In December 2019, a small crowd gathered at Big Thicket, a cabin on White Rock Lake, for an evening of intimate music. There was no charge, and the beer was free. When Brave Little Howl took the makeshift stage, there were no direct microphones or a bevy of amplifiers to lift their voices over the clapping hands.
In the back, East Dallas neighbor Travis Wright recorded it all. The performance was captured on two vinyl albums that were released earlier this month.
The six-song records allow listeners to experience the performance the same way as the in-person spectators. There was no second take, no editing. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the occasional missed beat, the crack of a beer can or the squeaking of lawn chairs as guests adjusted in their seats.
“The whole night I was pretty nervous that it wasn’t going to work,” Wright said. “Once we heard the recording, it worked out just the way we wanted it. It’s a full immersive recording. If you shut yourself off, you feel like you’re in the cabin.”
Wright has been a musician all his life but recently started the podcast “I’m A Fan Of…” about music, comedy and more. Brave Little Howl appeared on the podcast and later approached Wright about recording a few songs on the show. Wright dreamed bigger. He wanted to produce a full album from a private show.
They started looking at bars as a potential venue but decided they needed more control over who came in and out during recording.
“We had no luck finding anything,” Wright said. “I was walking the dog at White Rock Lake, and we went by the cabin. I’d passed it a thousand times. People were setting up a birthday party, and I thought it was perfect. We could rent it out and control every aspect. It’s perfect for their sound — way better than any bar would be.”
Big Thicket doesn’t have a stage, a PA system or a bar. But that only added to the charm. Wright wanted it to feel like a private concert in a living room. He set up microphones around the room, and used only one small amplifier for the keyboard.
“I’m usually the one standing next to the drunk guy yelling at his friend during a song,” Wright said. “Here, everyone was so respectful. We had beers for everybody, and they would wait between songs to open their beers.”
Wright planned on hosting another show this year but had to postpone because of the coronavirus. He hopes to start again in 2021 and create a Live From Big Thicket series with local bands and larger acts.
“When I first started this, I thought, ‘The world is so busy, this type of record will be something you can slow down and relax to,'” Wright said. “Now people want to get out of the house.”
“It’s just about seeing an amazing show at a little spot on the lake that we love.”