No Justice, no talent

Hours before the bands No Justice, a group of “red dirt” country rockers, and Jason Boland band, a group of veteran musicians, hit the stage, George’s was empty Friday night and only a few employees lined the sober bar.

The famous owner Bob Kramer, was behind the bar complaining about the vodka hangover he had, while the others listened and smoked down their Marlboro Lights.

As Kramer tended to the bar and prepared for the night’s music, he talked about his days, stationed in Memphis, Tenn., riding his motorcycle in a blizzard in nothing more than a few layers of clothes. He talked about the time he passed out during a tequila adventure somewhere in Arizona and said he awoke by a trailer.

This is the stuff that country songs are made of, and later, as the weather became colder and the No Justice began to play, one hoped that in the mix of all the sweet cowgirls, some of that feeling of adventure might be played out through song.

George’s beer garden was indeed the kind of place one would want to be at as the snow fell on Fayetteville.

The backroom was kept warm by huge heaters above the crowd and so many audience members were packed inside that it was hard not to be hot from all the sweating and jumping going on.

But the music, like the weather outside, was cold, frozen and without any life.

No Justice promotes the tag of “Red Dirt,” country. It’s a style of country that has its roots in Oklahoma and northeast Texas. The press release for No Justice proclaims that the band comes from Stillwater, Okla., the place that spawned Garth Brooks.

No Justice seems proud of their connection with Brooks, which should be a warning sign for anyone looking for anything resembling quality country music.

The band’s 2003 Far From Everything album became the No. 2 CD sold on Lonestarmusic.com, according to the release, and the band’s single “The Toast,” stayed on the Texas Music Chart for 27 weeks.

This all sounds impressive, until one hears the band’s actual sound.

The CD itself almost avoids being bland with the addition of organs, steel guitars and violins, but the added licks have apparently been added by studio professionals because the show at George’s featured nothing more than the worn set-up of two guitar players, a bass player and a drummer.

Needless to say, the music played by No Justice was little more than average bar-music with a slight country twang. Most of the songs were entirely forgettable except for the covers of decidedly non-country artists such as U2 and the Counting Crows.

These good ‘ole Okie boys seemed to have traded in the university baseball caps and Hootie and the Blowfish licks for cheap cowboy hats and standard country-swing tune.

Despite the change in gear and sound, the drum solo still stayed true to the quick display of rock ‘n’ roll prowess and the crowd at Georges was deeply committed to the band.

It was nearly shoulder to shoulder in the warm beer garden. Standing like lone rangers in a mob, guys in cowboy hats and checkered shirts screamed at the band.

They all saluted No Justice with the high wave of their beers. Couples, spread out almost perfectly uniform throughout the floor were nestled close and dancing despite the music’s clear lack of danceable beat.

And the single cowgirls, all dressed down for the warm arena were floating around in their leather cowboy boots and skirts.

If quality country is what you’re looking for, though, don’t see No Justice.

No Justice is an environment. The band creates a good bar scene which is what one would hope for from a bar band.

The guys at the show were polite and the ladies were fun and playful, but that doesn’t make up for sound.

Jason Boland and the Stragglers played for what seemed a short time before the entire bar flooded out to the blizzard that was coming down on Dickson Street.

Country boys and good-looking cowgirls threw snowballs at one another, almost oblivious to the memory of the bands that just played.

Maybe in the future, the patrons can leave George’s with snow falling softly on their hair, laughing and and talking outside, thinking about the great music they just experienced.

Friday was not that night, though.

–  Arkansas Traveler, February 21, 2006

[Original review available here.]

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