I first met Josh Weathers about 10 years ago, when he was just a kid with a guitar playing in coffee shops. Along with the rest of Fort Worth, Ive watched him grow into a local, and then regional star. He even had a taste of broader popularity recently when, last year, a YouTube video of him singing Whitney Houstons I Will Always Love You at the Kessler Theater went viral; with that, the stage seemed to be set for him to move to the next level.
And then, he announced he was quitting, to focus on his family and his growing Advocare business. The final show for Josh Weathers Band, one of the most prolific groups in Fort Worth for the last decade, would be Jan. 31 at Billy Bobs.
There were raw emotions all around. Some fans and fellow musicians couldnt understand how he could get so close to a dream, only to cast it aside. Bandmates admit they were conflicted, too.
Its been a little bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally, said saxophonist Jeff Dazey, because of how much this band means to me. I never really thought it would be the last show. Never in my mind did I think that these five guys would never get together and play again.
But the prospect of not seeing Weathers onstage again anytime soon, coupled with his recent YouTube fame, attracted a reported 3,600 fans to Billy Bobs on Friday for what became an epic farewell. For 3 1/2 hours, Weathers and his bandmates Sammy Boe (drums), Kevin Rennels (bass), Danny Ross (keyboards) put aside whatever wistfulness they might have been feeling and left every ounce of energy and sweat they had on stage.
When the guys took the stage just after 10:30 p.m., Weathers happily warned the buzzing crowd: Were gonna be here awhile. ... But youre gonna get your 20 bucks worth.
He was not kidding.
Playing a mixture of soul, funk and rock, with a touch of country and even a little gospel thrown in, Weathers moved joyfully back and forth between originals ( Big Night in the City, Keep On) and covers by everyone from Fleetwood Mac and Hall & Oates to Stevie Wonder and Garth Brooks . He even took requests.
A tireless performer, with a voice that has to be experienced to be believed, Weathers also has a natural charm and a sense of showmanship that can win over any crowd. Friday no was no exception. His vocals were amazing, rising to the rafters and filling every inch of the worlds largest honky tonk. The bands rhythm section was tight, and the horns, keys and Joshs battered Telecaster were all of one mind. All of which made it harder to say goodbye to them at least for now.
Over the years, Weathers has made a lot of friends in the music community, and many of them showed up for the party. Chris Watson and Justin Elliott each took a turn playing guitar for a couple of tunes. Justin Barbee jumped in on trumpet, too, and Brook Wallace joined in on violin on multiple songs. Johnny Cooper stepped up to the mic for a song, and Nick Choate and Blaine Crews of Luke Wade and No Civilians sang backing vocals on a great cover of Fleetwood Macs Dreams.
Luke Wade, Big Mike Richardson, and Michael Lee were all at Billy Bobs, too, to show their support.
During the show, the band took a break while Josh played on with acoustic guitar, giving some of his most recent fans what they likely came to hear another soaring, beautiful rendition of I Will Always Love You. Afterward, in one of his few mentions about this being the bands final show, Weathers noted that rumors started on Facebook surrounding his decision to call it quits suggested he couldnt sing any more due to an illness.
To which, he assured everyone: I can still sing.
Another great moment came when Joshs 3-year-old son, Cooper, sang Happy Birthday to his father, while balloons rained down on a startled Weathers. (Apparently, Josh turned 30 at Christmas, but because his birthday falls around the holiday he never really gets to celebrate.) He blew out the candles on his cake, gave his son a hug, and quickly got back to rockin with the full band.
When they did a cover of Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, the crowd did most of the singing. At one point, Josh jumped off the stage and walked out into the audience on a tabletop. He stood above a sea of humanity, singing with one arm outstretched, bathed in bright lights. It was powerful, and it was a show nobody wanted to end.
Just before 2 a.m., after an explosive encore of Shout by the Isley Brothers, the lights finally went up. It was a record-setting, 31/2-hour performance theirs is now the longest set ever at the venue. Contractually, the band was only obligated to perform for 90 minutes, but thats not who Josh Weathers is, and thats not what this band has ever been about.
I dont know if what we did was what they had in mind, Dazey said, but they didnt stop us. We basically did the same show we would have done at the Moon bar, only we did it on the main stage at Billy Bobs.
While billed as a farewell show, nobody seriously expects this to be the last we hear from Josh Weathers or his band. One of the bands songs, Keep On, is going to be featured on the ABC show Nashville on Wednesday, and there is talk of recording a few more tracks to distribute on iTunes. Even Weathers, in an interview with DFW.coms Preston Jones last week, said to suggest the band will never play together again is just silly.
While some may wonder what the band could have been, Dazey says they did what they needed to do.
We dont have to get signed to a label or anything like that, because the idea of creating that kind of community in your hometown means more than that, Dazey said. Theres a lot of levels of success that people talk about, and theres our favorite phrase: making it. Making it is up to everyone elses interpretation as to what that means to them. Making it to me was something that I felt after that show at Billy Bobs.