Just outside of Fort Worth, Texas one ninetynine
There’s a rundown strip of old night clubs, been there for a very long time.
Head on out towards Jacksboro, till you see that neon flashing
Man they got it all there, if you’re looking for some action.
—Jacksboro Highway by Bill Carter
Jacksboro Highway has a dive-bar history going back into the dark ages of Prohibition. Locals still call it “The Highway,” and the strip’s notoriety dates back to Fort Worth’s Little Chicago days when Tiffin Hall used to run gambling joints and (as the song says) “The cops ain’t coming out to Jacksboro Highway.”
While most people only know what they read on the back of the Mexican Inn menus (Hall used to own the restaurant chain), and the old Rocket Club is now a muffler shop, there are still lots of dive bars on the highway. On Saturday, I found myself driving down there to see Gonzo City at the Crowbar Saloon.
The Crowbar is a stereotypical dive bar, and as I made my way inside, Gonzo City was just setting up. I borrowed a bar towel from the barkeep and wiped the beer off of a stool near the stage area. It’s a fairly small wood-paneled room, with a pool table in back and a low, narrow stage against the back wall with a railing. Jesus Garcia (keyboard), Ryan Ross (drums) and Charlie Amparan (bass) were set up behind the rail while Matt Swancy (guitar) and Adrian Valdez (vocals, guitar) set up on the floor in front.
Gonzo City bills itself as playing a diverse spectrum of rock, and it was at times progressive, at times funky, and at times more than a touch Latin, depending on the song. All of it was smart, all of it well played and enchanting.
I particularly liked the Latin bits, and found myself wanting more of that. Swancy is a first-rate guitar player; Amparan is a rock-solid bass player, and Garcia played a vintage Moog Opus (vintage synthesizer). I haven’t seen one of those in a while, and even rarer still is someone who knows how to play it.
The one thing that all the styles shared was a solid groove. Gonzo City can play, and we are better for it.
Finishing out the night, we had the ever-so-mighty Neptune Locals. I’ve heard these guys play many times, and I don’t think they ever have a bad night. The band consists of Danny Ferry (vocals, guitar), Victor Garcia (drums) and Scott Bruce (bass). They were still rocking the place when I left. They have an addicting kind of jazz/reggae thing going on, and if you see these guys live, it’s never a bad night.