January 23, 2008: Frank and Joe performing in Fort Worth
January 6, 2008: A Visit to the Heard Museum in McKinney
Return to Index for 2008

January 19, 2008
Watching Joe Nichols at Billy Bob's Texas



Getting to Billy Bob's Texas


It's January 19th, a Saturday, and Fred is at his mother's in DeLeon. This will be the last weekend that he spends at his mother's house; he plans to go now during the week, leaving his weekends free to do stuff at his house and in Dallas.

Mario, who reviews music for the Dallas Morning News, is going to be attending the appearance by Joe Nichols, an up-and-coming Country/Western performer, at Billy Bob's Honky Tonk over in Fort Worth. Since the huge Gilley's closed in Houston some years ago, Billy Bob's bills itself as the largest such venue in the world, and is able to attract many top Country/Western acts.

I drove over to Mario's house, and he, Steve and I stopped at the Highlands Cafe near their house for dinner, and then Mario drove us over to Fort Worth. I haven't traced the entire route; that's really unimportant. But we went around north of DFW airport, through areas that I don't visit much, coming into 183 west of the airport. This takes us over to Fort Worth, to I-820 and I-35 to the stockyards area.



Billy Bob's Texas


Billy Bob's (actually something like the combination of a large bar, an arcade, a small rodeo, a large dance floor and a performance stage) is located at the north end of what used to be one of the largest stockyard operations in the country.

The Fort Worth Stockyards roared into high gear about the turn of the century when it became apparent that the southwest needed a cattle/pork sales and processing operation to supplement the other major ones in Kansas City and Chicago. As it turned out, Fort Worth was more centrally-located for much of the stock that was raised in the country, and for a long while it eclipsed both other stockyards in size and activity. Armour and Company and Hormel opened large plants right adjacent to the stockyards themselves, with the result that meat on the hoof came in one end and processed or cut meats left at the other.

After World War II, meat packing became more decentralized, and the huge operations in Chicago, Kansas City and Fort Worth declined. By the late 1960s, both meat packing plants in Fort Worth had closed, and activity at the stockyards fell off.

With the help of the city of Fort Worth, the Stockyards were able to reinvent themselves as a tourist venue. One of the packing plants is now a museum, and there are shops, festivals and, of course, Billy Bob's. I've been to the Stockyards a couple of times before, but this trip to Billy Bob's was a new one for me.

I know that the aerial view really doesn't help you understand the layout of the Stockyards much, but I thought it was interesting nevertheless. As you can see by comparing it to the size of some of the parking lots, Billy Bob's Texas is the size of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

In the northeast corner of the building, there is a structure that houses a small rodeo arena, and they actually conduct small rodeos there. Admission to the honky-tonk doesn't include entry to the rodeo venue, though; the two seem to be separate. While we were wandering around before the show, we went up to the interior entrance and there was a show of some kind going on.

There are a couple of restaurants and small bar areas at the north end of the building. The arcade is next as you move south- games, mechanical bulls and about ten pool tables. Then there is a large central bar area, with the dance floor south of that.

The performance venue is at the south end of the building. Outside the south end is a barnlike affair where the animals and contestants for the rodeo arena go through their preparations. I think this area is also used when there are parades or other activities in the Stockyards proper. We had to go through this area to get to our pre-show meeting with Joe Nichols.



Before the Show

As I said, Mario was here officially to write a review of the Nichols concert. As is often the case, he gets a lot of special treatment as a member of the press; I would imagine that all performance acts try to maintain cordial relationships with reviewers like Mario.

Mario, Steve and I all had VIP tickets and backstage passes. One of the entitlements that came along with the arrangements was a "meet and greet" with Joe Nichols before the concert. I wasn't familiar with this ritual, but Mario explained that it gives the reviewer a chance to meet the artist personally, and perhaps gain some perspectives that would be hard to get just by being in the audience. Other candidates to attend these pre-concert meetings are local artist fan club members and other, similar people who have more than a passing interest in the artist.

Mario's arrangements got us in to see Joe Nichols before the "meet and greet" (held in a kind of "green room" behind the performance stage) was opened up to a large group of folks. So after waiting around for a little while in the bar, we were met by one of Joe Nichols' managers and taken back to the green room personally. It was fun to be introduced to Nichols and to some of the band members and other folks; I have seen some country music videos of Joe Nichols and I can report that he looks better in person than he does in the videos. When his manager saw me carrying my camera, he offered to take a picture of the four of us- Mario, Joe Nichols, myself and Steve. You can see that picture if you click here.

After our short time with Joe Nichols, there were quite a few other folks that would be meeting him, and so we knew there would be at least another thirty minutes before the concert actually began. So I left Mario and Steve near the performance stage and took my camera, set it on movie mode, and wandered around the central area of Billy Bob's Texas.

The first movie I made took me from where I left Mario and Steve, alongside the dance floor and up into the central bar area.
The second movie I took began in that central bar area, went east and around the main bar, through some of the arcade area and ended up in the area north of the main bar where the pool tables were.


The Joe Nichols Show

The show itself was quite good. We had seats right down near the stage, which was good for viewing the concert but not so good for listening to it, as two of the main speakers were not far away from us. We would have done better to be further back, I think. I did take quite a few pictures and movies, but very few of them turned out well. There was a lot of action on the stage, and the room was very dark except for the bright lights on stage, and this made taking pictures difficult. Most of them were out of focus. Out of all the ones I took, one picture of Joe Nichols did come out passably, as he was still for a second or two right when I took the picture.

Sitting near the speakers was also death for the movies I tried to take. With my little pocket camera, I couldn't avoid a lot of feedback from the close-by speakers, and so the movie sound was garbled at times. It is odd the way our ears can compensate for much of this, while the audio system of the camera can only record all the sound waves that reach the speaker. Once all that material is recorded, then there is little that a listener can do. So I had to discard most of the movies because of the sound. I've chosen to include the best one in this album. Although the sound is not great, perhaps it will give you an idea of what the concert was like. You can watch that movie using the movie player below:

Joe Nichols Performs


Heading Home

When the concert was over, the three of us headed on home. Mario had to write his review by mid-day on Sunday, so he needed to get started. We stopped on the way home for some dessert, and when we got back to Mario and Steve's house I thanked them for a great evening and headed home myself.

January 23, 2008: Frank and Joe performing in Fort Worth
January 6, 2008: A Visit to the Heard Museum in McKinney
Return to Index for 2008