Shortly after midnight on Thursday, Lil Yachty, 2 Chainz, Desiigner, and the rest of Kanye West's friends and collaborators celebrated the release of his new album by dancing to a country bluegrass band at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, Wyoming.
Yes, that really happened. Some of the biggest names in rap celebrated one of the biggest albums of the year by partying to bluegrass classics like "How Mountain Girls Can Love" in a Wyoming bar. 2018 is full of surprises.
"We had maybe 100 people in there and it was starting to peter out a little bit around 11 o'clock or so, because it's a school night," says Lectric Fence frontman Poot McFarlin, setting the scene before Kanye arrived. "My wife is a prodigious marketer, so she had a bunch of local folk there, but they were starting to trickle out. Then all hell broke loose."
Lil Yachty and Teyana Taylor led a group to the dance floor as soon as Kanye and the rest of his crew arrived.
"About a third of the group came straight to the dance floor," McFarlin says. "They were watching what we were doing and I'm sure it was as foreign to them as maybe a lot of Kanye's music is to me. [Laughs]." He adds, "They were all hopping around and enjoying dancing to it, so it was a pretty cool feeling for us."
McFarlin says he had heard stories from friends about Kanye West and Kim Kardashian sightings around Jackson over the past few months, but Thursday night was another spectacle entirely. "[Lil Yachty] was right up in the front row," he says. "He was doing a bunch of moves and getting everyone else fired up." What a night.
Continue for our full conversation with Poot McFarlin about Kanye's big night at the Cowboy Bar.
Can you start by telling me about Lectric Fence?
We have played as PTO, a three-piece acoustic bluegrass band for about six years around here. We play a lot of rehearsal dinners, weddings, corporate events, and family gatherings that people have around Jackson. Then, thanks to encouragement from Justin Smith at the Cowboy Bar, we decided to try an electric country idea—just to do something a little more interesting. I grew up outside Nashville in Tennessee and I've always liked country music, so it was really exciting to me.
The Cowboy Bar is under new ownership and they only re-opened a couple weeks ago, but they booked us to play once a month for the summer to see how we do. We just kind of lucked out that Kanye and all of them came bowling in last night. [Laughs].
What was the night was like before Kanye got there?
This is the early part of our summer tour season. So last night, we had maybe 100 people in there and it was starting to peter out a little bit around 11 o'clock or so, because it's a school night. My wife is a prodigious marketer, so she had a bunch of local folk there, but they were starting to trickle out. Then all hell broke loose.
any time your crowd picks up and they're paying attention to you, that's motivating. A bunch of beautiful people jumping around on the dance floor is always motivating.
What happened when they came in?
We were kind of forewarned that there might be 700 people coming into town from where their event was up at the Diamond Cross Ranch. With 700 people here, surely a lot of them would go to bed, but a lot of them would probably go to different places in town, too. It just so happened that they came to the Cowboy Bar.
We were winding down and we had a sharp cut-off time of 12:30. So here it is at 12:10 or 12:15 and the place was jammed up all of a sudden. The manager came up and said, "One more song." So we did one more song and then we stopped, but all the people were ready for more. We wanted to keep playing, but we also wanted to stay employed and didn't want to fight with the management on our first time out. We ended up playing one more song and we didn't get in trouble, so that was great. But we would have loved to play for another hour because there were so many talented musicians and artists in the crowd.
Did they come over and engage with the music right away?
About a third of the group came straight to the dance floor. They were watching what we were doing and I'm sure it was as foreign to them as maybe a lot of Kanye's music is to me. [Laughs]. We were playing "How Mountain Girls Can Love," which is a classic bluegrass song. They were all hopping around and enjoying dancing to it, so it was a pretty cool feeling for us.
What was it like on stage as a performer? Was it a distraction when they all came in?
No, no, no. I would say the opposite. It jazzed us up. You know, any time your crowd picks up and they're paying attention to you, that's motivating. A bunch of beautiful people jumping around on the dance floor is always motivating.
Besides Kanye, there were a lot of other famous faces out there dancing to your music, like Lil Yachty, 2 Chainz, Desiigner, and Teyana Taylor. Were you familiar with any of them?
I was mostly just familiar with Kanye, but I'm from the south and I have a lot of friends who have kids who listen to trap music, which is kind of a new thing for me. [Laughs]. So when I told them about some of these names, their kids were all excited. Like, Lil Yachty, is that his name?
Yeah, I saw some videos of Lil Yachty on the dance floor.
Yeah, he was right up in the front row. He was doing a bunch of moves and getting everyone else fired up. They were kind of egging each other on. Then, what's the red-headed gal's name?
Yeah, she was moving around quite a bit too. So, yeah, it was just dumb luck. We just happened to be there and we thought they responded pretty well to us. Like I said, it put us in a bad position, because we really didn't want to quit.
Can you describe the kind of songs you were playing last night?
Even with this new country thing, we try to have around a fourth of our songs be bluegrass. Then we try to do more pop and classic country songs—a few that are just more interesting like The Grateful Dead. One of the songs that we played when Kanye's crowd was there was "Atlantic City," which is a Springsteen song, but we're copying the version of The Band more, with Levon Helm singing.
This wasn't just any random night for Kanye to be stopping in. This was right after he played his album for the first time. Can you describe the energy in the bar?
Not knowing what the baseline is like, I don't have that great of a perspective, but everybody seemed excited. You know, his release party was out at a ranch. I think everybody was excited to get back to town and be around a lot of other people. And I'm sure the excitement of the album release was helping to fuel that as well.
Kanye’s been coming to record in Wyoming pretty frequently for several months. Had you guys heard about him making random appearances around town before this?
I ran into a friend at the post office the other day and he said he saw Kanye and Kim out to eat at a BBQ place. I also have a painting business and one of my clients has a house where Kanye's renting, so we had heard some things. But not until yesterday did we hear that there would be 700 people coming through.
Do you guys have any of your music online that people can listen to?
I wish we did, but honestly, we just started this project. We're morphing from bluegrass to country so it's kind of new to us.
Anything else you wanted to add?
Yeah, I think it was probably good for the Cowboy Bar the get a slice of city in there. You know, there were a bunch of vape pens going and you could smell weed all through the bar. There were Jackson cops walking around. But everybody we encountered was really respectful and really nice.