Texas Music Festival
Thomas Michael Riley's 4th Annual Music Festival
You ain't been nowhere till you been to Luckenbach where "everybody's somebody" and you ain't attended a good Texas country Music Festival until you've been to Thomas Michael Riley's Music Festival. Held in the heart of Luckenbach, Thomas Michael Riley's (known as TMR, Tom, Tommy, Tall Riley, Michael, or Mike. to his friends - confusing I know, so from here out I'll just refer to this great guy as TMR) festival is down home Texas country music with some of the best Texas singer songwriters and a fun loving friendly bunch of fans. There's dancin' and drinkin', singin' and laughin', and campin' and just lots of good clean fun at a very unique historic venue! The magic of Luckenbach coupled with excellent music, country music lovers, and cold beer is hard to beat. Can't get much more laid back and fun than three days of music with TMR and his fellow musicians in Luckenbach.
This year's festival started in Thursday night with a sponsors party and was followed the next morning by a rousing, beer drinking, good times, "Celebrity Cow Pasture Golf Tournament" at nearby Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course. My guess is that true to TMR's "Cow Pasture Pool" lyrics, most of the golfers were "hittin' five, hollerin' four, and writin' three down for the score!" The golfers then staggered back to Luckenbach for Friday's free music festival which started around 5 on the outdoor stage and continued late into the evening in the infamous Luckenbach Dance Hall. Saturday the music kicked off around one and again concluded late that evening with Gary P Nunn keeping everything hopping. Following Gary P Nunn the music started around the campground and continued until 5:30. I was shocked to see how many fans showed up for the music on Sunday around 1 after three days of fun, beer, and dancing - quite a few fans looked like they would have a hard time getting to work on Monday! But what a good time and make sure you sign up for next year's festival.
Jake Martin was joined by Dale Mayfield on the small and intimate outdoor music stage around 7:00 on Friday night. Jake Martin is the newest member of the Luckenbach Locals and a regular at the Luckenbach's Sunday Pickers Circle. Jake hails from Oklahoma and with Guy Clark as a role model Jake has turned into a talented wordsmith and is regarded by some as the hottest new talent to arrive on the music scene. Martin worked full time on a ranch near Luckenbach and many of his songs capture the feel and essence of ranching and cowboy life in Texas. What a great way to set the stage for the rest of the festival.
When Jake was done on the small outdoor stage, there was a mass migration less than 75 yards to the infamous Luckenbach Dancehall where for the next several hours we were entertained by The Thomas Michael Riley & Randy Brown Show. Randy Brown, a very dynamic showman, is country thru and thru and the dance floor was packed his whole set. He had them dancing the Cotton Eyed Joe, some swing, lots of two stepping, and even a couple waltzes. And his "All Lickerd Up" has got to be a classic. And it got more fun when Thomas Michael Riley joined him and they played and laughed and bantered back and forth for another couple hours. In particular, their Johnny Cash set of 13 of Johnny's songs was one of the highlights. What a party and good time - it felt like a private party with 100s of your closest friends and a private band. Together Randy (2008 Male Vocalist of the Year) and TMR (2010 Album of the Year winner) and their pick up band with Jordan Hendrix of 1100 Springs (he's an awesome fiddler!), Kenny Grimes playing a mean lead guitar, a very good drummer, and Chad Rueffer (signing and picking) were fantastic. Hated for the evening to end.
It's a good thing the music didn't start until 1:00 on Saturday! Most of the fans seem to be moving a little slower but that didn't stop them for showing up for an outstanding line up on Saturday:
The Wolf Sisters, blonde and cute paternal twins from Kerrville, kicked it off on Saturday with a good set of contemporary rock/country that was influenced by Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Grammy nominated Chris Wall was next and he wasn't near as cute, but his set was outstanding with tales and stories and songs with a new take on the oldest of country themes of heartache, loss, failure, and how he deals with them. Ray Wylie Hubbard best sums it up: "Chris Wall is a cowboy savior/hero/poet who with his words and music gives us redemption from the atrocities of this illusion that is presently known as country music.” Another first may have been set with Chris Wall's performance - when was the last time, if ever, a trumpet was played at Luckenbach? A regular from one of the famous shows in Memphis snuck on stage in back of Chris, and started blowing his trumpet. Kenny Grimes, an excellent guitarist also accompanied Chris. A humorous and enjoyable set by one of true legends of Texas music.
