Local band’s dream comes true during Texas/OU

By Shari Goldstein Stern

Musicians who entertain at the State Fair of Texas (the Fair) do not travel far and wide to get there. Most bands are local groups who only travel from East Dallas to the Fair, where they have built an enthusiastic following. Many fans plan their excursions to the Fair when their favorite bands are scheduled to play.

The Clinton Years are, from left to right: James Gardner, Matt Trimble, Camille Cortinas, Ben Kitchens and Dan Simone.
Photo courtesy of Camille Cortinas

According to Dana Nichols, of the State Fair of Texas public relations department, this year’s Fair has 104 live musical acts performing. On the Bud Light Stage 34 artists will entertain. The Yuengling Flight Stage has 22 entertainers and the Chevrolet Main Stage features 48 acts. 

There are those died-in-the-wool, Texas musicians who show up enthusiastically at the Fair every year, being thrilled at the invitation to play. Locally, musicians from throughout the East Dallas and White Rock Lake area aspire to a performance in front of roughly 3-million visitors in 21 days. 

The Clinton Years is one such band, with area musicians who were over-the-moon to receive their exclusive invitation from the Fair this year. The 90s cover band performed on the Bud Light Stage following this year’s revered Texas/OU weekend. Their appearance after the historic Red River Showdown on October 7 drew tremendous crowds from the Cotton Bowl and the Midway. 

The energetic band’s set was about an hour long, and featured some of their favorites, including some from film soundtracks like “The Barbie Movie,” “That Thing You Do,” “Fight Club” and “Reality Bites.” 

Camille Cortinas, The Clinton Years’ guitarist and lead vocalist, said: “The guys in the group have been a ‘band of brothers’ since high school, and they have deep roots in this area. My fiancé, Matt Trimble, is an alumnus of Berkner High School and I am from Cedar Hill. We live in Lochwood and formerly made our home in Little Forest Hills.” 

The Clinton Years band got its start in Austin where, in the summer of 2012, the musicians performed together at friend’s birthday party. In 2015, the band raised the bar by bringing in Cortinas as lead singer. Trimble is her lucky groom-to-be. 

Trimble and Cortinas are also featured at the White Rock Lake Yacht Club, billed as The Captain and Camille. “We are most entrenched in a musical lifestyle. We play in a variety of bands,” Trimble said. Cortinas has a pickle and jam business called Yims Foods. She said, “We were regulars at White Rock’s local markets and won multiple awards from the Fair’s jams and jellies competitions.” The artist also does voice over  work. She said, “Next to raising our daughters, ages one and three, music is our main job.”

Ben Kitchens (vocals/keys/guitarist), a Lakehill Preparatory School alumnus, practices Oncology at Baylor Scott & White Hospital. His medical degree is from the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and he has a music degree from NYU. Trimble commented: “Doc, as we call Ben, has to deliver bad news to families every day. His music is a way to get some distance from all that.” 

Kitchens said: “Matt, James and I played in bands together since high school. We came up with the band’s name because the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton coincides roughly with the decade the 1990s where The Clinton Years draws the majority of our catalog.” Doc jokingly added, “Because we also thought the songs from the Eisenhower years were a bit too mid-tempo.” 

According to James Gardner (vocals/guitarist), “We started out the band playing mostly grunge and rock, but The Clinton Years now enjoys playing a variety of genres, from college rock to Tejano to European house.”

Dan Simone (bass) and James Gardner, (vocals/guitarist) graduated from Highland Park High School, where they played in more than one rock band. According to Simone’s buddy, Trimble: “Simone’s always been great at math. Now, imagine this guy is earning a living at pro poker. He’s a whiz. That diversity is what I love about this band. We’re not just a cover band. We’re all playful and comedic. We have a deep friendship.”

All five musicians grew up enjoying the Fair. Kitchens said, “I set my mind to playing at the Fair during my first visit there in 1987.” Gardner added, “I’m proud to say that The Clinton Years band was invited to play at The Fair based on the quality of our performance and the strength of our reputation. It’s been our long-time goal. It’s safe to say we’ve been working for our entire 11-year history for this very moment.”