Who’s the best? Readers have until Nov. 7 to decide: Nine local bands/musicians compete for Best Local Band in Best of North Hays County readers poll

Nine local bands have been nominated for Best Local Band in this year’s Best of Northern Hays County readers poll. Readers have until Nov. 7 to decide who the best local band is by going to www.haysfreepress.com or www.haysnewsdispatch.com and following the link to cast your vote. You can vote on this category and many more by simply following the link.

Los SparkNotes

Los SparkNotes was created in 2018 when a few like minded educators at Chapa Middle School: Alan D’Etcheverry, Luis Jimenez, Zachary Sarrels and Sara Sparks, who has moved up to become the ESL Coordinator for the Hays CISD.

The group wanted to play a rock song for their students, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And while they were all able musicians, the group didn’t have a strong singer, so they recruited Angela Galena-Garcia who is now a senior at Lehman High School. Their performance set the spark that is Los SparkNotes. As time passed they added more members to the band and had many guest performers share the stage.

Bass player Alan D’Etcheverry says their school community has been very supportive. “We would not be able to have achieved the success we have had if it was not for the support of our fellow Hays CISD colleagues,” D’Etcheverry said.

Los SparkNotes now has evolved into a five-piece band and consists of: Zachary Sarrels, guitar/vocals; Luis Jimenez, guitar/vocals; Sara Sparks, drums; Alan D’Etcheverry, bass/vocals; Beth Neal, vocals. They have a wide variety of influences from rock, country, metal and pop music. People ask them all the time what they play, and the answer is usually whatever songs they like and grew up with.  

The SparkNotes have played many shows at Chapa Middle School for various events and other Hays CISD events. They have also played at Buck’s Backyard, HWY 21 Party House, the Lehman High School Lobo Spring Festival, a Chapa fundraiser at Whataburger, Christmas on Main Street in downtown Buda, a few house parties and more. 

Their next shows will be at the Stardust Club Nov. 19, the Kyle Veterans Day Parade Nov. 13 and Willie’s Joint on Jan. 29.

Suzanna Choffel

When Choffel was in middle school, she began performing at the Saxon Pub and Broken Spoke. She later attended Texas State and joined a group called the Humblebums, a Latin roots-rock band that played at the Triple Crown in San Marcos and Antone’s in Austin.

Choffel left Austin to study music at the College of Santa Fe and when she returned home began playing at Momo’s, where she got to know owner and future husband Paul Oveisi.

In 2011, she and her future husband Oveisi left to New York for a grand adventure. Shortly after their move, Choffel landed a spot on the reality talent show The Voice, where she got a two-chair turn-around from celebrity judges Adam Levine and Blake Shelton for her performance of Landslide by Stevie Nicks. 

She began a jet-setting lifestyle, flying from NYC to Los Angeles for the show, but in 2014 she and Oveisi moved to back to the area, bought a house in Buda, had a daughter, Lulu, and released another of her three records: Hello Goodbye, Archer and Shudders & Rings.

Choffel still plays locally, her most recent performance being the Old Settler’s Music Festival this month.

Janie Balderas

“Sparkly cowboy boots, a beige mesh floppy hat and red rose kimono; this vivacious style was just the tip of the glowing iceberg that was Janie Balderas,” wrote Hays Free Press reporter Sahar Chmais when Balderas was nominated in 2018 for two categories  at the Josie Music Awards. From 38,000 submissions, Balderas was one of 16 to be nominated for Country Female Vocalist of the Year. She was also nominated for the Songwriter Achievement award for her song “Whiskey and Jesus,” which she wrote after her mother’s death.

Balderas started out her journey playing open mics, honky tonks or anywhere someone would let her share her music. “Every venue big or small that has given me an opportunity is a huge part of my musical journey and I’m extremely thankful,” Balderas said.

Recently, she was invited to sing the National Anthem at the PBR Tour (Professional Bull Riders) at the AT&T Center live on national TV. “Finding out I would be representing my country on that huge stage in the center of the arena was an honor and I was so humbled. I’ve sat in those seats and wondered how it would feel to sing in the arena and there I was, a small town girl living a dream. With a tear in my eye I looked up and thanked God, then whispered to my mom in Heaven, “This is for you.” 

Balderas also performed the National Anthem at the Buda Rodeo and recently was invited to sing the National Anthem at Rodeo Austin “Bulls in the Ballpark “ Nov. 5 and 6 at the Dell Diamond.

Her radio single “Busted” is currently charting on the Texas Music Charts and hopes to be in the studio soon recording her next single. 

Balderas’ next local show is at Buck’s Backyard on Nov. 5, after her performance at Dell Diamond.

Kasey Thornton Band 

Kasey Thornton is a true local – “born, raised and lived in San Marcos my whole life,” he said.

He’s also a family man with a combined family of six kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. We’re the modern day Brady Bunch, he said.

Thornton was home-schooled but he connected with friends through church, sports and music. He comes from a country music background and played drums and guitar in the church as a youth.

