Solar Express brings hours of local live music to Hope Saturday
It was an evening and night for music in downtown Hope as three terrific acts performed at three venues to herald the arrival of 2024 Solar Express weekend. 

First to take the stage was Jacob Flores, the Lubbock-born one-man band with a history of entertaining audiences here at Amigo Juan’s and at the Watermelon Festival.  He uses his Roland VR-9 to record live loops and build a several piece band around himself as he rhapsodizes with his baritone voice and electric acoustic guitar solos through songs of romantic longing, and zest for life.  He favored the crowd in the Pocket Park with a few of his originals, most notably his Al Green-influenced “One More Try,” a love-lorn tune written at the start of the COVID crisis and featuring a well-controlled falsetto but also the optimistic “Smile.” He also played CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” a multi-lingual rendition of “Red Red Wine,” Brooks and Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” and “Tennessee Whisky,” a song most recently covered by Chris Stapleton. 

There was a brief break and then at the Klipsch Museum Visitor’s Center in the Little Tin Shed The Dusty Rose Band set off their heavy southern rock fireworks. They’re a tight but world-blazing fivesome with a dynamic frontman in Jason Springer, who can sing anything, and can’t keep from mingling with the audience a bit during the songs. Guitar hero and Klipsch Music staffer Lee Brooks brought his multi-colored soloing and rhythm-playing which always enthralls. Because of this band, you discover the beauty and heft in the Bryan Adams songs “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Heaven.” When Springer invited the several kids in the audience to dance up front during “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” the kids did their shuffles and kicks, as who wouldn’t? Another stand-out was a version of “Brick House” that brought the Commodores to a Parliament Funkadelic concert. 

At Pavilion Park’s The Hub as the sun went down for beauty rest before (barring thick clouds) its scheduled show Monday afternoon, South Down Main got going with its members’ backs to the brick, which made for a monumental sound.  Jeff Smith demonstrated throughout the 90-minute show that his voice is back strong from troubles that plagued him early last year. The set consisted of choice covers that the band often enlivened with surprising variations. The best example was a souped-up Led Zeppelin-like “Hound Dog” that blew back my hair.  Their performance began with an embroidered version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy,”  KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes,” done with delicious menace and an ominous “Hurricane,” the Leon Everette song that was taken up by The Band of Heathens in 2018. South Down Main made an epic of it. They did a similar turn to “In the Air Tonight,” and Dennis Hovarter’s drums clapped the thunder just as we needed them to.  His colossal backbeat and fills brought Mount Olympus to Pavilion Park, as did bassist Todd Lauterbach’s playing, which you could feel in your rib cage. 

The concerts Saturday evening and night were just part of the weekend’s slate of activities put together by the Hope Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission, the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hope. 

Tomorrow at the Fair Park’s CMC Stage, gates will open at 5:00 p.m. for a free show of Wyatt Putman, then Mae Estes.  The shows will lead up to the total eclipse on Monday, when a tailgating viewing event (also free) is taking place at the Hope Municipal Airport beginning at 9:00 a.m.  Let’s hope those forecasts of thick clouds are wrong and the total eclipse can be seen in its full detail.  We don’t get another one until 2045. 

(Photos taken by Ethan Houk and Atlas Scott)