Tommy and his crew did it again - another fantastic Texas Music Festival with 4 days of music from 41 different artists and no rain! In addition to a lot of fun, drinking, and dancing, there are three unique ingredients that make Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering one of the best Texas music festivals - excellent musicians, great camping, and sense of family and camaraderie.
The music line-up is always a great mix of new talent like the winners of singer songwriter contests at the Ranch and the Range radio stations, some legends of Texas Music, a lot of our favorites bands, and some veterans of several past Tommy Alverson Family Gatherings.
For the last several years, the Family Gathering has been held in the parking lot at Loyd Park in Grand Prairie- a perfect place for a multi-day music festival. On the shoreline of Joe Pool Lake, Loyd Park is convenient to get to, it has over 790 acres with camping, cabins, 220 water and electric sites, boat ramp, kayak rentals, biking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms with showers, softball field, equestrian camping and trails, and more. And the park is clean and well maintained.
The campsites at Loyd Park are fantastic - very spacious, picnic tables and fire pits, level in most cases, and most are under the trees and shaded and some are right on the lake. The staff is friendly and helpful and glad to have Tommy and all of his music fans! Read our review of Loyd Park and Joe Pool Lake to learn more. Some of the sites and cabins are very close to the music, but most are a healthy hike. The campground is always alive with campers playing games, the aroma of bacon to barbeque, laughs and giggles, and lots of singing and picking around the campfires until the wee hours of the morning.
Lots of campers bring or rent golf carts to get back and forth to the music, or ride bikes or motorcycles, or they drive and park across the street from the music. A trailer loaded with hay bales runs through the campground and gives free rides back and forth during the music.
Tommy's music festival truly is like a big "family gathering." It's a relatively small group (between 800 to 1000) of mostly middle aged music fans that love Tommy, good music, and fun times. Everyone is friendly and outgoing and each time we come we reacquaint with friends we made at one of Tommy's previous festivals and make several new friends that we can't wait to see again next year.
It's a very kid and dog and dancing and drinking friendly Texas music festival - bring your own booze, lawn chairs, canopies, and musical instruments - everyone's invited to the campfire sing-along in the campground where you're likely to be able to listen to some of the days performers as well as hear some who are good enough to play on stage next year!
Oh, in addition to camping, partying, dancing, and good music, Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering is home to a Chili Cookoff and a Silent Auction for a worthy cause.
I probably say this every year and I'll say it again - the 15th annual Family Gathering had to be the best line-up yet plus it started a day earlier. How can you beat 4 days of music from 41 bands and singer songwriters with the likes of the Tejas Brothers, Davin James, Walt Wilkins, Gary P. Nunn, Brandon Rhyder, Josh Weathers, Jamie Richards, and of course Tommy Alverson.
Wednesday the music started at 5 and included:
- Honeybucket - a five piece ensemble that came to life in the summer 2012
- Tommy, Amos Staggs, and Terry Rasor playing for the no show Scotty Thurman
- Mark Powell - one of the very few original dance hall bands that is dedicated to bringing real country music back into the spotlight
- Band of Brothers - a southern fried serving of Texas country and blues born out of a desire to make music for music's sake
- Bandon Rhyder - with an unmistakable voice, he loves to take you to the top, then jerk the rug out from under you, and then start the process over again
The city of Grand Prairie imposed a curfew of 12 AM this year, which was disappointing - last year I don't think Tommy stopped playing until 2 PM or so - but shortly after that the music started in the campground around the campfires. All too soon, it was noon on Thursday and time to meander over to the stage for another day of great music which featured:
- Ranch 106.9 Songwriter Winner - didn't get his name but they sounded great
- Tom Cheatham - an eclectic and harmonious sound with songs that are intelligent and inspiring
- Morris McCann - says he loves singing country because "I am country," he sings with smooth versatility and a hint of Merle Haggard and Don Williams
- Nick Verzosa - a good combination of classical country with a rockabilly attitude coupled with energy and emotion
