By Shilah Morrow
(LSM May/June 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 3)
So I’m on the phone with Skanse, talking about our plans this weekend, and it hits me like a ton of bricks that I need help. Both of us need help, actually — or rather, make that the entire LSM family — because we are all absolutely addicted to music. It’s a year-round addiction, but the spring and summer is when it gets especially out of control because as we all know, that’s FESTIVAL SEASON. I love my live music anytime, anywhere, but there’s just something about hearing it in the great outdoors in a spontaneous community of hundreds if not thousands of other fans that makes it extra special. As such, I’ve been Googlin’ my butt off trying to plan out not just where to get my next fix, but also how many fixes I can squeeze in before the season ends. Someone get me into rehab, quick: My name is Shilah, and I am a festival junkie.
Actually, forget rehab. I’m proud of this particular addiction. And what’s cool about it is that there’s a never-ending supply of music to satiate our appetites. The only hard part is having to choose. Sometimes we take the divide-and-conquer approach, as we did the second weekend of April. Skanse and I headed out to the Salt Lick Pavillion just south of Austin for the 24th annual Old Settler’s Music Festival, where folks camped, ate, drank and stuffed themselves on stellar performances by a diverse and tasty line-up that included not only rootsy Austin-area favorites like the Band of Heathens, the Gourds, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Terri Hendrix, and the Mother Truckers (who delivered a totally kick-ass show after coming onboard at the last minute to help fill the void left by the cancellation of the Avett Brothers), but also Sam Bush, Jim Lauderdale, the reunited Foster and Lloyd and even the legendary Richard Thompson.
Two of my personal favorites were Elliott Brood, out of Canada, and my old friends from Los Angeles, Rose’s Pawn Shop. Meanwhile, back in the heart of downtown Austin, our ad director, Shane Jones, was kickin’ up the dirt at the wildly successful Lone Star Jam, featuring the Eli Young Band, Kevin Fowler, the Josh Abbott Band and the wonderful Turnpike Troubadours (who just won Lone Star Music Awards for album of the year and best emerging artist). But it was our LSM commander in chief, Zach Jennings, who really went the extra hundreds of miles that weekend in the service of celebrating live music: he went all out to California for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Zach’s probably the biggest “indie rock” aficionado out of our bunch, but we all listen to a lot of different kinds of stuff. After all, when it comes to appreciating music, why limit yourself to one genre? That said though, you could easily spend the whole summer happily listening exclusively to the “Lone-Star-state-of-mind” kinda music we typically cover in these pages — be it Texas country, Red Dirt, honky-tonk, folk, roots and my vice, the stuff Gram Parsons liked to call “Cosmic American music”! Granted, by the time you read this, one of the scene’s biggest annual events of the year will already be in the rearview mirror: Larry Joe Taylor’s 23rd annual Texas Music Festival and Chili Cook-off, which was held April 26-30 at Melody Mountain Ranch Campground in Stephenville. Ditto Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Grit ’n Groove Festival (held April 2 at the Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels), and one of the biggest festivals back out on my native West Coast, Stagecoach (“California’s Country Music Festival,” held April 30-May 1 in Indio, Calif.). But the season’s still young and there’s plenty more opportunities to hear a ton of great music this summer. Here’s some of “Mama Shi’s” best bets, in handy chronological order …
• The 15th annual KNBT Americana Music Jam, slated for May 22 at Gruene Hall in historic Gruene, Texas, will feature a whole mess of the hottest acts on the Texas country scene, including Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers, Stoney LaRue, Sean McConnell, Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros, Zach Walther and Matt King. Oh, and shameless plug No. 1: While you’re in town, be sure to pop into the Lone Star Music store just a block away to shop and sample a cool Ziegenbach!
• The legendary Kerrville Folk Festival (May 26-June 12) will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, with more than 100 artists performing over 18 days and nights in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. More than “just” a folk festival, Kerrville offers music of many styles, including bluegrass, acoustic rock, blues, country, jazz, and Americana, with the common thread being great songwriting. This year’s lineup includes Eliza Gilkyson, Butch Hancock, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Terri Hendrix, Kevin and Dustin Welch, Jimmy LaFave, John Fullbright, Sara Hickman, Guy Forsyth, Asleep at the Wheel, Marcia Ball, Bob Livingston, Colin Gilmore and — as part of their wildly popular “Hold My Beer and Watch This!” acoustic tour, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.
