December 29, 2006

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Van Zandt loyalists drawn to eclectic tribute

Nate Thumas had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed to book a Townes Van Zandt tribute show at Air Devil’s Inn four years ago.    One thing’s for sure: This circus, as he calls it, has taken on a life of its own.    “From now until midnight on Monday, I’ll have people calling and saying, ‘What time am I supposed to be on?’ ‘Can I have a buddy come out and play with me?’” Thumas said. Basically I need a fire hat, because I’m running around putting out fires.”    Somehow, watching all of these songwriters celebrate Van Zandt, who died on New Year’s Day in 1997, is worth the stress Thumas has to bear.    “It’s become its own function,” he said. “Shit, everybody’s there, whether they’re playing or not.        Beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, the tribute show, hosted by none other than Fox 41 reporter Dick Irby, will feature more than two-dozen singers and songwriters. Unlike last year, there will be no backup band.         The show has become so popular even Van Zandt’s widow, Jeanene and son William showed up two years ago, a visit Thumas called “surreal.”    “The widow of one of your heroes shows up, and what do you say? ‘I sure did like his music. Would you like a soda?’”    Thumas attributes the popularity of Van Zandt to the strength of his songwriting.    “The guy was plugged in. He had this way of plugging in and telling a story, and screw all the fluff,” Thumas said.    If you go, be prepared to hang out. The show can last for six-eight hours, he said.