Mike and the Moonpies

Mike and the Moonpies

Gun Street Ghost, Shawn Nelson Band

Thu, January 3, 2019

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm


Off Sale

This event is 21 and over

Mike and the Moonpies
Mike and the Moonpies
When frontman Mike Harmeier sang “they don’t make ’em like they used to” at the start of Mike and the Moonpie’s last studio album (2015’s Mockingbird), it wasn’t the idle complaint of an armchair country music critic: It was a self-imposed challenge, answered by Harmeier and the rest of his band of young but stage-hardened, old-soul honky-tonkers, to do something about it.

“The idea was, if I walked into a bar with my dad or grandfather, I wanted the album to sound like the stuff that I would play on a jukebox at that bar,” says the 33-year-old songwriter, who started Mike and the Moonpies not long after moving to Austin from his native Houston a decade ago. “That’s why it had a bunch of different styles on it: there’s a Bob Seger kind of thing on there, some Randy Travis sounding stuff, a George Jones kind of thing … That was all a grand scheme that I had in my head.”

The reaction was pretty grand, too, with Rolling Stone Country picking Mockingbird as one of the genre’s best albums of the year. The accolades neatly coincided with the band’s signing with powerhouse Americana booking agency Red 11 Music, and the following year’s jam-packed double-disc Live at WinStar World Casino and Resort only offered further indisputable affirmation of Mike and the Moonpies’ hard-earned status as one of the Texas music scene’s finest real country bands since the release of their auspicious 2010 debut, The Real Country. It turns out Harmeier had something of a scheme in his head for that live album, too — but unlike Mockingbird before it, it had nothing to do with looking back. The rest of the Moonpies — guitarist Catlin Rutherford, drummer Kyle Ponder, bassist Preston Rhone, steel guitarist Zachary Moulton, and piano, organ and Wurlitzer player John Carbone — may not have known it at the time when they hit the WinStar stage, but the frontman was already laying the groundwork for their next studio album.

“Sometimes when you go into the studio, you get into a hole where everybody wants to recut their solos over and over, and I wanted to stay away from that when we made our next album. I wanted to have it where whatever happened in the moment is what would go on the record. So, the live album was my way of kind of conditioning the band for that … without me telling them.”

Harmeier laughs as he admits this, but the results — as heard on the band’s freshly minted Steak Night at the Prairie Rose (February 2018) — speak for themselves. Recorded in April at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas, the Moonpies’ fifth album is not only their best effort to date, but arguably the first to really nail the irresistible, good-time spark and spirit of one of Austin’s best bar bands (in any genre) in the studio.

In keeping with the “keep it in the moment” vibe of the whole record, Harmeier wrote or co-wrote all but one of the album’s 10 songs (the exception being “The Last Time” by friend Jonathan Terrell, who wrote “Damn Strait” for the Moonpies’ 2012 sophomore release The Hard Way) in the span of about a month or two, right before the week-long recording session. And although every song on the album is as unabashedly country as any fan favorite from Mockingbird or the rest of the Moonpies’ catalog (including the dozens of classic honky-tonk covers from their salad days residencies at Austin’s Hole in the Wall, White Horse, and Broken Spoke), Harmeier notes that the only “concept” he had this around was to keep the writing “simple” enough to allow the rest of the band — and producer Adam Odor — room to really go to town. “The only thing I really wanted was for the band to just have fun playing the songs, because I wanted the album to showcase the players on top of the songs that I wrote — just like the live record did.”

Not coincidentally, it was Odor who recorded, mixed, and mastered that live album, which in turn landed him the gig helming Steak Night. It was the first time since the Moonpies inception that Harmeier ever felt comfortable handing the reins completely over to someone else. “Adam and I actually met the day that he came to the WinStar to record the live record, but it was like we had already known each other for 20 years,” recalls Harmeier, who had long been an admirer of Odor’s resume both on his own and as an engineer on countless projects by famed producer Lloyd Maines (Joe Ely, Dixie Chicks).

“From it’s inception, “Steak Night” was and is a band album,” explains Odor.  “No extra layers, no added studio musicians (except for the genius Mickey Raphael guesting on “The Worst Thing”), no unwarranted overthinking about what is expected.  We worked out musical parts and arrangements together, we worked on instrument tones together, and we hit record on the tape machine and played it together.  Some of these songs came together in a matter of 2 to 3 takes, others took many, many, different directions before landing on what you hear today. Most importantly, what you’re hearing on this album is what you’ll be seeing at each show, night after night. “

Of course, the Moonpies themselves had a lot to do with making Steak Night at the Prairie Rose special, too — as did the songs. Highlights include the opening “Road Crew,” which kicks things off at Highway Patrol-baiting speed powered by the twin-engine roar of electric twang and runaway pedal steel, and the sweepingly melodic gambler’s lament, “Beaches of Biloxi.”

“I love that era coming out of the outlaw thing and going into the more ‘contemporary country stuff,’ where the production starting getting a little bit more poppy but was still kind of dirty,” Harmeier explains. “For me, that’s when things started to get really interesting musically, and I think this whole record kind of has that ’80s thing to it — probably because there’s so much Wurlitzer all over it.” There’s also a whopping dose of twin electric/steel leads, a little Talk Box (played by guitarist Catlin Rutherford on “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be”), a hint of Willie-worthy harmonica (courtesy of guest Mickey Raphael on the waltz “Worst Thing”), and a whole lot of humor, ranging from the nudge-nudge-wink-winkery of “Might Be Wrong”to the barbed-wire irony of “Wedding Band.”

