Local graduates part of country mix at revamped Texas Music Blowout

Saturday’s Texas country concert at the Extraco Events Center carries the title WACO 100 Texas Music Blowout, but for its opening act, it’s more like a Waco homecoming.

The Blowout, a rebrand of the annual Zack and Jim’s Anniversary Blowout, features headliner Turnpike Troubadours, Parker McCollum and, as opener, Brit Kerr. Kerr is a Bosqueville High School graduate who got his musical start in Waco, then shifted into a higher gear as a Texas Tech University student.

He’s bringing with him a largely Waco band: Jon Kazanas on lead guitar, Clinton Bon Slaughter on rhythm guitar, Storm Simpson on bass guitar, John Laufenberg on fiddle and Matt Newsom, the lone non-Wacoan, on drums.

It’s a larger than usual band for Kerr, 19, who started playing only about three years ago, but something he wanted as an opener for the Troubadours and McCollum. “It gives a lot more options for us,” he said. “We’ll be playing about an hour, all the songs we’ve released and a few covers.” Up-and-coming Texas country singer-songwriter Brit Kerr, a Bosqueville High School graduate, returns home to open Saturday’s Texas Music Blowout. Kerr, a public relations major, comes back to his musical stomping grounds two years after musical seasoning at Texas Tech in Lubbock, the same Texas country music scene that nurtured stars like Pat Green, Wade Bowen — both with strong Waco connections — and William Clark Green.

“Lubbock is an awesome melting pot for Texas country,” he said. Tech is also where he found his lead guitarist, the 22-year-old Kazanas. While Kerr was playing country music in his high school years, Kazanas was playing percussion in the Midway High School band, becoming drum captain his senior year.

Kazanas, a business management major, hired Kerr to open for Koe Wetzel and Flatland Cavalry for Gator Fest, a function his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity was organizing, and the two found a common ground in music, with playing electric guitar providing a different thrill than marching band.

Kerr and his band will open for two popular Texas acts revving up their spring with a country show that traditionally has been one of Waco’s best-attended. The WACO 100 Texas Music Blowout continues the 25-year tradition of Zack and Jim’s Anniversary Blowout, created by longtime WACO morning show hosts Zack Owen and Jim Cody. The Extraco Events Center signs on this year as a co-sponsor, with all seats now ticketed rather than only floor seats as in the past. Oklahoma roots-rockers Turnpike Troubadours (above) will headline the WACO 100 Texas Music Blowout at the Extraco Events Center. Bosqueville graduate Brit Kerr (right) and his Waco-rooted band will open Saturday night’s show. For Oklahoma-rooted country rockers Turnpike Troubadours, Saturday’s concert continues a new year with hopes of putting a choppy 2018 behind.

That year saw band leader Evan Felker divorce his wife Staci Nelson and take up with country star Miranda Lambert, herself fresh from a breakup with ex-husband Blake Shelton. That relationship floundered by August, however, two months before the release of the band’s fourth album, “A Long Way from Your Heart.” The next month, Felker’s health became an issue when kidney stones, plus another member’s family issues, forced the band to cancel several September shows, followed by more shows in November and January.

McCollum, contacted by email while in transit to a show, said he didn’t expect the positive reaction kick in so quickly. “The reaction to ‘Probably Wrong’ was definitely surprising,” he wrote. “To go from selling a good amount of tickets to selling out most every night was not something we expected, but definitely something we were shooting for. I wrote that album two years ago, so it’s honestly pretty cool to think back to how different of a person I was when I wrote those songs. I still feel those same emotions from time to time, but it’s never hard (to perform those songs).” Texas country singer-songwriter Parker McCollum, the middle act of Saturday’s Texas Music Blowout, is still riding the success of 2017’s “Probably Wrong.” The Texas country singer-songwriter frequently plays Waco, but Saturday’s show will be the largest Waco venue he’s had. That, however, doesn’t faze him. “The Waco show should be no different than any other show we’ve played there other than the fact that it’s in a much larger venue,” he said. “Waco has always showed up and showed out for us and the opportunity to get to play there again in front of more people is something we do not take for granted.”

His Waco fans, in fact, may get to hear what he’s been working on recently. “I’m writing a new album right now. Been cutting some demo tapes and they have turned out great,” he wrote. “We are touring all over the country this year and trying to get this music and this show out to everyone we can. The goal is to put this new album out in 2019, but no guarantees.”

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