Local country group Dixie Highway Band is hoping for a crowd ready to party when they take the stage for Slimfest 2009 on Saturday, Aug. 1.
“The crowd influences us,” said Derek Jones. “Our energy feeds from the audience, and if they’re into it, we’re into it.”
Dixie Highway Band is composed of Derek Jones, Brian Jones at guitar, Kris Jones at drummer, Bret Jones at bass. All the members are cousins with the exception of lead singer Justin Reynolds, who manager Steve Jones said may not be kin by blood, but is like a brother to those in the band. They started playing together in their uncle’s barn more than 10 years ago, Steve Jones said.
“They’ve come a long way from where they started. They were a little bitty band sitting in a shed making music. The next thing you know, they’re opening for Joe Diffie. It’s been a real roller coaster ride,” he said. “There are as many lows as highs. They’re working on their 11 or 12th year.”
Steve Jones said the DHB’s secret is they genuinely love what they do. “They would have fun playing for their brothers. I think the fun-factor is because they’re having so much fun, and it somehow finds its way into the music. They genuinely love what they do,” he said. “When people see entertainers on stage enjoying themselves, they seem to just enjoy themselves. It’s always a pleasure to see someone doing something they love to do.”
Brian Jones said when the crowd is into their music, the band automatically gets pumped up. “I think it shows in our live performances. It’s difficult to explain. When the magic is there, you close your eyes and sometimes you play stuff you can’t play again,” he said.
Bret Jones said it can be hard to stay enthusiastic about a career in music when troubles and trials hit.
“In this business, it can bring you down. Being on stage though, everything lifts off you, and you get out there and have a great time,” he said. “It’s doing what you love. That’s where the fun is,” he said. “When you’re up there putting on a show, and the crowd is getting into it, there’s no way you can’t have fun doing it.”
The DHB members said they’re excited and honored to play Saturday’s SlimFest free community concert. The event benefits the New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center and the Fraternal Order of Police Bud Allison Chapter.
Steve Jones said SlimFest organizer Steve “Slim” Stilts is a good friend of the band and invited them to play. “We are really excited. It’s a big deal, and it’s for a good cause. The FOP and New Hope Children Advocacy Center are good causes and there are going to be lots of people there. Anytime you can get that much exposure, it’s good,” he said.
Kris Jones said anytime they can do anything to help local charities, they’re all for it. “We stay pumped up about Maryville,” he said. “We are Maryville boys and that’s what we love. You couldn’t whup us out of this city.”
Bret Jones said he’s extremely excited about SlimFest. “I love playing local shows where the fans and especially kids, get to see us. My daughter Kera doesn’t get to see us, so any place she can come see us, I love to play,” he said.
Derek Jones said he was honored the band was asked to play. “We just feel it’s a privilege to be asked to do it,” he said.
Playing in front of hometown folks brings added pressure, said Steve Jones.
“With local crowds, you want to really do good,” he said. “These are the people you see at the grocery store, so you want to do them proud.”
Brian Jones said it’s always a challenge standing in front of anybody but it’s a little bit more nerve-wracking because this is their hometown. “With me, I get nervous every time we play. Your nerves take a beating, but it’s all worth it,” he said.
Kris Jones said people around Blount County see the individual members of DHB as quiet but when a show starts, they see a different side. “That switch gets flipped. It’s like you turn your hat around backwards, and you got to get on with it,” he said.
Derek Jones playing in front of a local crowd is challenging because they see these people everyday. “But in some aspects, it’s pretty cool because you are playing for your hometown, and it’s good to get out there,” he said.
As for the future of the band, Steve Jones say they still have dreams to fulfill.
“They have dreams that haven’t been fulfilled yet. We had the opportunity to work with Joe Diffie this year. Last year we worked with Diamond Rio,” he said. “Each year we seem to be paired with someone who makes us push harder.”
Brian Jones said he just wants the band to keep playing music. “From where we started -- playing in a barn at our uncles -- to now when we are doing some pretty good-sized shows, I want to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “The big shows, the little shows - as long as we can play music. A record deal is always nice, but if it doesn’t happen, it won’t stop us from doing what we love to do.”
Kris Jones said he hopes the band goes to the top in the country music business. “I want to go to selling multi-million albums so whenever we come into the Maryville city limits, there will be a sign that says, ‘Proud hometown of Dixie Highway Band.’”
Kris Jones said anytime the band can do anything with the city of Maryville or Blount County, they are all for it. “That’s what we want to do,” said Kris, “take our music to the top so that not only can we do what we love to do for a living, but people can say, ‘These guys are from Maryville, Tennessee.”
Derek Jones said a record deal is the band’s goal. “We’re doing everything we can do to get a record deal. From small shows to big shows, we’re doing whatever we can,” he said.
Bret Jones said he doesn’t want to be famous as much as he wants to be able to do what he loves doing and make a living at it. “I’d love to see us traveling the country and the world, have a contract with music being played on the radio,” he said. “We were blessed with these talents by God, and it’s what we love to do. If I could make a living doing this and take care of my family, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
Back to ’80s with Bueller
Bueller, a 1980s party and special-event band based in Nashville, also is set to play SlimFest. The group has three different vocalists, drums, bass, guitars and keyboards.
The band plays everything from MTV-inspired tunes of Flock of Seagulls, Police and Van Halen to the classic metal of Poison and Def Leppard.
The band’s website, www.buellerband.com, says the 80s era brought a wide variety of music, fashion, and trends. “We would like to take you back in time, over 20 years ago to re-live this incredible decade.”
Slimfest ready for the party
Over the past three years, Steve “Slim” Stilts birthday party has raised more than $180,000 for charities that help children. Stilts started the event in August of 2006. “Thanks to many generous supporters, this has grown to become the largest single day event in Blount County,” Stilts said.
The concert is free, but recommended to music lovers over the age of 21. The night is designed to entertain adults with all proceeds benefiting children, Stilts said.
The Wine and Spirits Cellar of Maryville is sponsoring the VIP area. To reserve a table in the VIP area, call Stilts at 865-414-2000. There will be a large area for individuals to bring their own chairs to relax and enjoy music whether the attendees are in the VIP area or not..
The big money-maker for the event is the reverse raffle, which nets the winner $10,000, free and clear of all taxes, which are paid by the event. Tickets for the raffle are $100, and the reverse raffle numbers will be drawn the evening of SlimFest. Ticket holders can keep up with the progress of the raffle during the event on a screen. When the drum gets down to the last tickets, the ticket holders who are present are invited on stage for the final drawings. However, contestants do not have to be present to win.
Tickets for the reverse raffle are on sale now from any on the SlimFest committee, at New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center (865-981-2000) or by calling Stilts at 865-414-2000. They are also available online at www.slimfest.com, or by calling 865-984-KIDS (5437). The raffle tickets are tax deductible.
Vendors will have food and beverages at the event, and there will be other prizes given away throughout the evening. Phillips Jewelry has donated a $1,500 necklace for the fourth year in a row, and the Kenjo Markets has donated five $100 gift cards. Media sponsors are Blount Today, 97.5 and 103.5 radio. The radio stations will be offering other contest promotions leading up to the event.
Slimfest is from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Aug. 1, at New Midland Plaza. There is no admission charge.