Thornton said he strayed away from music in his late teens, for several years, but then he started writing songs and got into the “Red Dirt Country Scene,” which he describes as a country Americana genre with “heartfelt lyrics and electric guitar.”

Thornton played with several musicians in the past few years, but since 2019, he has a core band of musicians that include JR Martinez on bass, Orlando Peñez on drums and Jon Schaefer playing lead guitar. 

They do some Central Texas gigs here and there, but gigging has been sparse since the pandemic. The whole band will be playing a gig in Spring, Texas, at the One Club. Thornton will be doing a solo acoustic set at the new Red Bus Food Park in San Marcos on Nov. 5.

Stealing Blue

Stealing Blue is headed up by front man Joshua McNeal. McNeal grew up in the Buda-Kyle area, attending Tom Green Elementary as a kid and graduated from Hays High School in 2007. McNeal joined the Marines in 2008 and spent three years in Afghanistan. He says a lot of the songs he’s written were influenced by his experiences while he was deployed.

When McNeal, who now works as the Mental Health Officer for the Buda Police Department, returned home, he continued to write and then began going to open mic nights to perform. When Buck’s Backyard in Buda started doing open mic nights, McNeal was there. 

Josh’s cousin Thomas McNeal, a guitarist and Texas State alumni, liked his music and the two decided to start practicing and performing together. 

The third member to join the band was bass player Sean Makra who ran sound at Buck’s. Josh says Makra is a great musician in his own right with a few albums of his own. So he was flattered that Makra would set aside his solo stuff to join the growing crew.

The three soon adopted drummer, and Josh’s second cousin, Colin Nickells and another fellow musician he knew through songwriting circles named Heath Hooper who now plays guitar for the band.

Josh says the group is full of talented musicians who all had their own path with music but decided to converge on a single course that they now call Stealing Blue. “We’re a super group of unknowns,” he says with a chuckle.

The band has gigs this week at Sean Patricks and the Craft House in San Marcos and they will play at the Veterans Parade in Kyle on Nov. 13. They also play frequently at Buck’s Backyard.

Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow started about eight years ago. They started playing out of the garage but weren’t a full band yet. They didn’t know that they’d eventually make it to their level now where they play weddings, private parties and opening shows for Kevin Fowler, Pat Green and some famous Tejano artists. 

Lead man Steve Avalos and bass player Johnny Anderson attended Hays High School together but didn’t become friends until later when the two self-taught musicians decided to get together and jam. They brought in Anderson’s 25-year-old son because he had a strong musical background.

The trio then turned to Craigslist to find more members to complete the band. That’s where they found Tyson Newman to play lead guitar. Around the same time they brought on steel guitar player Arnie Craig. The latest member to join was lead singer Brandon Thompson who the band found when he performed at Buck’s Backyard. 

Meagan Tubb

Meagan Tubb pays homage to music of a bygone era with a mixture of classic rock, blues, soul, Americana and funk, written from the perspective of inanimate objects of nature, life experiences, and more recently Meagan’s journey into motherhood. In the past 15 years she and her bandmates have managed to win a battle of the bands competition, open for Willie Nelson (twice), get two guitar sponsorships from both Dean and Luna Guitars, tour extensively across the U.S. and Europe, and her song, “Let Me Believe”, won an Independent Music Award for “Best Song” in the Blues category and was a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition.  Her album released in 2011 titled “Cast Your Shadow” received positive accolades in the Austin Chronicle, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Austin Music and Entertainment magazine, Lonestar Music Magazine, and Pure Southern Rock Magazine.

Since becoming a mom, Meagan has delved into songwriting, performing in the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival three times, and she also started writing music for children.  Meagan and her bandmates released their new album “Signs and Wonders” in 2020. She recently released her first music video for her song “Rainbow Child” from the 2021 album which has received regular airplay on KUT’s “Lone Star State of Mind” with Loris Lowe.  When she is not onstage, Meagan is busy being a wife and mother, crocheting things for her girls, running, cooking, rapping about motherhood, learning home studio recording, and talking in silly accents.

Upcoming shows include a Nov. 6 show at Family Business Beer Company in Dripping Springs, a Nov. 12 show at One Shot Distillery & Brewery in Dripping Springs, and a Nov. 14 show at the Duchman Winery in Driftwood.

William Clark Green

William Clark Green is a country music singer from Flint, Texas. He has released five studio albums and two live albums.

Green attended A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, graduated in 2004 before he went to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. It took six years for him to graduate as he concentrated on his music career. 

In 2008, Green recorded his first album while he was studying. The album, titled” Dangerous Man,” was released on Sept. 24, 2008. He followed this with his second album, “Misunderstood,” in 2010.

In November 2019, he released his second live album, “Live At Cheatham Street Warehouse,” recorded at the Cheatham Street venue in San Marcos.

Green’s next local shows will be Dec. 18 and 19 at Gruene Hall in Gruene.

La Feria

No response yet. If you are in this band, or know somebody in this band, please call the Hays Free Press at 512-268-7862 or email david@haysfreepress.com.

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