- Dave Thomas playing for the no show Mark David Manders - he sounds like The Charlie Daniels Band, Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Jim Croce
- Gus Samuelson & James Hinkle & the Swampadelics - they sing and play with a diverse and cohesive mixture of rhythm and blues, western swing, rock and cajun zydecos
- Thom Shepard - best known for the long list of song's he's written that were recorded by the likes of Pat Green, Josh Abbott, and Kevin Fowler
- Kevin Deal - known as one of the best harmonica players on the Dallas music scene, he's also blessed with a rich sonorous voice perfectly suited to his conversational storytelling
- Josh Weathers - wow, a passionate, rock-n-roll infused, and energetic set with an exciting mixture of R&B, funk, and rock and soul
- Buddy Whittington - he plays and sings with an influence from British invasion bands, Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, The Stones, and The Who
- Lost Gonzo Band - an outstanding set from a reunion of the 1973 band with John Inmon, Bob Livingston, Paul Pearcy, and Gary P Nunn
- Jerrod Medulla - with seven CDs to his credit, he has earned a place in Texas music as a respected grass roots songwriter
- Tejas Brothers - it doesn't get much better than the Tejas Brothers with Dancing Dave and his outstanding accordion playing and mix of everything from Louis Armstrong to Willie Nelson and a sweet combination of Texas Country, Blues, Rock, and Tex-Mex
- Gary P Nunn - a pioneer of Texas country music and part of the fabric of contemporary Texas culture, Gary's sets are always fun and entertaining
Wow, what a fantastic line-up and everyone was outstanding. How do you top that? Tommy tried by kicking off the music on Saturday at noon with:
- Bracken Hale - a heaping helping of pure Fender twang and well crafted honky tonk
- Tom McElvain - singing with a burning passion for country music and a unique voice, his songs run the gamut from tender ballads to road-house rockers with a blend of country, blues, and rock
- Earl Musick - his songwriting has been described as storytelling with a groove but Earl calls it "folk" because he writes it for folks
- Landon Dodd - winner of the KTFW Battle of the Bands and Academy of Western Artist "band of the year." these guys are pure country
- Bob Livingston - funny, witty, and a true "cosmic cowboy"
- Joe Pat Hennen - influenced by rock 'n' roll then the folk scene, his songs chronicle the often overlooked events that make everyday life far from ordinary
- Brian Burns - considered in the cream of Texas singer songwriters, his songs explore both the poignant and the humorous sides of humanity with a set loaded with wit, warmth, and eclecticism
- Jason Eady - a singer songwriter with music that is a distillation of country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, folk, and southern rock with honesty and inspiration
- 1100 Springs - if you like real country, this is it with a blend of western swing with honky tonk and country and rock - Texas old school country to the core
- Davin James - with dynamic and powerhouse vocals, his unconventional country music combines everything from soulful Gulf Coast Blues to Southern Rock to Hard Roots Country
- Jamie Richards - a real country singer with a voice that brings back the roots of country music
- Johnny Bush - regarded as one of the greatest voices to come out of Texas and as a worthy heir to the tradition of Bob Wills, Hank Thompson, and Lefty Frizzell
- Walt Wilkins & The Mystiqueros - a Texas Hill Country Super Group with four great singers and four outstanding songwriters (all of whom have their own records flush with recording credits) who are likened to outlaw country and classic rock and they were joined by Tommy Alverson and his singing and picking
By now I feel like I've already gotten more that my money's worth! In fact, how can you beat $65 for 4 days of music from 41 artists or a single day of music for $25 - what a deal! Each day after all that music, dancing, laughing, drinking, eating, and late night signing, I was surprised when I was up and ready to go and the cooler was reloaded and full by the time the music started at noon on Saturday. As I slowly meandered over to the stage on Saturday dragging my cooler, chairs, and snacks for the first set, I noticed that something was wrong - I didn't recognize anyone! All I noticed were Levis, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, ear muffs, sarapis, blankets, and what-ever else the music fans could find in their campsites to keep warm. Shorts and tee shirts had morphed into long pants and jackets thanks to a temperature drop of over 25 degrees! But no rain and the cooler temperature didn't keep anyone for coming back for another day of good music and hanging in there until the music stopped at midnight. Saturday's line-up included:
