For the last 11 years Art Outside has held it's Festival at Apache Pass just outside of Rockdale, Texas. This was our first year to attend Art Outside and it's very hard for me to describe this very unique festival, but here goes - from my perspective, Art Outside is:
Art Outside transforms a quiet and peaceful 100 acre pecan grove into a communal atmosphere with music and camping and works of art and trees that light up with a variety of colors. I asked Ryan Getz, the Director of Marketing, how he describes it and he said "Art Outside is like a snow globe - it's put away all year and then once a year it's brought out, shaken up, and it's transformed into something that's magical and awe inspiring - then it's put away for another year!"
Art Outside takes place at Apache Pass - a historical river crossing on the San Gabriel River in Downtown, Texas which is now an event center - about 9 miles outside of Rockdale and an hour northeast of Austin. Under some beautiful trees at Apache Pass you'll find a pavilion, ice house, and RV park which is across the street. During Art Outside most of the 100 acres is used for parking, primitive camping, or RV camping and the festival activities take place on about 3 acres. Spread over the 3 acres and under the pecan trees are four stages, several sections for vendors, a pavilion, and lots of space for artists to set up or create their inspirations.
Over the course of the 4 day festival there were 78 musicians on the 2015 Art Outside lineup with DJs and bands from around the United States and Europe playing everything from reggae to funk to bluegrass to jam, progressive, and instrumental rock on four different stages which are all very close together:
We arrived on Thursday and it was a day of getting set-up and organized and ready to party and listen to some good music - not just for us but all of the artists, vendors, and festival fans.
We parked the RV in a pecan orchard and knowing that the forecast was for rain I purposely picked a spot that was close to the road and would be very easy for a tow truck to pull me out if I got stuck.
After the RV was settled in, we walked across the street to Apache Pass in time to catch the music that started on the Main Stage at 6:30 PM with the following:
The New Mastersounds (a four-piece jazz fusion and funk band from Leeds, England) started at 12:30. By 12:00 I was fading quickly so it was back to the motorhome and I missed these guys.
The weather forecasters had been predicting severe rain storms from Thursday to Monday but all the good vibes kept the rain away (except for a couple short drizzles) for all of Thursday. Friday was overcast but still no rain and the music started at 3:30 and the Birds of Paradise wrapped it up in the Dome with their set from 6:30 to 8:30 AM (yes, that's AM and my breakfast time). On Friday, I survived (meaning I was able to stay awake until 1) and from 3:30 to 1:00 AM I listened to:
When I finally gave up and went to bed on Friday, Apache Pass was still packed - Lettuce was playing to a packed lively dancing crowd until 2:30 on the Main Stage, the Dome was also filled to capacity and the music went on until 8 AM, the two other stages didn't stop until 2 AM, and artists were still painting under the trees, and the energy was unbelievable - I was hoping some of it would transfer to me but no luck.
Just as I closed the door of the RV it started drizzling but stopped within minutes. However around 3 AM the rain pounding on the roof woke me up and it continued all day Saturday, setting a couple records for rainfall in Austin and the surrounding area. And unfortunately the grounds were so wet - as were the tent campers and their gear, the stages, works of art, vendors, and everything within miles - that the Festival was cancelled for Saturday and Sunday.
I took a look out the door on Saturday morning and it was easy to tell that I'm going to be stuck in the mud again which will be the third time this year the motorhome has been stuck in the mud at a music festival. I could just hear the motorhome complaining - "what an idiot, he did it to me again, does he think it's cool to wear me out by spinning my wheels and sending mud flying everywhere and doing nothing but having my 6 rear wheels sink deeper and deeper into the mud - call a tow truck!"
When I heard about the canceled festival and since we were stuck we decided to drive the Jeep into Austin, watch the grandson play football, have dinner, and come back Sunday morning in the hope that the rain would stop and the music would start - no such luck. It poured all day Sunday also!
A farm tractor driven by a great guy was cruising the grounds and helping push or pull cars, trailers, and motor homes (including me) out of the mud. He hooked up a tow chain and had me on solid ground within a minute. The motorhome wanted to take him home with us, but he was too busy helping other people out of the mud - and doing it for free! Thanks Man!
Part of what made this festival fun for me from a music perspective was that I was familiar with only 4 of the 78 bands and I was excited about seeing a lot of different bands playing a wide variety of music - maybe next year. Some of the bands we missed on Saturday and Sunday on the main stage included: Wood & Wire (bluegrass, Austin), Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds (dirty soul funk, Brooklyn, NY), Elephant Revival (American bluegrass, Nederland, CO), Boombox (psychedelic disco, Muscle Shoals, AL), The London Souls (rock & roll, New York, NY), Rising Appalachia (world/folk/soul, New Orleans, LA), and Papadosio (jam rock, Asheville, NC). What a diverse genre of music from around the United States - I was really disappointed that the festival got cancelled on Saturday and Sunday.
