coming blues player. One of the many anecdotes given by Ray regarded his son, who was approached by his schoolmates in hopes of having him play guitar for them. Lucas asked, “What kind of music do you play?” “A lot of stuff like Soundgarden,” they replied. Bemused, Lucas replied, “Sorry boys, I’m a bluesman.” At that, the crowd erupted in a primal and guttural howl-growl at the moon like a pack of rabid wolves. “They should open up a bar here,” Ray says.

Riding that wave of energy, Ray’s performance peaked with my personal favorite, conversation with the devil. For that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was watching Ray or a young Dylan performing subterranean homesick blues. He morphed into a spectacular exhibition of songwriter and social poet and left me mesmerized. I felt tears welling up, blocked from falling only by the paralysis of any bodily function. Once it was over, and my heart returned to beating, all I could do was wipe my brow and exhale.

The anecdotes between the songs turned the set into an intimate timeline of Ray’s life through his music. Most noteworthy was his personal song with the chorus:

She grabbed a polecat by the tail,
Swung it ’round her head,
Said “Now I smell like you, babe
Let’s go to bed.”

No Texan set of his is complete without a rendition of his Texas anthem. True, he included it, adding “Tech” after Texas, and while I am more of a purist when it comes to this stuff, his crowd-pleasing was entirely within reason and the energy of the mob made up for his pandering.

After a double-encore, Ray hobbled off the stage perhaps as a result of driving 8 hours to the middle of nowhere to play his set, with his son following behind. Ray turned his head and asked his son, “You okay?” His son slightly nodded, still slightly terrified by the crowd. If Ray asked me, I’d have a simple answer, “Never been better, Ray.”