The Republic Street sits like an outpost on the frontier of the gentrification of Fort Worth’s near south side. It’s a newish joint, a simple rectangular building, better-adorned than others in the neighborhood, just past where Pennsylvania Avenue turns into Hattie Street.
Pulling into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was an outdoor seating area larger than the entire bar. There were multiple picnic tables, and I grabbed a seat right up next to the stage just as Alan, a Fort Worth art-rock band, was setting up to play.
Alan has been around since 2002 and is one of those bands I’ve heard about over the years but never managed to see. This was complicated by the fact that the band has not played a gig in exactly one year — on frontman Chris Hardee’s birthday. In fact, the outdoor patio area was so packed with friends and family I felt like I was intruding on a family function. For most of the evening I sat next to Hardee’s mom, a charming lady who supports her son’s music ambitions enthusiastically.
It was a great night for an outdoor show, with a cool breeze blowing across the patio and good friends milling about. This is a friendly neighborhood kind of bar waiting for a neighborhood to fill in around it.
Once the band finally got fired up (about an hour after the advertised start time), it had the crowd’s attention from the first beat. The music was at times ethereal, at others solid rock. This is well-written music, a solid creation rather than just a performance. The guitar work was forceful but not flashy; the drums were precise and frantic, and everything worked together to form an imaginative sonic experience. Not the sort of thing you expect on an outdoor stage on Hattie.
Indeed, there are challenges to putting on a show outdoors, and this one was not without technical problems. Vocals were all but hidden in the mix, and there was a good deal of static and distortion from the PA system throughout the evening. That no one cared was a testament to the band’s skill and professionalism.
This show, in addition to being Alan’s first in a year, was the first show with the band’s new bass player, Greg Shark. In fact, the rest of the band has not been there from the beginning.
“We’re not the original crew, right?” said drummer Andy Weaver. “Adam [Skokan-Guinn on guitar and keyboard] and I played in a band a long time ago. … He was engineering the album, and I heard it, and I went, ‘I have to be a part of this.’ We were fans of [Alan] before we got to be in it. Now we’re getting to use our voices and we’re writing a brand new album. It should be coming out pretty soon.”
Shark had only rehearsed with the band a few times, and it showed around the edges. At times, the bass lines lacked authority, but overall he provided a remarkably solid foundation for such a short time with such a complicated catalog of music.
After 12 years, Hardee still has the passion for music of a young kid. His songwriting is brilliant, and his ambition is wholly uncomplicated.
“[I want to] change the world with passion and love,” he said.