Cody Jinks started to let loose as his inaugural Loud and Heavy Fest wound down in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday night. With his hometown skyline for a backdrop, the 38-year-old country singer wanted his fans to join in on a song that may as well be his anthem, “Cast No Stones.”
“Alright, your turn!” Jinks shouted, his steady, barrel-aged baritone breaking into a gruff, untamed shout as he pointed to the crowd with both arms. “Come on.” His stone-faced demeanor, obscured by his long, bushy beard and black sunglasses, evaporated as though a code had been cracked. Soon Jinks was prowling the stage back and forth, urging his fans on as they sang the welcome-all-comers credo back to him in full-throated fashion.
Jinks had good reason to be excited. Loud and Heavy, a 10-band festival that mixed country cohorts like Whitey Morgan, Nikki Lane and Paul Cauthen with rock and metal ones like Corrosion of Conformity and the Sword, had come off mostly without a hitch, even with the threat of thunderstorms that caused a half-hour delay. All this with a lineup tied together by a group of people that Whiskey Myers’ singer Cody Cannon proudly described during their set as “misfits.”
“We do this for a living and it’s an honor and privilege because of guys like you,” Jinks told the crowd as he and his band were getting back into place for the encore, which wrapped up a 24-song set on Panther Island Pavilion, nestled along the Trinity River. “We were trying to decide where to play in [Dallas-Fort Worth] this time around and said, ‘Why don’t we do our own fucking festival?’ And you guys showed up.”
Many of the bands who shared the festival’s two stages throughout the day have toured or collaborated with Jinks, so it was no surprise to see some of them return to share the mic during his headlining set. Ward Davis appeared for “I’m Not the Devil,” Tennessee Jet — who wasn’t even part of the bill — helped sing “Lifers,” and Morgan joined in for a cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am,” admitting with slightly tipsy candor, “I’ve had a little bit to drink.”
Though technically a birthday party for Jinks, Loud and Heavy was more of a celebration for Fort Worth, a place that shares this grassroots troubadour’s independent streak. Often overlooked as the little sibling to Dallas, which derisively refers to it as “Cowtown,” the city is more than happy to hoe its own row, preferring even to avoid the limelight. The proud working-class attitude that rubbed off on Jinks is exactly what’s allowed him to build such a loyal fanbase, around Texas as well as the rest of the country.
The festival’s lineup reflected the convergence of tastes that Jinks’ following represents. Especially in the second half of the day, the music skewed toward a heavy, sludgy sound, even when the artist onstage was ostensibly country. Whiskey Myers’ crunchy Southern rock, for instance, fit in well between the Sword and Corrosion of Conformity, while Morgan, dressed all in black and covered in tattoos, could have easily been fronting a metal band.
That mixture of genres was partially explained by Jinks’ own predilections — he once played in a metal band, after all — but also stems from a shared sensibility as nonconformists. Jinks (who certainly doesn’t fit into the Red Dirt mold) scoffs at the outlaw label that he typically receives, and with good reason. You won’t see many pearl-snap shirts or emblazoned guitar straps like you would have in Waylon Jennings’ day. What’s more, while rock music may have also been a vital ingredient for Jennings, in his case he used the rock with plenty of the roll, something more of a rarity in this case.
Artists like Jinks have thrived in part as an alternative to formulaic country radio, but Loud and Heavy drew on its own tropes, often involving whiskey and the pitfalls of living life on the road. Jinks, if not exactly spearheading a movement, certainly exemplifies a form, where a code of honor is taken seriously and pursuing one’s dreams means being pulled away from the ones you love. “Somewhere Between I’m Loving and I’m Leaving,” a slow-burning highlight from early in the set, articulated this seemingly impossible conundrum.
Those world-wearied tales, in Jinks’ set and elsewhere, were often delivered from a stoic male perspective, which was no coincidence given that only two of the acts, Lane and Sunny Sweeney, were women. Such a ratio is hardly unusual in the festival world, but this one would no doubt have benefited from a better balance, a fact compounded by Lane’s set being cut short by the weather delay. (On the bright side, the steady smattering of rain was a relief from temperatures that held comfortably over 100 degrees with the heat index.)
By the end of the night, the festivities had warmed over even Jinks’ grizzled cool, and he followed up “Cast No Stones” by cracking a beer and saluting the crowd during “Hippies and Cowboys,” which closed out the main part of the set. But if those songs saw him getting excitable, then what happened in between made him downright sentimental as his crew presented him with a surprise birthday gift: a red, white and blue guitar signed by all the players from the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Jinks stood there contemplating the gift, his mouth crooked with a cigarette dangling from his lip, briefly lost in the moment. Then, removing the cigarette, he said, “Now don’t make me cry.”