The lights dimmed on the stage at Hi Tones and the sweaty crowd roared in applause and cheers. A woman in front of me stood in awe, jaw to the floor, bewildered. She turned around, and exclaimed to me, “That was amazing!”
“He definitely puts on a show,” I responded beaming. “We’re visiting from Dallas and came to see the first band,” she said, still overwhelmed with joy. “I’m so glad, we stayed for him, that performance was life-changing. I need to meet him.” “Go say hi,” I responded, “He is actually pretty chill.” Before I could finish the sentence, she was off to meet local pop star Wayne Holtz.
Between the extravagance and decadence of his live performance and his catchy songs, Wayne has managed to build a following that has extended across the metropolitan area. His live show combines elements of pop music, theatre, and dance complete with costume changes and brief interludes. His songs are infectious; they will be stuck in your head for days. His shows are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a dive bar. It’s amazing to believe that nearly a decade ago, he was the one in the crowd having his life changed by a local band.
Wayne has a tattoo planted on this left arm with the letters WBD in a customized font. The letters stand for Westbound Departure, a local band that had a lot of success throughout the mid to late aughts. He was introduced to their music by a friend who happened to know the band. He went to go see them play a show and was hooked. He had never experienced anything like it.
“Westbound Departure 100% got me into the local music scene,” he says. “There was a time where their shows were the only shows I went to.” Wayne faced some adversity in the years that followed. At one point, he was basically homeless, couch surfing and hitching rides to work at IHOP. He only became further enamored with their music during this time and eventually became really good friends with the band.
“Listening to Westbound made me feel stronger,” he explains. “The tattoo idea was kind of weird, but this what people do with stuff they like. I really look up to them.” He particularly established a close bond with Westbound Departure guitarist Octavio Gonzalez. The two eventually lived together for some time and established a friendship that would last a lifetime. When Octavio started his new band Fader Friend, Wayne was more than supportive inking his other arm with a tattoo of their logo as well.
When talking about Fader Friend, Wayne gushes, “The music is good and the boys are hot,” he says. “Their songs spoke to conversations I had with Octavio when we lived together.” Fader Friend recently opened up for Wayne, and Octavio took a minute to pay tribute back to Wayne and their friendship. He recalled nights when the two would get drunk on Lone Stars in their backyard and how Wayne was always talking about how one of these days, he was going to be a pop star. And now he is.
* * *
Calling Wayne Holtz a go-getter is an understatement. There are few people in the world that have the drive that he does. When he wants to do something, he goes and does it, and each thing he has strived for has been a step leading to where he is now. He established himself in the local scene as a photographer. It was through taking photos of bands that he began establishing relationships with local artists and venue owners. In time, he became quite the socialite.
It was difficult for him to go almost anywhere without seeing somebody he knew. It almost doesn’t feel right to call this networking, because for Wayne it was so natural, he was just building friendships. After seeing local band Voodoo Boogaloo play Maverick Music Fest last year, he was inspired to start making music. He enlisted musician Bobby Rivas (of local band Islands and Tigers) to produce his debut EP. Wayne is candid in how much of his success he attributes to Bobby.
“Bobby 100% dreams up arrangements,” Wayne explains. “I’ll write lyrics first, then give him the melody and he takes over. I’m hesitant to work with any other producer. My music wouldn’t be what it is without him.” He elaborated that Bobby’s theatre background was a perfect influence for the music he is trying to make. Molding theatre into pop music was the ultimate goal when Wayne started making music and he has been able to achieve that on both a local and national level. Wayne wrote the song “Black Attack” for TV personality Ross Matthews’ podcast Straight Talk with Ross about his co-host Peppa. Matthews featured it in episode 101.
While the music itself has brought success, it’s really only half of the performance. The essence of a Wayne Holtz live show is the amalgamation of song and dance. He cites Dancing with the Stars and Lady Gaga as the biggest influences for his live show. It’s not just a concert, it’s a full on production. In order to achieve this, Wayne has called up his friends in local dance crew House of Kenzo (recently featured in a thump.com article) as both background and featured dancers for his show. They bring the energy for every song, and also fill in for the interludes while Wayne undergoes wardrobe changes. The whole production is a spectacle from start to finish.
“Dancing is important, I have to put on a show,” Wayne elaborates. “There’s always
something to look at." Every show is different, so the experience almost always feels new. He knows how to put on a show and a lot of that can be attributed to his enthusiasm for the local music scene. In addition to performing three to four times a week, Wayne has been consistently booking shows for local venues. Sometimes he opens, sometimes he closes the show out, but either way he has been using his name and his live show as a way to promote other local talent.
“I was a late bloomer with live shows,” he explains. “I’m not in a position to say where it came from, but San Antonio is big and bands need to promote themselves more.”
It comes full circle for Wayne Holtz. He may be the one on the stage while crowds dance and sing along to his songs, but he will never stop being a fan of the local music scene and that is a quality that makes Wayne a great pop star.
Check him out at Maverick Music Fest this Saturday playing the Arneson Theatre stage.