Dallas musician Jeff Grossman and his band Saints Eleven make their Waco debut Saturday night as the second band of the annual Zack and Jim Anniversary Blowout, but he’s no stranger to the territory.
His parents Alan and Shirley Grossman grew up in Robinson and summers meant time traveling around the area. “Geneva Hall, I remember. My dad’s parents were big two-steppers,” he said in a recent phone interview from Dallas. “Is Kiddieland (in Lions Park) still there? I may come early and see if it’s like I remember.”
Childhood memories aside, the guitar-and-dobro playing Grossman and his band — bassist Jeffrey Mosely, drummer Alex Shepherd and, for Saturday’s show, pedal steel player Alex Johnson — come to Waco as an up-and-coming Texas country group that churns out a rousing, blue-collar blend of country, bluegrass, rock and blues. They join a lineup that features the Mike Stanley Band, Koe Wetzel and headliner Roger Creager.
Grossman’s happy with the attention given Saints Eleven, but is somewhat matter-of-fact about it all.
“Six years ago, I was playing in another band and decided to start my own. It’s been magical,” he said. Not only did leading his own band work out, so did writing songs. “It turned out I wasn’t half bad at it.” Grossman teamed with Walt Wilkins, regarded as one of the state’s top songwriters, for Saints Eleven’s third album “Coming Back Around” and airtime on Americana satellite radio stations has opened the door to playing in Montana and, later this spring, Idaho, Oregon and Nebraska.
Saints Eleven has both critics and fans noticing songs that feel like a slice of living. On stage, there’s no play acting, either. “It’s all real life stuff. I’m not a very good storyteller when it doesn’t involve me,” Grossman said. “We’re not trying to be anything. We just are, doing what we like to do . . . We don’t play anything we can’t get into ourselves. That’s just the way it is.”
Saturday’s Blowout is an annual fan celebration concert started about 16 years ago by longtime WACO radio personalities Zack Owen and Jim Cody, who recently marked their 25th year on the air at the country station.
This year’s lineup has four performing bands, rather than three, and in the hard-rocking Koe Wetzel, a rising star in the Texas country scene. “Koe’s one of the hottest guys on the Texas music scene,” said Owen, who added that they had been lucky to book him months ago before his growing popularity led to a growing performance fee.
Opening the fest, which has averaged some 6,000 people, is the Mike Stanley Band, a country/rock/blues band from Waco. Capping the evening after Wetzel is Creager, a veteran Texas country performer who’s a Waco favorite.
Proceeds from the admission charged for standing-room on the floor will go to local charities that Owen and Cody will choose after the concert. Last year, about $12,000 was raised and divided between three charities, Owen said.