For a decade, two of Texas' best singer-songwriters, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, have made it a point to play a bunch of summertime acoustic shows together. It was guitars and songs that brought the best buds together at a party in San Marcos. And in that spirit, the two country-rockers, regardless of obligations with their own full-time bands, take their annual "Hold My Beer and Watch This" tour out on the road for some unvarnished good times.
These close friends since 2002 have a lot going for them: Both Bowen and Rogers are hugely popular draws not only in Texas but well beyond the Red River. And the duo's 2015 Hold My Beer Volume 1 record was hailed as one the year's best country albums by pretty much every outlet in the country-music universe.
Given the demands on their time as successful artists and family men, it would be understandable if the guys wanted to take a break from the road. No way, says Bowen.
"It's getting easier for us to do this tour, actually," Bowen says over the phone from a bustling museum while on vacation in New York City with his family. "We don't have to play five or six shows a week like we had to when we were younger. Back then, we had to scrounge for every gig we could get and play as many shows as possible with our bands and with our acoustic tour.
"Now, because this tour is a priority for us every year, we just do what we can to make it happen."
And make no mistake; this tour is a priority for many concertgoers as well. Though the pair will often play in rooms smaller than the ones they would perform in with their bands, the number of sell-out shows they see each year on this tour is impressive. And no matter how many times fans have caught a HMBAWT tour stop in the past, they've never seen any two alike.
"These types of acoustic shows, for me, are about the purity of what we do," Rogers says. "I got my start by playing the open mic nights at Cheatham Street Warehouse [in San Marcos] and singing songs I didn't know that well because I had just written them right before then. We never do the same show twice, which means we keep the spontaneity of those early days alive with these shows."
"And if we drink enough beer, we may play almost all old country covers instead of our own songs, like we did recently," Bowen adds as he and Rogers chuckle at the memory. "But this is how we all got started, really, because we played solo acoustic before we could ever afford band members or electric guitars."
Though both men are quick to give credit to songwriters who came before them, such as Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen, it's a fact that the latest generation of Texas singer-songwriters looks up to Bowen and Rogers. It isn't uncommon to see established stars Josh Abbott and William Clark Green pair up for a sold-out acoustic show these days, or for urgently rising stars such as Parker McCollum and Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry to pack a college-town room for a night of acoustic songs. Though he won't take credit for such a development, Bowen is proud to see a newer wave of talent take his chosen profession seriously.
"I see a lot of young guys and girls in Texas these days taking songwriting seriously, which is something I haven't seen as much of in a while," he says.
Serious talk of art and craftsmanship is great; playing shows to crowds who care about the stories behind the songs is even better. But Bowen and Rogers also know this annual tour is a killer way to hang out with a close pal.
"The friendship we have lets these shows have a casual ease to them," Bowen says. "I mean, we live two minutes away from each other, so we're comfortable with going out on stage with just ourselves and our guitars."
Hold My Beer and Watch This with Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers takes place on July 25 at 8 p.m. at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St., Dallas. Doors open at 7 p.m. Details here.