Chris seemed to be squeezed by sets from some very talented and cute female artists. Blacktop Gypsy followed Chris and they are fantastic to listen to and look at - three cute, sexy, and very good singers. What a great show that was full of energy, good hard hitting music, wonderful harmonies, and excellent fiddling from the best fiddler in Texas (Heather Stalling). Following the Blacktop Gypsy was the dynamic and fantastic Tejas Brothers who brought the house down with an outstanding set. They played some new stuff, some favorites (Boogie Woogie Momacita), some Chuck Berry, and even Louie Armstrong's "When you're smiling". Love these guys - dancing dynamic always smiling Dave is a blast to watch and listen to as he dances around the stage playing a mean accordion. Don't miss a chance to see these guys - you'll love them!
Another one of our favorites, smooth Max Stalling who is one of the best songwriters in Texas, followed the Tejas Brothers and for the next forty five minutes he entertained us with some of his best songs. Stalling's style is modern with a vintage feel. With Jeff Howe on drums and percussion, Bryce Clarke on nylon-string guitar, electric guitar and mandolin, and Jason Steinsultz swapping between stand-up and electric bass, Stalling creates a dynamic live show that’s smart, charming and as listenable as it is danceable.
Up next was our host Thomas Michael Riley and what a fun, dynamic, and enjoyable set. TMR is earning the status of a legend as he writes and sings his own brand of colorful and thoughtful country music. He has an uncanny knack of being able to capture his audience and win them over with his songwriting skills, spirited music, and wonderful sense of humor. He's always got a smile on his face and a hardy laugh quickly following most every other sentence! It's easy to understand, and appreciate, why TMR has been:
Gary P Nunn took the stage in the dancehall around 10 and the music, good times, and dancin' didn't stop until 1:00 AM. Gary played some of the classics (like "Home with the armadillo," "Why don't you meet me down in Corpus," and "What I like about Texas") and some new ones and he kept the dance floor packed 'till just before quitting time as he played waltzes, polkas, boot kicking two steps, and the Cotton-eyed-Joe! Good time by one of the best. Gary P Nunn is an icon of Lone Star music and a founding father of the progressive country movement out of Austin in the 1970s that changed the face of popular music. Governor Rick Perry declared Gary P an Ambassador of Texas Music and in 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame.
When the music stopped in the Luckenbach Dance Hall, the campfire music, less no campfire thanks to a burn ban and 100 degree temperatures, kicked off in the Redneck Riviera and rumor has it that it didn't stop until just before the sun came up.
Good Time Sunday
Sunday the music got off to a slow start thanks to most of the performers suffering from the late night/early morning picking and playing and singing. But it didn't take long for the fresh cold beer to start helping cure the early morning blues. And what a fantastic afternoon listening to Thomas Michael Riley, Randy Brown, Chad Rueffer, Kenny Grimes, Doug Moreland, Jason Hendrix (the fantastic fiddle player from 1100 Springs), Randy Robert on the standup "dog house", and more. Who would have guessed that in addition to signing and playing the guitar, Randy Brown can also play a pretty good fiddle - the answer is no one because he played the first song only to realize that Jordan's fiddle wasn't turned on and he had no idea where the "on" button was! Once he was plugged in and turned on, he sounded pretty good! I think the musicians were having as much fun playing and joking and laughing as we were having listening to them. Free cold watermelon was a refreshing nice touch on a hot day. Hated to see this day end but what a fantastic way to end an outstanding Texas music festival - Thanks TMR!
