Brazos Nights concert fest kicks off Friday

Lee Fields and the Expressions and Brownout will perform at the opening night of the Brazos Nights Concert Series Friday. The concert series will continue once a month until July 4. Photo credit: File Art

The city of Waco presents Brazos Nights, a free concert series, at 7 p.m. today in Indian Spring Park. Audience members can enjoy entertainment, and a variety of local fare will be available as well. Many food vendors such as Papi Taco, Pokey O’s and Off the Cob Gourmet Popcorn will be available to quench every hungry concert-goer’s appetite.

The free concert series has been hosted by the city of Waco for 30 years, bringing free entertainment, lots of food and family fun.

“The main goal is to get people to downtown Waco and along the riverfront,” said Jonathan Cook, director of community promotions in Waco. “As a concert series, our goal is to provide the people of Waco with the chance to hear some music that they might not have been able to see if it weren’t for Brazos Nights.”

Tonight’s performers will be Lee Fields and the Expressions and Brownout. Lee Fields has been performing for 45 years, and has recently seen a career resurgence and toured internationally. He has been called a “Little James Brown” for his physical and musical resemblance to the music icon.

Brownout is an Austin-based band presenting its album “Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath,” a fresh take on Black Sabbath’s unique music.

The group has released a handful of original albums, but began covering other artists on different nights of the week, such as James Brown’s “Black Caesar” album, which the band renamed “Brown Caesar.” The most popular of these featured nights was by far “Brown Sabbath,” and the group was encouraged to record an album of the material. Ozzy Osbourne himself became a fan of the band’s Latin and psych rock-infused take on Black Sabbath.

“We didn’t think any of these nights were going to take off. We were under the impression it was just for fun,” said Brownout bass player Greg Gonzalez. “It gave us an opportunity to learn some new music as well as showcase more versatility for our fans and give them something new to enjoy.”

Families throughout Waco have enjoyed Brazos Nights since 1987, making it the longest-running annual event in Waco as well as the only concert series. Despite the recent increase in local events and promotions, Cook said Brazos Nights continues to draw in audience members from all over the city.

The concert series has featured local talent from all different music genres over the years. Artists such as Blake Shelton and the Dixie Chicks hit Brazos Nights before they made it big.

“Waco’s events have increased in the past five years. We’ve seen a 200 percent increase in the number of event applications,” Cook said. “But the cool thing about Brazos Nights is tradition. A lot of families come out and a lot of people have come over the years to see a free concert. To have an event that long running and that successful says a lot about it.”

The concert series will continue once a month until July, with performances by Los Texmaniacs and Flaco Jimenez May 6, Shinyribs and The Old 97’s June 10 and Big Sam’s Funky Nation July 4.