A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Red Dirt band No Justice calls it quits
The Stillwater-based group will play farewell shows Oct. 25 at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City and Oct. 26 at the Arbuckle Ballroom in Davis.
For Red Dirt music fans, life got pretty unfair with the announcement that No Justice will soon be no more.
A mainstay of the Red Dirt and Texas country music scenes, No Justice broke the news of its breakup on Facebook and Twitter last Friday, prompting some fans to declare it the end of an era. The band’s publicist confirmed the bad news in an email Monday.
The split will become official as of Oct. 31, when the band “will be taking a hiatus from touring and recording, so that each individual can pursue separate endeavors,” lead singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist Steve Rice said in a statement released via social media.
“It has been 12 years since the creation of No Justice. Throughout this time we have shared music, laughter, tears and our hearts with each other. It has been an amazing and life-changing ride that very few get to experience and we couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with,” Rice said in the statement.
“While some will continue to play music, others will take a different avenue. We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your dedication to our lifelong dream and for allowing us to pour our hearts out on the stage every night in venues across the world. We can’t begin to tell you how much your support has meant to us. During our last couple months, we would like to encourage you all to make it out to a show and experience No Justice one last time. We would love to see you again.”
No Justice will play a farewell concert Oct. 25 at the Wormy Dog Saloon, with Texas country outfit Six Market Blvd. opening. The group’s final show will be Oct. 26 at the Arbuckle Ballroom in Davis. (The band’s calendar also includes a Sept. 28 date at JC Cowboys’ in Weatherford.)
Tickets are now on sale for both farewell events.
“We are honored and privileged to have known No Justice for the many years we have and watched their career rise. It is with heavy hearts we see them go. We are truly honored to be having their last show at Davis, Oklahoma, in the historic Arbuckle Ballroom,” said Rachel Jones, who with her husband John has owned the 40-year-old venue for the past four years.
Over the past dozen years, No Justice has kept making music despite lineup changes, relentless tour schedules and the vagaries of life as an independent band. It seems 2013 has been particularly difficult: In March, Rice underwent a serious health scare that required three emergency surgeries in a matter of days.
During its 12-year run, the band released five albums — “Far From Everything” (2001), “No Justice” (2005), “Live at Billy Bob’s (2007), “Second Avenue” (2010) and “America’s Son” (2012) — with combined record sales topping 100,000 units. No Justice notched two No. 1 hits and eight Top 10 singles on the Texas Music Chart and became a favorite on the Oklahoma-Texas live music circuit.
When “America’s Son” bowed in December, it represented a return to a more country sound after the rock-oriented “Second Avenue.” Plus, the group’s fourth and final studio album debuted on the Billboard charts, bowing at No. 36 on the Heat Seeker chart and No. 4 on the Heat Seeker-South Central Regional list.
“It’s pretty cool. What it all comes down to with the charting and stuff like that, it changes public perception I guess a little bit, which kind of drives your popularity,” Rice told me in a January interview. “It doesn’t make or break you career, but it is a really cool stat and it’s bragging rights.”
No Justice also could brag that it was one of the few Red Dirt acts still based in Stillwater, the birthplace of the eclectic sound and close-knit scene.
“I was playing the Wormy Dog back when it was in Stillwater and … it’s just kind of a tradition and it’s just kind of our home base whenever you talk about a music venue in Oklahoma,” Rice said in the January interview. “We like Stillwater just for what it is: You know, the mentality and (we) went to school here and that’s why we stayed. Plus, being where we’re at, we’re pretty centrally located and we travel all over the United States. You know, moving down to Texas or somewhere like that just wouldn’t be real beneficial for us.”
Along with the likes of the Turnpike Troubadours and Susan Herndon, the band was a core member of what could be considered Red Dirt’s third generation. They followed The Great Divide (whose original lineup split in 2003 but reunited in 2011), Cross Canadian Ragweed (who broke up in 2010, with some of the members moving on with the Oklahoma-Texas band The Departed, which experienced its own shakeup this week with the departure of singer/guitarist Seth James), Jason Boland & The Stragglers, and others who got started in the 1990s and were mentored by Red Dirt pioneers like the late Bob Childers, the Red Dirt Rangers and Jimmy LaFave.
While the scene boasts a bright new generation of youngsters like Parker Millsap, Levi Parham and John Fullbright, who are spread across Oklahoma, for this Oklahoma State University grad, it’s especially sad to see one of the Stillwater Red Dirt bands fall by the wayside.
With a nod to one of the band’s signature songs, consider this “The Toast” to No Justice.
And here’s one back to their fans: “Steve Rice, Armando Lopez, Cody Patton, Joey Trevino and Bryce Conway would like to ‘Toast’ their treasured fans and friends, and thank them for … amazing years of lifelong memories,” the band said in a statement.
No Justice Farewell Shows
When: 9:30 p.m. Oct. 25.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan.
With: Six Market Blvd.
Tickets and information: www.wormydog.com.
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 26.
Where: Arbuckle Ballroom, Interstate 35 at Exit 55, Davis.
Tickets and information: www.stubwire.com.