Drinko Music Fest – A Chat with Dalton Domino
Drinko Music Fest may still be in its infancy, but it is certainly not suffering from the “Terrible Twos.” This year’s lineup (listed below) may be the most robust to ever play a Tuesday. With heavy hitter headliners at night and future frontrunners during the day, the 12-hour, duel-staged music festival will be one for the books.
The man behind the festival is the “Hecho en Lubbock,” Dalton Domino. Domino payed his dues on Monday nights’ Singer-Songwriter Nights at the famed Blue Light Live years ago, with the goal of playing a Tuesday before working his way down the week to headline weekends. With a half-decade of touring under his belt, he has always kept Lubbock with him. Symbolically, Tuesday works as the day many of the lineup’s songwriters strived to play at the start of their careers. More pertinently, Drinko falls on May 10, the last day of classes at Texas Tech, where students will have a recovery day before finals. For the working folk anxious about going out on a Tuesday or coming into the office with a hangover, Domino offers advice more wise than his years: “It’s not about the party. It’s not about the shots. You don’t have to drink. Just come out and watch some music. That’s what it’s all about.”
We spoke with Domino as he stood in his friend’s driveway in a well-to-do neighborhood. He’s between a Maserati and a Mercedes Benz, wearing cut off jeans and a partially-buttoned flannel; Domino has never been one to concern himself with fitting in. We discuss Drinko, his upcoming album and weigh in on The Blue Light as Lubbock’s muse:
Can you tell me how the festival first came to be?
How the festival came about was I wanted to have a cd release party, and last year was the first year that we did it. I had all my buddies come out and asked them if they wanted to play some songs. The headliners last year were Dollyshine and us. This year’s headliners are Sam [Riggs] and Cody Canada. We just wanted to do it again.
What are you looking forward to most?
The thing I’m looking forward to most is at the end of the night when it’s all done, so I stop stressing about it. Another one is just Cody Canada and Shane Smith. All the artists that are gonna be out there are just incredible. I’m excited to hear RC Edwards. You know, RC is a very big thing for Turnpike Troubadours; he’s one of the main songwriters, him and [Evan] Felker both are true songwriters. A lot of people view RC as just a bass player, but he is an incredible songwriter and fun to listen to.
How does it feel to bring out your friends and guys you’re a fan of for a show?
One of my best friends in the world is Cody Canada. I never thought a few years ago that I’d be able to call him for personal advice. And I wasn’t expecting Cody to say, “Oh yeah, we’ll do it.” But he was very, “Hell yeah, we’ll do this.” So him and his wife, I think, are going to come out. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to South By Southwest, but that’s what it’s gonna kinda be like. Everybody gets 25 minutes, except Shane is gonna get 45, Sam Riggs is gonna get 75, and I’m gonna have Cody close out the night acoustic. That’s the way I wanted to do this. It’s not about the show, it’s not about the lights, it’s not about this-or-that. It’s about the song. That’s really what Drinko is about.
So you have “Hecho en Lubbock” on some shirts and even on [your drummer]’s kick. Could you explain Lubbock’s influence on your career?
Oh, absolutely, man. We wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Red Shahan. We really wouldn’t. Red is our main influence. The first time we ever saw Red & the Vityls we knew we wanted to play that kind of music. When we first started out on Mondays, Red was hosting. It took me moving to Lubbock to find all these guys and I didn’t have a — I still don’t have a sound, man. You can hear it on our next record. It’s very clompy. It’s very cool. It all comes from Red or Will [Clark Green] or Charlie Shafter, and they’re true songwriters too, not just showmen.
We’ll be getting some southern rock on the next album then.
Not so much that style. It’s basically the freedom to play whatever we want to play. It’s not a Texas Country album, that’s for sure. It’s a lot darker. And I love the song, but there’s no “Jesus and Handbags” on there. It’s a very dark sounding album. We recorded with this — it’s called an Echoplex, and it’s like a tape reel. We recorded the sound of the tape reel and put it on a song and it sounds very Leftfield. I like it. People might not, but I love it.
Can you explain how it feels to play in front of a Lubbock crowd?
Man, there’s nothing like it. When we were starting to tour a lot, Dustin Six [partial owner of The Blue Light Live] came to me and said, “Don’t you ever forget about us. I promise you you’ll never find another room that’s like this room or the energy and spirit that’s in this room.” and I was like yeah, whatever, cool man, see you later. But then you spend three or four years on the road, and there’s nothing like playing at home, in Lubbock. There’s nothing like playing at The Blue Light. It’s definitely a very one-of-a-kind place. It’s the greatest thing in the world, man. It really is. It’s my home. I have a tattoo on my arm, that’s how much it means to me. It’s not because of a bar. It’s because of the family of people there. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t know what songwriting is. We’re always trying to hone our craft and become better songwriters, and that’s what The Blue Light meant to us. We played three new songs on Mondays and writing three songs every week really kicks you into shape. If you look at Drinko, that’s why I booked people like Kaitlin Butts, people like Parker McCollum, Flatland Cavalry; not because they’re hot acts, but because they’re incredible songwriters.
Yeah, that’s such an incredible song. Brandon [Adams] and Charlie Stout and I wrote a song for the next record called “From Lubbock with Love.” It’s one of my favorite songs I ever tried to pen out, and I couldn’t have done it without those two geniuses. And I can say it’s a great song, because I didn’t really write it. They did and I was like, “What about this?” And they were, “Nuh-nuh-no, what about THIS?” It’s such a killer song and it’s all Brandon and Charlie. They’re Lubbock dudes, and they’re just true songwriters. Look at Charlie Stout. He’s just one-of-a-kind. Brandon is one-of-a-kind. Red is one-of-a-kind. Will is one-of-a-kind. There’s no one like Shafter. Everyone that comes out of Lubbock seems like they have all these influences, but they have their own sound. That’s what I love about Lubbock music and the people that come from here.
You’ve heard that Townes Van Zandt quote about Lubbock musicians, right?
Which one’s that?
“All you West Texas guys have that High Plains air in your sound. I can’t tell whether it’s in your voices or in the general feel of the music. But there is something about that West Texas wind in all of your songs.”
That’s the truth. I think it was Delbert McClinton who said, “Hell, I don’t know, maybe it’s something in the water.” And there’s just nothin’ like it. I moved out from Alabama, working a dead-end job, and my gut was telling me to go to Lubbock and I wanted to try to be a songwriter. I took a chance, and moved out to Lubbock to study everybody that was on The Blue Light stage. There were some 500 bands that came through, probably even more that I can’t account for. For three years, every single night I was at The Blue Light watching bands, and the people I’d gravitate to are the local artists. There’s just something special about Lubbock artists.
You know I’ll be there, but for someone who isn’t sure yet, why should they come out to Drinko?
The lineup is great. It’s all for a good price. I will tell you to get there early. If you’re worried about, “Oh man, it’s a Tuesday,” just come on out; you don’t have to get messed up. You don’t have to party. It’s about the music, man. It’s about Cody Canada playing acoustic. Sam Riggs had the No. 2 record in the country a few weeks ago. Flatland Cavalry had the No. 2 record in the country two weeks ago. They made Billboard. Shane Smith is another one. They’re all bubbling under those big names. Come see them now. If you’re worried about work tomorrow, just don’t drink then, or just come watch a few bands. All the bands playing are bands I like.
Just the facts:
When: Tuesday, May 10 from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: The Blue Light Live, 1806 Buddy Holly Avenue (indoor and outdoor)
Shane Smith and the Saints
Larry Joe Taylor
No Dry County
Prophets and Outlaws