How 'bout this - excellent country music (18 artists over 2 days) along the banks of the Llano River with camping, a golf tournament, the infamous Cooper's BBQ, BYOB and lawn chairs, friendly mature music fans, and perfect weather! If that sounds good to you, then you need to mark your calendars for next year's Mike Blakely's 10th Annual Fandango. We attended his 9th annual Texas music event and found it to be one of the best small Texas music festivals we have attended. And we can't wait to attend the 10th Annual!
You're probably asking yourself, "what in the heck is Fandango" - so, I looked it up for you and here's the definition:
Or according to Wikipedia - Fandango is a lively folk and Andalusian (flamenco) couple-dance usually in triple metre, traditionally accompanied by guitars and castanets or hand-clapping (Palmas in Spanish and Portuguese). Fandango can both be sung and danced. Maybe we should just ask Mike for his definition and why he named it Fandango! Regardless of what Fandango stands for, to us it standing for a fun Texas Music Festival.
Mike's TexAmericana Fandango started with a sponsor's party on Thursday night with live music by Mike Blakely and Woody Eastman plus free beer and food provided by River City Grill - all three of those were enough to get me to sign Texas Outside up as a sponsor, but unfortunately we couldn't makeit to the sponsor's party. We heard it was a blast and we won't miss it next year!
Friday was a golf tournament on the Llano River Golf Course which is next door to the campground and park where the music was held. We didn't play in the tournament but did play Llano Golf Course on Sunday before heading back to the "big D." Llano River Golf Course is a fun, somewhat challenging course with some holes along the Llano river and the rates are reasonable - to learn more, read our review of Llano River Golf Course. Friday morning, since we were coming to the festival from the north, we played the San Saba River Golf Course which has some interesting holes and pretty good conditions and a very good value. Read our review of the San Saba River Golf Course.
We arrived a half an hour before the music started on Friday, got the RV settled into it's site at Llano River RV Resort, filled the cooler with beer and ice, grabbed some crackers and cheese and our lawn chairs, and walked two minutes to the covered pavilion just in time to hear the first band of the evening
What a great evening (full moon, pleasantly cool, and a fun small crowd) filled with some laughs, some dancing, quite a few cold beers, some tasty jalapeno sausage from Cooper's BBQ, and some fantastic music from:
Friday's music was acoustic, except for the Casey Hubble band, and we thoroughly enjoyed each set. John Fullbright, from the birth place of Woody Guthrie, is fantastic; we could listen to Walt & Tina for hours; Susan Gibson is one of the most talented singer songwriters in Texas; and the final set with the two Johns and Mike was outstanding.
Hated for the music to end, but it did and we left with a much lighter cooler, some tread off the boots from dancing, red hands from clapping so much, and a sore throat from singing along to some fantastic Texas ballads.
Saturday kicked off with a kayak race on the Llano River - my swollen head as well as a lack of a kayak and the energy needed to power it prevented team Texas Outside from racing. The races were followed by a basketball free-throw shooting contest, followed by a open jam session at noon before the bands started at 1:00. Saturday's line-up included:
The WC Jameson Band (Texas Hill Country)
Wow - what a fantastic line-up of talented singer songwriters. You can't help but love Davin James and his deep voice, unbelievable guitar picking, excellent songs, and foot stomping show. Grammy-nominated songwriter Chris Wall was outstanding and Ray Wylie Hubbard sums it up very well - "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.” Rodney Hayden has a depth and maturity in his voice that is startling - it's warm and comforting and makes you feel good and he's making music for those of us who love real country. Josh Grider is amazing and the agility of his deep baritone voice catches his audiences off guard - a new flavor of country music which is very loosely referred to as "Texas Country" and influenced by Pat Green, Cory Morrow, and Robert Earl Keen. And Mike Blakely's set was a perfect way to end this outstanding singer songwriter music festival - Mike's songs are sung with sincerity and reflect his true life experiences, other people's stories, or just the twist of a phrase he heard.
The music is held under the covered pavilion in Robinson Park, which is a couple miles west of downtown Llano. The park has tent and RV camping, picnic tables along the bank of the Llano River, a small boat ramp, and a swimming pool. The spring fed Llano River has been dammed about a half mile down from the Park which impounds the river making it wide and deep - perfect for kayaking, swimming, or fishing.
If you've got an RV or a tent you can camp in Robinson Park which has tent and full hook-up RV sites. The park is adjacent to the very nice Llano River RV Resort which has 20 or so RV sites that are within a couple minutes walk to the pavilion where the music is happening. Each of the sites has water, electric, and sewer hook-ups, concrete parking pads, grass on each side of the parking pads, and a picnic table. Some of the sites are partially shaded and others are open. There are restrooms and showers.
On the west side of the RV park is the Llano Golf Course - the 1st and 3rd greens butt up against the RV Park. On the east side of the RV park is a Rodeo arena which is next to the Robinson Park RV sites. The main road through Llano River RV Resort leads to the parking lot for the music pavilion and the boat ramp on the Llano River. Can't beat that for being able to camp and play close to the music. If the full hook-up sites are taken, there are several acres for dry camping - just show up and someone will direct you where to park your motorhome, travel trailer, tent, or covered wagon - and it's only $5 a night! If you don't have a camper, there are several lodging options available a couple miles away in Llano.
Besides the excellent music, close by camping, and nearby golf courses, what also makes this festival fun are the festival fans. They are a mature, intelligent (that's what a couple different performers called us, why I don't know for sure - could be we were all ears and listening intently to every song), and very friendly group of music lovers. You felt like a part of a large family who got together for a music reunion. And during the music, there was seldom any talking, texting, or gabbin' on the phone - you come to this festival to appreciate the music.
If you get hungry during the festival, the infamous Cooper's BBQ was selling delicious sausage and jalapeno sausage wraps (2 bucks!) and another vendor was selling hamburgers and some other good grub.
Bottom Line - a great festival, close by camping, true music fans, and a reasonable price - we can't wait to get back next year.