The Small Town Heroes are not about Marshall stacks, power chords or booming bass lines you can actually feel. They’re about traditional country. “Asleep at the Wheel are our foundation,” says founder Kevin Williams, referencing the legendary Texas swing orchestra. And like the late Porter Wagoner and his Wagoneers, when they play, they all dress to impress.
“If we get $5000 for a gig or just $150, we play and dress and act appropriately,” says Williams, who sings and plays rhythm guitar.
“In the old days, we’d play through twin Fender guitar amps,” Williams tells the Reader about his earlier Stevie Ray Vaughan years. “They were the best amps ever made.” This current project is more about authentic twang and sweet male/female harmonies. The Heroes’ members invested in a smaller sound system to get gigs in this new, quieter world.
“We all bought micro amps,” he says. “We invested in eight-inch, five-watt Yamaha speakers. We made a financial decision to not be loud, because we knew from experience some people’s sensibilities get violated if they think the music is too loud. And we still got fired for being too loud.”
Williams says the latest venue to say “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” was Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad. But he doesn’t blame it on Witch Creek.
“It’s not the owners, it’s the audience,” Williams explains. “People are so possessed by their phone that they just can’t sit and get involved with vintage music. They are so distracted, they have to leave the room so they can take a selfie or tell people how good the food is or maybe even how the good the music is.”
Williams says the need for people for go outside to use their phone triggered the end of the Witch Creek bookings. “Why can’t people leave the phone at home and come and have a good time and maybe find someone to dance with? We’re there to give them a good vintage music show, and they are there to talk to each other.
“Granted, places like that are not true music venues,” says Williams. “They don’t have a stage or lighting. But still…”
Welcome to the New Upscale. “We’re playing Pappy and Harriet honky-tonk-style barroom music for the working man, and we find that doesn’t always work if there are Teslas and Range Rovers in the parking lot.”
While gentrification may be squeezing them out of some rooms, Williams says the Heroes have recently found new venues which do appreciate them, such as the Moose Lodge, Black Plague, and Legacy Brewing (all in Oceanside) and the Flying Pig in Vista.
Small Town Heroes appear (outdoors) Saturday, April 14, 2 pm at the Coyote Bar and Grill in Carlsbad.