If one throws a toga party and nobody shows up in a toga, is it still a toga party? That's one of the questions Hayes Carll has had to ponder over the years in his efforts to assemble a multiband holiday show high on revelry.
This year, the singer-songwriter and The Woodlands native ditched Roman times for the carnivalesque with the Burlesque Circus and Sideshow Freakout, a roving spectacle that stops here Friday before heading to Austin and Dallas. Expect fun befitting New Year's Eve, with rootsy music by Carll, Corb Lund, Craig Kinsey and Kam Franklin, dancers, costumes and a few circus-type attractions. Recently back from a costuming run, Carll fielded a few questions about his forthcoming show.
Q: I can't recall, is this your first foray into the themed holiday show?
A: No, we tried for a couple of years to do themed shows. John Evans and the Sideshow Tramps and I did the Rock 'n' Roll Jamboree and Toga Party Tour. (Laughs.) That didn't really work out. We didn't publicize it well, and nobody got the memo they were supposed to come in togas. I had a bunch made with the logo from the tour. I thought once people got to the show they'd see other people wearing togas and feel out of place, so they'd have to have one. And then I'd make a bunch of money off of selling togas. (Laughs.) That didn't work out. I didn't sell a single toga. So I have like 400 togas in the closet now. But last year, we did a thing at La Zona Rosa in Austin, and it was a great sold-out show. Half the crowd came in costume. That just put it over the top and made it ... that time of year, you're looking to do something other than a straight show. Just throw a party. Having people in costume helps me get into the spirit.
Q: Will you be in some sort of event attire?
A: Yeah, sort of. We just went today. My wife is helping me. I'm going to be the ringmaster in a circus. So she took me to pick out some things. Mostly we just look like Mumford & Sons. (Laughs.) I want to do something more out there. But there's a fine line between what you can get away with if you're on stage and if you're in the crowd. In the crowd, you can get away with a lot more. On stage, you can't really wear a chicken suit and perform. But we'll have a burlesque troop out there. Some circus performers. There's a guy, you can staple money to his chest. A guy on stilts. A girl who wears balloons and you can pop them. And music. We'll have Corb Lund, Craig Kinsey and Kam Franklin. So we're going to have a lot of fun. It'll be partially a straight show but dressed up a bit. It'll be everybody coming together and doing songs we can all sing.
Q: So this doesn't fall into the category of "family friendly" holiday show.
A: Yeah ... (laughs.) It's not anti-family friendly, exactly. But it's for people to have a chance to celebrate the upcoming new year and have a good time. Whatever that means to you is what it can be. You can come out like you normally would. Or, if you've been dying to cross dress, well, (Friday's) your night.
Q: It seems like a good dry run to test your limitations before New Years Eve proper.
A: Yeah, though I spend most of the year studying my limitations just so I can be ready for this show. We're gonna go up and have a good time. That's the whole idea: to cut loose and celebrate being home.
Q: We're closing in on two years since the last album. Anything new in the works?
A: I haven't done any recording. But I've done some stuff on my own. I left my label nine months or so ago, so I'm sort of independent again. I've done some recording just by myself, songs that I hope to work on. So those are in the can. But I don't know if they'll even be on whatever the next project is. I've done some writing but I haven't really figured out what the template is going to be for the next record. I'm hoping to be in the studio in the middle of next year, but mostly I'm doing a lot of scribbling right now to see how it shakes out.
Hayes Carll's Burlesque Circus and Sideshow Freakout
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where : House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, Tickets: $22.50-$35