And we missed over 40 bands, DJs, and performers on the other 3 stages, just a few of which included: Haywire, Transcontinental Trip, Crash Alchemy, Peelander - Z, Beautiful Chorus, Collidoscope, Digital Antique, Mama K & The Shades, and Michael Garfield.
In addition to all of the music from sunset to sunrise, the grounds of Apache Pass are home to several engaging Workshops, some of which included:
As we meandered from to the food vendors or from stage to stage or to check out what's happening, we stumbled across several creative and intriguing performances that ranged from high flying aerialists to pyrotechnic madmen and everything in between. Some that we saw included:
During the entire festival there was an also an area for fans and professionals to show their skills at juggling, flame dancing, hula hooping, and lots more.
But thanks to the rain, we missed a lot: Firecracker Hats, Frenchie Key West, Kendall Luna, Sangre Del Sol, The Renegade Carnies, just to name a few of the scheduled performances.
Art Outside would have to change their name if it weren't for all the art scattered around the grounds of Apache Pass. Painters and artists have several of their works on display and more than 30 artists are painting some interesting art to the beat of the live music. A lot of the art work and artists working is next to lite trees of a variety of colors (reds, blues, purples, white) which adds a new dimension to the paintings. Part of what made the art interesting is each time we walked by an artist the painting had progressed toward completion, changed dramatically, or been completed and a new one started. In addition to all of the "art outside" there is a huge art gallery under a large white tent. As we cruised through the gallery two young ladies were serving white and red wine - the wine was good but the art was spectacular. Wish I could paint like that or take some of the artwork home with me.
In addition to all of the painting there were several other creative and innovative sculptures and works of art, some of which included: wooden flowers, a huge metal spider; a metal face with moving parts (eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and more) controlled by festival fans; a neat bike carousal; a nickelodeon built by 2 ladies that included a dart game, milk bottle toss, and ring toss; two large globes, one was a metal sculpture and the other was rubber; and lots more. See this Art Outside Pictures page to view more of the art and to see what we picked as best of show!
Wow, what great people watching at Art Outside. The vast majority of the people who attend Art Outside seem to be free spirits, young (20 to 35), fun loving, and hippie like! The outfits are amazing - lots of tie dye shirts, dreadlocks, tattoos from toe to forehead, interesting hair cuts, long flowing hippie skirts, all sorts of hats, and more. Hula hoops are everywhere and there are lots of free style dancing, hugging, and laughing, and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. The fans are friendly and outgoing and at the festival to enjoy the music and camaraderie. No cops, no security, and no trouble! See this Art Outside Pictures page for more pictures of the fans, art, and more.
Kids also had lots to do at Art Outside - each day from 10 or so there were several scheduled events and activities like: Baby Disco, face painting, clowns, yoga, beat boxing, tech tinkering, magic, and several others. Kids 12 and younger are free and in addition to enjoying the music, dancing, or hula hooping they seemed to love the hands-on creation to captivating performances.
With music from noon to sunrise, lots of dancing, walking around the grounds and back and forth to the campground works up quite an appetite and the good news is that there were lots of food trailers and vendors at Art Outside. The food options are as diverse and wonderful as the music and art - we could find coffee, cold beer, and sweet tea; Indian, African, Vietnamese, and Mexican cuisine; Philly Cheese steaks, burgers, pizza, nachos, BBQ, kabobs, pressed bread sandwiches, kolaches, breakfast burritos, and lots more. And there were a variety of other vendors selling jewelry, hula hoops, hats, tie dye shirts, hippy skirts, and more.
Art Outside is an impressive festival and to get the most out of it you need to camp - it's no fun after a full day of music and drink and dancing to have to leave early o drive home. Rockdale is the nearest town and it has a couple old motels, so if you come next year, plan on camping. There is a small full hook-up campground for RVs across the street but it fills up fast. Next to the RV park is a tree lined field that is available for a fee for RVs, tents or trailer camping - generators are allowed. There are three other areas for tent camping:
Bottom line: what a fun and unique festival and we can highly recommend it. Our thanks go out to all of the staff and hundreds of volunteers who make this festival fun for all of us - from the will call staff to the parking and traffic guys to the stage hands and the clean up crew. Thanks a million!