Luckenbach where friends and music and not much else meet As TMR says "it about the magic of Luckenbach the music and people. In addition to good music, if you've never been to Luckenbach, that alone is enough to get you to attend next year. Famous for "everybody's somebody in Luckenbach," this city with a population of three is home to a dance hall, feed lot with good burgers, country store and post office, outdoor music stage, more free roaming roosters than there are residents, and not much more - all set under stately live oaks.
On the weekends and special days during the week, Luckenbach comes alive with bikers, music lovers, and curious travelers. But the roosters and chickens are there all week and during the festival they love to outrun the kids, tease the dogs, and claim some of the best seats - on picnic tables, on the roof, or perched on tree limb with a perfect view of the stage. Rumor has it that during the TMR Music Festival two roosters passed away - one from being fed too much beer and the other one couldn't handle all the heat, the late night dancing, and chasing the hens.
A few other chickens were lucky enough to get selected to get overfed and then unfortunately picked for Chicken Shit Bingo - excuse the language, but if I said Chicken Poop Bingo native Texans wouldn't have a clue what I'm talking about. Music and chicken fans buy one of 72 numbers and a well fed chicken is put in the coop and when he poops on a square, the owner of that square got $200 and the remainder of the bets went to the Disabled Vets Foundation. Amazing how excited the betters get once the chicken gets in the coop.
Luckenbach was founded in 1852 and not much has changed since then except that it's become a popular destination for music fans, bikers, and traveling tourists. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings help put Luckenbach on the map with there "Luckenbach, TX" song "Back to the Basics of Love." You'll find music just about every day in Luckenbach - from the regular Picker's Circle under at tree to weekend dances to several popular music festivals like Thomas Michael Riley's. Most of the music is free and you'll hear some very accomplished musicians. Stop by Luckenbach sometime for a dose of music or some nostalgic merchandise - everybody's got to have a Luckenbach Everybody's Somebody tee shirt.
Music Stages at Luckenbach
Luckenbach is famous for the Luckenbach Dance Hall which is a large old barn type structure with prop open windows, a huge wooden dance floor, and big stage, and lots of picnic tables - perfect for pickin', dancin', drinkin', and havin' a good time. The outdoor stage is set under the live oaks with bench seats and picnic tables just in back of the General Store.
TMR Music Fans
You really do get a sense of Luckenbach and TMR's music festival is where old friends meet new friends and join together to laugh, drink, dance, and have fun. The whole weekend felt like a big family and friends get together with TMR as the centerpiece.
Thomas Michael Riley seemed to know the majority of the fans and was constantly meandering through the crowd shaking hands, patting backs, sharing one of his infectious laughs, welcoming the newbees, and giving hugs and kisses to the 4th year veterans.
Camping & Lodging
This is such a great festival that make sure you plan to stay the entire weekend. Fredericksburg is only 10 miles down the road and it's home to lots of lodging options. You can stay in a B&B, a hotel, or any of the other lodging options available in Fredericksburg. If you're not camping, consider staying in any of the several quaint and cozy cabins at Baron's Creekside in Fredericksburg. Check out Texas Outside's Guide To Fredericksburg to find lodging, restaurants, and more.
Or better yet, bring your RV or rent one and camp at the "Red Neck Rivera." Michael and his fellow campers circle up the RVs around a cluster of trees and break out the beer, guitars, and party before and after the music starts on the main stages. The "Red Neck Riviera." is a 10 acre field adjacent to the Luckenbach Dance Hall. It's dry camping but worth it not to have to drive after a fun filled day.
If you want full hook-ups Armadillo Farm Campground is less than a half mile from Luckenbach and there is a nice KOA at 290 and the turnoff leading to Luckenbach - about 5 miles from the music.
Bottom Line - it doesn't get much better than Thomas Michael Riley's Music Festival - small friendly crowd, outstanding line up of Texas country singer songwriters, camping, and Luckenbach! See you next year.
Our thanks go out to TMR and Linda Woorley who was the driving force behind the scene making this festival a huge success.