• How about a little wine with your music? Austin’s Wine & Music Festival takes place over the weekend of May 28-29 at The Domain. In addition to a great sampling of Texas wines, you’ll hear many of my personal favorite regional artists: Deadman, Uncle Lucius, Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, the Dirty River Boys, Matt King, the Trishas, and Turnpike Troubadours.
• If you’re a fan of Steamboat MusicFest up in Colorado during the winter, then you’re gonna love the latest endeavor by Dickson Productions: Fest Out West at the Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa in Terlingua, Texas, June 2-6. “Go West, Go Wild” is the pitch, and it’s hard to argue with the appeal of hearing Reckless Kelly, Cody Canada and the Departed, Micky and the Motorcars, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen (yet another stop on their duo tour), Hayes Carll, Butch Hancock, the Trishas, and John Evans in beautiful Big Bend country.
Feel like a road trip? Then I highly suggest haulin’ your booty to Bonnarooo (June 9-12) in Manchester, Tenn. I’m going thru this year’s lineup and I can hardly contain myself! The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield, My Morning Jacket, Robert Plant & Band of Joy, Mumford & Sons, the Decemberists, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Gregg Allman, Old Crow Medicine Show, Loretta Lynn, Iron & Wine, Justin Townes Earle, Ryan Bingham, Abigail Washburn, Black Joe Lewis, Hayes Carll … oh, and Arcade Fire, the Strokes and Eminem. Now that’s what I call diverse!
Come July, when it’s really time to catch a break from the Texas heat (but not great Texas music), you’ll be ready to pack the car and head to breathtaking Telluride, Colo., for the Telluride Americana Music Fest (July 20-23). I understand that 60-percent of attendees are from Texas, so there’s a good chance you’ve got friends already going. The lineup includes a rare acoustic duo performance from brothers Bruce & Charlie Robison, along with the Trishas, the Greencards and Radney Foster.
Tight on money? Fret not. From April through October, there are lots of free, family-friendly weekly music series here in Texas — and not just on the weekends, either. Wednesdays are especially happening: There’s KVET’s Free Music Series at the Nutty Brown Café in Dripping Springs, the Ranch Free Texas Music Series at the 8.0 Restaurant & Bar in Fort Worth, the County Line Music Series at County Line BBQ in San Antonio and El Paso, and the Free Texas Music Series in Schoepf’s Backyard in Belton. And these aren’t no-name happy hour bills, either: they’re full-length, free concerts by acts like Jason Boland, Roger Creager, Bleu Emdonson, Cory Morrow, Two Tons of Steel, Stonehoney, and No Justice … and the list goes on and on. And that’s just Hump Day. Come Thursday, the hottest free ticket in the Live Music Capital of the World is KGSR’s Unplugged at the Grove at the Shady Grove. Some of the acts still coming up at that series include Sean McConnell, Deadman and Foster & Lloyd — with a lot of dates still “TBA” but guaranteed to be stellar!
Finally, for all of the weekend warriors out there, I highly recommend the opportunity to “float the Shoe” and take in music at the Whitewater Amphitheater and Creekside Stage (hosted by Lone Star Music). It’s beautifully located on the “Horseshoe” of the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. That’s where Hayes Carll will be hosting his free “Stomp & Holler Party” on July 3. Or, perhaps you’d prefer to jump on your bike (or grab the RV) and head out to Luckenbach, where on any given weekend you can sit under the big oak trees and catch amazing Texas country pickin’, song-swappin’ and even rock ’n’ roll. Shameless self plug No. 2: I’m honored to say that Sin City’s Cosmic American Roadshow is held in Luckenbach on the fourth Saturday of every month from spring through October. Some of the artists I’ve already scheduled include Rosie Flores, Ruby James, Mike Stinson, Tony Gilkyson, Iron City Soul Shakers, Chris Gates & Gatesville, Shurman and Dertybird.
Well, my musical hangover is really kickin’ in now, so it’s time to grab my hat, dust off my boots and hit the trails again. There’s some live music going on somewhere right now, and I need my fix! See ya on the road!