In early April I start getting ready for one of our favorite Texas Music Festivals - Old Settler's Music Festival in Dripping Spring. My preparation for the festival includes:
This year was Old Settler's Music Festival 30th anniversary and it was a fantastic celebration - an unbelievable line-up, lots of friendly caring music loving fans and lots of great music in the campground and the music stages. Old Settler's Music Festival has always been known for "it's good vibe of happy, friendly people smiling and enjoying the music together and this year was no exception.
After 3 weeks of the above exercises I was ready to go to Camp Ben McCulloch in the thriving metropolis of Driftwood just south of Austin. Camp Ben is the place to be for Old Settler's Music Festival camping, music around the campfires or in the pavilion, and to reacquaint with fellow festival fans and meet lots of new friendly folks. There are no designated campsites and it's first come first serve for electricity and a place to park your camper or pitch your tent. As such, a lot of campers come in several days in advance of the Festival to get a site with electricity. We came in on Monday and the campground was already very crowded.
If you've got an RV there are lots of places to park but you may or may not find something close to a water and 110 amp or 30 amp electric hook-ups. Bring an extension cord for both water and electric hook-ups. There is also no dump station. But camping is still the way to go - you can set up under some big oak trees, next to some cool people that you may or may not know until the second day of camping, and there are some great tent sites under the trees and next to the river.
Regardless of where you camp you'll find friendly people and as you stroll through the campground you'll always find some of the campers pickin', singin',and playin'. Anyone is welcome to pull up a chair, pop a cold beer, join the pickers circle, or just sit and enjoy the music.
Coming in early before the Festival starts is always fun - reacquainting with friends, relaxing and enjoying getting away from work, or exploring Dripping Springs, Driftwood, or Wimberley. There are lots of wineries (there 12 within 10 miles of Camp Ben McCulloch) and breweries and a couple distilleries plus golf courses, some fun bars, good restaurants, and more within 25 minutes. On this trip we drove less than a quarter of mile to Lost Creek Winery to sample some good wine, played golf at nearby Grey Rock Golf Club, walked across the street from Camp Ben McCulloch to eat some excellent BBQ at the infamous Salt Lick, drove into Wimberley to check out Jacobs Well swimming hole, stopped to taste some wine and enjoy
a fantastic view at Driftwood Vineyards, and enjoyed some great pickin' and singin' around the campfires. You shouldn't run out of things to do and best of all you'll have a better chance of getting a good campsite with water and electric if you come in early. We also enjoyed some excellent margaritas and good food at Flores, sipped a few good craft beers at Twisted X brewery, played some dominos, and listened to a good singer at a fun local bar in Dripping Springs called the Barber Shop where 275 people have stopped in and asked for a hair cut and not a cold beer and the local dog was passed out on the floor in front of the bar!
Since we were close to Austin, we also got to zip into town and watch one of our grandsons play baseball on Tuesday and the other grandson play football on Wednesday. Not to brag, but I'm proud to say that the oldest grandson was 7 for 8 on passes with 3 touchdowns and the other grandson hit well (3 for 3 and 2 RBIs) and got several outs! Before we knew it, the Festival music was kicked off on Thursday night in the campground.
Jean Spivey is the executive director and co-producer of Old Settler's Music Festival and part of her responsibility is finding the artists to play the the festival and what a fantastic job she does each year that we have attended. This year for example:
Out of this year's line-up I had seen only two bands at other venues or festivals (Shinyribs and Reckless Kelly), listened to seven others from previous Old Settler's Music Festival, and there were nine artists that we saw for the first time that absolutely knocked my socks off - like American Dreamer, Session Americana, Billy Strings, Gregory Alan Isakov, Shakey Graves, The Lone Bellow, and River Whyless for example.
As I mentioned come early and enjoy the music in the campground, which for this Festival started on Wednesday night on the campground stage and included:
Unfortunately, we missed it because we had no idea it was happening and had committed to seeing the grandson play football.
During the 4 days of music at Old Settlers, there are over 35 bands and singer songwriters that took the stage and, unfortunately, it's impossible to see them all. So the key is to study the program, read the bios, talk to people about their favorites, and then pick who you want to see. There are 4 stages - the Campground Stage, the Bluebonnet Stage, the Hill Country Stage, and the Discovery Stage which is all workshops. All of the stages are just a couple minutes down the road at Salt Lick Pavillion, a beautiful setting with grass, wood post fences, lots of trees, and Onion Creek.
