The Not-So-Hidden Musical Landscape of the Texas Panhandle
I've grown up playing every kind of music you can think of—and probably a few you can't: rock, indie, singer-songwriter, jazz, worship, punk, surf/spaghetti-western punk, space rock, instrumental progressive fusion metal (see?). You might be thinking, “Wow, where did you live that allowed you to play so many different kinds of music? Austin, New York, L.A.?”
The answer is Amarillo, Texas.
The Panhandle climate has given birth to and nurtured an incredible, boundary-pushing music community. I just happened to be surrounded by a whole lot of incredibly talented musicians who let me collaborate with them.
My musical journey started in church, playing drums for the youth-group worship band. Eventually I worked my way up to “big church” as we called it, where I learn from some of the best music directors and musicians Amarillo has ever produced.
After several years of honing my church-music chops, I stepped into the academic world, playing jazz at West Texas A&M university, learning from some fantastic music professors and instructors, as well as students who had way more talent and drive than I could ever muster. I was a fish out of water, but I loved it. As the years went on, I was introduced to the 6th street music scene, which isn't just Texas Country-and-Western music, though that's always there if you need a little two-steppin' in your life. 6th provides a vibrant and thriving musical landscape, stretching from Leftwood's to Skooterz, with every kind of venue in between: The 806, Austin's Pub, the Golden Light Cantina (the best place in town for live music, in my opinion), plus too many others to name, each hosting music almost every night.
Then there's the burgeoning house-show market, the hip-hop community that's starting to take off like crazy, and hardcore and metal shows still going strong at places like Zombies. Oh, and you want jazz? How about Metropolitan on the west side or the newly opened Esquire jazz club downtown. And don't forget about WT and Amarillo College, hosting their respective jazz combos and orchestras throughout the year. Did I mention the annual Bad Magik Music Fest? Or Lovestock? Or any number of the tribute concerts that take place every year? And remember, this is just Amarillo; I hear Lubbock's doing pretty well for itself, too.
I know I'm leaving out plenty of things, but you get the picture. The music community in the Panhandle, shaped and formed by the wind, the isolation, the dryness, has brought forth a wellspring of creativity.
John-Ruben Medina is a drummer with local bands Mount Ivy, The Mag Seven, Fat Lava and has played percussion for Amarillo Little Theater. You can also find him behind the bar at the downtown Palace Coffee Co. where he is the lead barista.