The sudden loss of co-founding New Bohemians bassist Brad Houser in late July, at the age of 62, continues to reverberate for his bandmates.
“That was shocking,” vocalist Edie Brickell said simply, during a recent conversation.
For Kenny Withrow, guitarist, fellow New Bohemian and Houser’s friend of more than 40 years, Houser’s absence is a stubborn thing — an immutable, heartbreaking fact his mind, at the moment, refuses to accept.
“Yesterday, I was communicating with a lot of people about getting things together for the memorial, different bands and different musicians,” Withrow said during a recent conversation. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll get ahold of Brad.’ I did it twice, you know — had him on the list in my brain of people to get ahold of. So that’s — it’s just gonna take a minute to really wrap our heads around it.”
Fans, friends, and collaborators alike will have the opportunity to gather in Oak Cliff at 6 p.m. Friday at the Kessler Theater, where a memorial benefit jam will unfold inside and outside the venue, providing attendees a chance to pay tribute, collectively mourn and, hopefully, begin to heal.
“The funeral was down here in Austin,” said Withrow, who currently lives in Wimberley. “It seemed appropriate for people in Dallas to get a chance to get together and celebrate Brad and have folks share stories if they’d like.”
Brickell and the New Bohemians will perform a couple songs, according to Withrow, with Ten Hands, Patrice Pike, Hunter Hendrickson, Craig Wallace, and Houser’s widow, Kirilola Onokoro, performing as well with her band Diamond Booms. The New Bohemians will have multiple guests joining them on bass for the evening: “That position is going to rotate,” Withrow said.
Earlier this year, the New Bohemians spent about six weeks in Wimberley jamming and working up songs for a new project, the follow-up to 2021’s Hunter and the Dog Star.
Withrow said there are 13 songs intended for release, although precisely when is too soon to tell, as he allows his grief is too raw to listen back to what was captured: “I haven’t really been able to bring myself to go there,” he said.
“In the back of our heads, we were thinking, ‘Let’s just do one more recording,’” Withrow continued. “Little did we know that was actually going to be the case. … All the songs have been basically done. So, we’re going to finish that record.”
For now, what lies ahead is a chance for Withrow, Brickell, the surviving New Bohemians, and the larger North Texas creative community to celebrate the life of one of its most beloved members.
“He was a musical brother to me,” Withrow said. “We’d gotten even closer in the last few months, which is really quite the thing. … We were really friends first, and we just happened to play music, you know? That’s just what we did together.”
Brad Houser Memorial Benefit Jam at the Kessler Theater, Dallas. 6 p.m. Sept. 15. Admission is free, with suggested donations for Houser’s family.
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.