For the record, he’s no slouch when it comes to writing earnest, either — especially when drawing from the well of first-hand experience. Much like “Mockingbird” before it, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose’s title track plays like an early chapter from Harmeier’s autobiography, this one going all the way back to his very first time playing music onstage in front of an audience at age 13.

“I grew up kind of going to the bars with my dad and my grandfather and playing the jukebox all the time, which of course is what ‘Mockingbird’ and a lot of the last record was kind of about. But then I started to take guitar lessons, and when I got to where I could pretty much play two hours worth of songs, whether it be Clint Black or Kansas, anything — that’s when my dad got me that gig playing every Wednesday night during ‘steak night’ at the Prairie Rose in Decker Prairie, Texas. So yeah, that’s all real …”
Gun Street Ghost
Gun Street Ghost
Gun Street Ghost is a Denver-based Americana band with classic elements of country-based songs about the struggles of life, hard work, and drinking to numb the pain. 70's rock influences add electric guitar-driven songs and aggressive rhythmic aspects. The ambient textures of guitar swells and pedal steel slides intertwined with rhythm guitar and piano create a somber feel, while underpinning powerful vocal melodies that are memorable to the listener. Gun Street Ghost's music will tell you a story musically and lyrically, at times the message is clear, at times it's more like a dream that is open to interpretation.
Shawn Nelson Band
Shawn Nelson Band
Shawn Nelson is a songwriter, musician, singer and recent transplant to Golden, Colorado from Austin, Texas. Born and raised in Houston, Shawn moved to Austin to play music and spent over 10 years performing, writing songs and making records.

The Austin Chronicle named his 2011's San Juan Street "one of the best country albums of the year."

“I'm just a Houston kid who's been lucky to write, play and record music for many years. I’ve been fortunate to play my music on all kinds of stages across the country and to release a few albums along the way. It's a labor of love and at this point, my life's work."

Over the years Shawn has released nine independent albums with various band mates – four under Shawn Nelson, one with Shawn Nelson & The Good Buds, two with Shawn Nelson & The Ramblers, one under his first band Crazy Chester and one under 2Fer1 with fellow songwriter, Graham Wilkinson, which was recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.

“I’m lucky to call the musicians who play on my albums, my friends. Every one of them is a fine soul and they believe in my music. I write most of my songs in solitude on a guitar or the piano, but for me, my music really comes alive when others are involved and that collective vibe and spirit is created - these guys make that happen and for that I am eternally grateful."

Shawn has shared all kinds of stages with all kinds of bands, from Gruene Hall with Asleep At The Wheel to Stubb’s with Drive-By Truckers to Shinyribs at Continental Club. Before departing Austin, Shawn held down two weekly residencies for years.

Tuesdays were down on the drag at the second oldest venue in Austin, The Hole In The Wall, with his string band pickers who are featured on the latest album, You Are Me. Wednesdays were on Rainey Street at Bungalow for the 2Fer1 show with fellow Austin songwriter, Graham Wilkinson.

"I’ve played my songs for many years in honky-tonks, bars, clubs, dancehalls, big stages, small stages, backyard parties, campfires, patios, hotel rooms, motel rooms, parking lots, farmers markets, flat-bed trailers, boats and even buses. Some of the songs are set closers, but all of them come from the heart and some of them are even true.”

2016 proved to be a productive year for the songwriter with his songs featured on two releases from Austin artists, Graham Wilkinson and Samuel Grey Horse. Graham recorded one of Shawn's unreleased reggae songs, "I Am Not Alone" for his #Because Of You album and Grey Horse recorded the traveling country love song, "More Than California" off 2011's San Juan Street.

“I am a songwriter, singer and player. My main instrument is the acoustic guitar, a Gibson J-45. I call her The Workhorse and she earns every inch of that name. We have had a storied life together. She was actually stolen at a gig in 2015 and was returned to me by the Austin Police! When I was re-united with her, I realized that I am here on this terrestrial plane to be a songwriter. I love to write songs and there's nothing better than playing my songs for folks, it’s what got me here and what keeps me going.“

Inspired by those Tuesdays at the Hole In The Wall, Shawn and the group of string band pickers featuring Matt Slusher (South Austin Jug Band, Wood & Wire) on guitar, Fletcher Murchison (Will Dupuy, La Tampiquena) on mandolin and Morgan Patrick Thompson (John Evans, Asylum Street Spankers) on upright bass recorded a live studio album, You Are Me, on May 25, 2016.

You Are Me was released in late 2016 and includes some new songs, two cover songs from Townes Van Zandt and The Carter Family and acoustic takes on previously released songs. It's all strings and all songs recorded on one day at Signal Hill Recording in Austin.

The future is unknown and uncertain, yet there is something exciting about that to Shawn. He is excited to start a new band in Colorado and looking forward to bringing his music to the high country.
Venue Information:
7 S. Broadway
Denver, CO, 80209