We just got back from a great day of music at our very first 92.1 KNBT American Music Jam at Gruene Hall. I don't know where this jam has been for the other 20 years but we just discovered it when someone at Cherokee Creek Music Festival told us how great it was and that we need to go. We took a look at the line-up and left early Sunday morning from Cherokee Creek Music Festival and two hours later we were at Gruene Hall. Only to find out that the American Music Jam was sold out. The local policeman said "hang around the fire hydrant and you might get lucky and snag a couple tickets. About 45 minutes later we were in Gruene Hall drinking beer and waiting for 21st annual Americana Music Jam to kick off the first of 17 acts that reflect 92.1 KNBT's station's play list of roots-based music. The Jam benefits Hope Hospice and Communities In Schools of South Central Texas and is co-sponsored by Gruene Hall and KNBT 92.1 FM Radio in New Braunfels.
Historic Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall. By design, not much has physically changed since the Hall was first built. The 6,000 square foot dance hall with a high pitched tin roof still has the original layout with side wooden flaps for open air dancing, a bar in the front, a small lighted stage in the back and a huge outdoor garden. Advertisement signs from the 1930s and 40s still hang in the old hall and around the stage where George Strait, Hal Ketchum, Lyle Lovett, Little Richard, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Robert Earle Keene, Merle Haggard, Pat Green and William Clark Green, Kris Kristofferson, Garth Brooks, Chris Isaak and the Dixie Chicks have played. if you're curious, here is a partial list of who has played at Gruene Hall over the years.
The doors to Gruene Hall opened around 11:30 to a sold out performance. At 12:30 Tina Wilkins, her beautiful voice, and a couple of the Mystiqueros kicked off the Americana Music Jam with a stunning rendition of "America the Beautiful" and that was followed by
As I mentioned the Americana Music Jam was sold out and Gruene Hall was packed to capacity. Two stages were set up, one at each end of the Hall and when the music stopped on one stage, the next artist started on the other stage. Cool way to do it - no down time and all you had to do is turn around and face the other way to catch the next band. A lot of people started moving to the other stage, to get close to the front of the stage, a couple songs before the other set ended. Each set was about 35 minutes are so.
The acoustics at Gruene Hall are great and from anyplace within the Hall you could see the bands on stage - unless you are little shorter than normal or behind some really tall people. Along each side of the Hall are bench seats for sitting or standing for a great view of either stage. The bar is at the entrance to Gruene Hall and it only serves beer and wine (cash only - $4 a beer) and it was tended by five or six of the most efficient bartenders I've ever seen. On one side of the bar are pictures of lots of the artists who have performed at Gruene Hall over the years - really cool very old pictures of musicians like Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, and fifty or sixty more - what a difference between then and now. On one side of Gruene Hall were lots of picnic tables under the trees, a few vendors, one selling nachos, pork sliders, and more. The fans at American Music Jam were fun and friendly and seemed to really love the music!
If you've never visited Gruene, you need to schedule a trip. It's a cute little town with some good restaurants, a fantastic B&B, a few shops, and a couple blocks away is the beautiful Guadalupe River and some rental tubes. We needed to take a break from the Jam and we walked down the street to a small craft fair and then over to Gristmill River Restaurant for some good food overlooking the Guadalupe River. Check out our Gruene page to find some fun things to do in Gruene.
We spent the night in our motorhome in the parking lot across the street from Gruene Hall (how convenient is that!), listened to the rain most of the night, and woke up the next morning with our 35,000 pound motorhome stuck in the mud only 4 feet from the pavement! Four college kids stopped by and tried to help - they rounded up some wood and a couple carpets and gave it the "old college try" to try to get us out of the mud. After several attempts we only dug ourselves in deeper and all got muddy, so we gave up, called a tow truck, and went to have g good lunch and drink at Mozies while we waited for the tow truck.
All-in-all, a good time with great music, excellent food, and lots of cold beer - all in a fun town and historic dance hall.