- The Hawkes - love these guys with a diverse arrangement of songs that emulate the soul of Texas music
- Hugo Durante - a great storyteller and talented musician with songs that will make you laugh, cry, and really listen
- Circus Bear Trickery - with Tommy's son on guitar, this band of misfits had booties shaking and some souls afire
- Chuck Pyle - known as the "Zen Cowboy" he blends his upbeat perspective with old fashioned horse sense and mixes infectiously hummable melodies with straight from the saddle poetry, often quoting bumper stickers, proverbs, world leaders, and old cowboys
- Amos Staggs - he has played with the legends (Janis Joplin to Willie Nelson to Garth Brooks) with a style that ranges from folk, country, rock, and blues to a little reggae
- Terry Rasor - named "Songwriter of the Year" in 1991, Terry's raw, deep, gritty sound coupled with his soulful lyrics and melodies are a joy to listen to
- Cornell Hurd - with his band of ten and every instrument imaginable including washer boards and know as
"country music's worst nightmare," they offer a rousing blend of traditional country, swing, and rockabilly mixed in with Cornell's sarcasm, stories, and humor
- Mike Morgan - inspired by artists like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett he plays a good mix of blues and blues rock
- Steve Helms - delivering finely tuned modern country, this band does a good job of filling the dance floors
- Ed Burleson - once a rodeo cowboy, epitomizes a true county singer songwriter
- Blacktop Gypsy - with an award winning fiddler, these three girls are lively, entertaining, and joy to watch and listen to
- Tommy Alverson Show - another dynamic, lively, and fun set with Tommy and his band of hundreds
Tommy's set, as usual, was a great way to end this fantastic Texas Music Festival - he played some of his oldies like "Uno Mas Cervosis" and "Texas Woman" and some great songs from his new CD with Willie Nelson (Pickin' on Willie) plus he brought anybody and everyone who was left backstage up to sing. He and his band of hundreds seemed to be having as much fun as his fans were having. Tommy could have gone on forever like he did last year, but unfortunately the City made him quit at 12:30. But the City didn't seem to care about the music around the campfires which started shortly after Tommy's set.
New this year to Tommy Alverson's Family Gathering was WOW - winery on wheels. They were set up next to the stage and serving wine, shots and frozen margaritas and pina coladas. If you bought one of the drinks, you could sit in an area with picnic tables right in front of the stage - can't get better than a very tasty frozen margarita and being 1 foot from the bands!
There are several other vendors that circle the perimeter of the stage area - you'll find the bands merchandise area with CDs, tee shirts, koozies, and more; a massage pallor to work out the lawn chair sores or the dancing kinks; pearl snap shirts and cowboy hats for sale; plus corn dogs, BBQ, fajitas, pizza, and more. Our favorite, and over the weekend we tried them all, remains Gino's Fired Up Kitchen Pizzas. The pizzas are hand made, covered with your favorite ingredients, and then baked in a wood fired oven - delicious.
In addition to the pizza from Fired Up Kitchen, here are a few of our other highlights from Tommy Alverson's 15th annual Family Gathering:
- Bob Livingston's set that got us laughing with some great stories and songs
- a passionate and lively set from Davin James and the close connection that he shares with Cletis, his bass guitarist
- Tommy's closing set with a stage full of talented musicians plus any of the weekend's artists who were still around
- the winners of the radio stations singer/songwriter contests were outstanding
- meeting lots of new people and reacquainting with friends from previous years
- the BlacktopGypsys are always fun to watch and listen too
- great campsites and lots more to do in Loyd Park
- it's hard to beat Thursday's music with the dynamic Tejas Brothers, Gary P Nun singing "Going Home with the Armadillo", the unbelievable range of Josh Weathers voice, and the reuniting of the Lost Gonzo Band
- it's hard to beat Terry Rasor's booming raspy voice, a fantastic set by 1100 Springs and the Hawks, and the sarcasm from Cornell Hurd
- NO RAIN for 4 days
- Walt Wilkins & The Mystiqueros are always a joy to listen to and their set this year was no exception
Tommy did it again! Can't wait for next year to see how he'll top the 15th Annual Family Gathering. Our thanks go out to Tommy, the sponsors, Joe Dye (vendor & operations), Gary Newell (executive director), James Mills (stage manager & MC), Dirt Stinnett (production), and the sound guys, backstage crew, ticket takers, and the hundreds of volunteers and staff who spend lots of time and effort making sure that we have a great time! See you next year.