The Festival officially started on Thursday with music from the following on the Campground Stage:
The Campground Stage is my favorite stage because it attracts a smaller crowd, is much more intimate because you can stand right in front of the stage, and outside the covered pavilion are lots of oaks, picnic tables, and places to set up you lawn chair to listen to the music.
Highlights from Thursday were:
Speaking of kids, Old Settler's Music Festival is very kid friendly and you'll find lots of them playing, sleeping, or enjoying the music. Old Setter's even has a Kids' Village at the Salt Lick Pavilion Festival areas and it has bungee trampoline, a mechanical bull, face painting, bounce house, petting zoo, inflatable slide and more. Plus there are a range of activities that include hands-on environmental education, games, art projects, musical instrument petting, and a few other things. At the campground there is a big playground, a face painter, balloon tier, basketball court, rope swing, and of course Onion Creek for swimming/wading.
To encourage new generations of roots musicians Old Settler's Music Festival offers performance opportunities, scholarships, and a Youth Talent Competition on one of the stages where the winner gets to perform a set on the Bluebonnet Stage. A couple of the main stage artists were previous winners of the Youth Talent Competition, one of which was Sarah Jarosz who won a Grammy in 2017 for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance.
So to honor the kids who we hope will continue their youthful enthusiasm for music and dancing, help keep the Old Settler's Music Festival going for several decades, and might one day achieve their dream of being a headliner on one of the Old Settler's Music stages, we dedicate this page to the Kids of Old Settler's Music Festival.
Friday morning started with a Yoga Class in the campground followed by music by: Jan and Rose, Pearl and the Polka-dots, and Gal Dang It.
The shuttle buses ran all day to get the campers from Camp Ben McCulloch to the Festival grounds which is just two minutes down the road at Salt Lick Pavilion where you'll find the Hill Country Stage, the Bluebonnet Stage, kids village, several food and merchandise vendors, the Discovery Stage, and beer and wine sales. You can bring your lawn chairs and blankets but no coolers, food, or alcohol. Food vendors sell everything from ice cream to gyros, Philly Cheesesteaks, hot dogs, pizza, and more.
Hill Country Stage
The music started at 4:00 and ended around 12 at which time the road to campground was closed and the after show march back to the campground started. Some of the highlights from Friday included:
Again, I missed the Yoga Class at 10 in the campground but I was one of the early arrivers to set up my chair for the music on the Hill Country Stage that started at 11 and included:
Hill Country Stage
For most of the day there was plenty of activity at the Discovery Stage with Parent's Instrument Petting Zoo, Shaker Workshop, Workshop with the Travelin' McCourys, Songwriting with Sarah Jarosz, and meet the Vasen.
Saturday was full of musical highlights from several bands that we heard for the first time and absolutely loved - for example: California Honeydrops, The Lone Bellow, and the Honeycutters.
By Sunday morning I'm starting to feel the effects of lots of miles walking back and forth between stages and up to the front of the stage to take pictures, 29 hours of sitting in my chair listening to music, a couple too many beers, and a hoarse voice from singing and socializing. Next year I'll have to get in better shape. But I was confident that I could make it through what is traditionally my favorite day of music.
Sunday Music at Camp Ben McCulloch
Wow, what a way to end the 30th annual Old Settler's Music Festival - a beautiful day, a great bunch of fans, lots of dancing, and superb music that ended with Shinyribs leading a very long Congo line that twisted and turned through the pavilion and around the outside as band members stepped off the stage to join the crowd!!!!
The highlights for Sunday include the friendly fun vibe, the free style dancing, Shinyribs, Elephant Revival, and we loved The Lost Bandoleros from San Antonio.
What a fantastic 30th annual Old Settler's Music Festival. Our thanks go out Jean Spivey (Executive Director), Scott Marshall (Director of Operations), Johnny Harvey (President of the Board), and the hundreds of staff and volunteers who make Old Settler's Music Festival one of the best festivals in Texas. See you next year.