By John Benson
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s getting harder and harder to be a country music fan.
The popularity of Nashville’s sound has become a lucrative summer concert touring market where listeners who want to see their favorite acts in large amphitheaters — or even stadiums — have to save up in the same fashion they would to buy a used car or new roof.
Hoping to bring country music back to the masses — without breaking the bank — is the idea behind the second annual Outlaw Fest taking place Saturday at the Dusty Armadillo.
“It started out being about our band, Outlaw,” said Outlaw singer Tim “TR” Roberts, who lives in Marlboro. “We were together for about 10 years and the band split up for two years. Then we decided to get back together again. We wanted a place to have it, someplace big enough because we were getting so many people asking about us getting back together. That’s when we decided to call it Outlaw Fest and make it just a big party.”
Last year’s inaugural affair was such a success that Roberts said this year the group, which also includes David Newcomb (keyboards and vocals), Jimmy Todd (bass and vocals), Josh Clayton (guitar and vocals) and Lonnie “LJ” Clayton II (drums and vocals), talked to the owner of the Dusty Armadillo.
“He decided to do something different,” Roberts said. “He has a lot of national country acts there and decided the summer months when he doesn’t have Nashville acts he has a certain amount of dates that he’ll let the local bands come in there and use that to promote themselves.
“They’ll have free range of the facility and depending on how many people show up, that’s what you get paid. You can sell your show, basically. We decided, ‘Why not, let’s do it again.’”
Joining Outlaw will be the Lonnie Clayton and the Wheels Band, which is led by the father of Outlaw members Lonnie II and Josh.
“This year we decided we’d have an opening act,” Roberts said. “Lonnie Clayton is a guy who has been doing it for a lot of years in this area. He’s one of the people we looked up to when we first started playing music. He said he’d be happy to open.”
Together, both acts cover a wide gamut of country and rock, ranging from Jason Aldean to Billy Joel. As far as performing at the Dusty Armadillo, Roberts said it’s a natural fit.
“It’s beautiful,” Roberts said. “We were the second band to ever play there when it opened up 15 years ago, and we’ve been playing there ever since. It holds like 700 people.”
As for that cheap night of country music, Roberts said, “Right, tickets are $5. You get more bang for your buck.”