Rice Festival Review - 2012

The 9th annual Rice Festival

Rice FestivalIt just doesn't get much better than 3 days of music, camping, a venue with a lot of character, cold beer, a small group of music lovers, and excellent Americana music from very talented musicians from around the United States - all of which you'll find at the Rice Festival at the Fischer Dance Hall in Fischer, Texas. We had heard a lot of good things about the Rice Festival and it turned out to be one of our favorites and one of the best music festivals in Texas.

Where in the world is Fischer Dance Hall you ask? Well, it's in Fischer, Texas which has a population of 688 country souls about 15 minutes west of Wimberley. I was starting to have my doubts that my GPS didn't know where Fischer TexasFischer was either and what was it doing taking our motorhome through some tight turns on a very scenic, but narrow, back country road. In fact, I was sure we were lost - who would build a dance hall in the middle of nowhere unless they thought that the cows, deer, bobcats, squirrels, and other wildlife were big music fans. After swearing we were lost, I pulled over and flagged down the pickup that had been following us for 10 miles at 20 MPH - I was sure they were going to give me the bird as they drove past. But instead, two nice ladies pulled up and as I stuck my head out and said "do you know where ...," they interrupted and said "you're almost there, follow us!" And sure enough, two minutes later we arrived at Fischer Hall.

Fischer Bowling AlleySeeds for Fischer were sown in 1876 when two brothers, Herman and Otto Fischer bought some land and one brother went into livestock operation and the other built the Fischer store which quickly expanded into the community's post office, bank, and saloon. In 1900, Fischer Agricultural Society was formed to build a new dance hall because the local Fischer townspeople found it too difficult to get along with their neighbors at the dances in nearby Cranes Mill. The well known one-eyed carpenter, who originally built ships, was hired to build a new dance hall. Shortly after the dance hall was built, a 9 pin bowling alley was built and today is still alive with a lot of local bowling and several bowling tournaments. The four lane bowling alley has a lot of character and still employs teenagers as pin setters - after each roll they grab the ball, send it back down the ramp to the bowler, pick up the pins and reset them as necessary.

The Fischer store and post office is still standing and has been converted into an antique store.

Fischer Hall

Fischer HallFischer HallFischer Hall has been the home for the Rice Festival for the last nine years and it's a perfect place for a fun music festival - great stage, lots of character, and good acoustics. Not much at Fischer Hall has changed since the 1900's. Underneath the tin roof, which is held up by magnificent wooden arches (thanks to the one-eyed shipbuilder, they resemble upside down support for the hull of a ship) that soar across the hall's open ceiling. The wood walls have gaps that let the sun shine in, the windows are wooden and the upper window still opens with a rope and pulley system, and the wood dance floor is well worn from all the two stepping and parties.

Metal folding chairs are aligned in rows in front of the stage, but lots of music fans replace them with their own lawn chairs. On the right side of Fischer Hall is a concrete patio where people socialize and listen to the music through the open windows. On the left side of the Hall, fans set up lawn chairs and blankets under the oaks and stars to enjoy the music.

Rice Festival & Music Lineup

The Rice Festival was founded in 2004 to "keep a good man's vibe alive" when Rice Harrington passed away unexpectedly in July 2003. Four of Rice's close friends formed Cabin 10, Inc. to host the festival to celebrate Rice Harrington and to provide continued funding for The Rice Harrington Art Scholarship, presented each year to graduating art students from SMHS.

And they have done a fantastic job of creating an outstanding festival. The first day of music on Friday was phenomenal with:

  • 2012 Kerrville Folk Festival Grassy Hill New Folk Winners - playing in the round and singing some of the songs that helped them win the award (out of 800 submissions) were Korby Lenker (Nashville, TN), Nicolette Good (San Antonio, TX), Edie Carey (Chicago, IL), Whit Hill (Nashville, TN), Alicia McGovern (Salt Lake City, UT), and The Sea The Sea (Madison, CT

New Folk WinnerNew Folk WinnerNew Folk Winner

  • Jon Brooks - an award winning Canadian singer songwriter was excellent
  • Carrie Elkin Band - a soulful singer with a gypsy spirit and a songwriter with a keen eye, she documents the human condition with sensitivity and humor
  • Sam Baker - a very original artist who does his work caressing songs with his mind while scraping them with his voice which makes for a unique combination that is genius, honest, compelling and beautiful and his set was outstanding and complimented by Carrie Elkin and her band joining Sam - hated to see it end

Jon BrooksCarrie Elkin BandSam Baker

  • 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

Walt WilkinsWalt Wilkins BandWalt Wilkins BandWalt Wilkins Band

Saturday's music started at 11:30 with another great lineup of talented artists which included:

  • Grey Hogg - 5 talented musicians who play a combo of blues, folk, jazz and Texas Swing
  • Grace Pettis - she sings with stories from her soul, a dash of courage, and a smile that melts walls
  • Milk Drive - with labels that range from jamgrass and nu-folk to redneck gypsy jazz, these award winning instrumentalists are fueled by equal parts tradition and innovation and deliver a distinctive acoustic experience that crosses genres, geographies, and generations

Grey HoggGrace PettisMilk DriveMilk DriveMilk Drive

  • Story Hill - these two guys are unbelievable and we hated to see their set end - a folk duo that brings infectious melodies, smart story songs and heartbreaking harmonies together in one perfect package
  • Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines - Lloyd's excellent guitar playing coupled Terry's stories, infectious smile, and songs about joy, hope, inspiration (and laughter, too) are all essential ingredients to the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s art, and it’s a recipe she’s been perfecting for the better part of two decades now.

Story HillStory HillTerri HendrixTerry Hendrix and Lloyd Maines

  • Cahalen Morrison & Eli West - this duo wastes no time trying to sound any specific way, but instead focuses wholly on the raw, unadulterated goodness which seems to soar from their every pluck, pick, harmony, and strum
  • Darrell Scott - he's all about old country music of cheating, drinking, working, longing- pre-garth, pre-video, pre-urban-cowboy country music all with superb guitar playing
  • Ghosts Along the Brazos - winner of 4 Austin Chronicle top 10 music awards, including #2 Best New Band, this local five piece band plays a mix of blues, folk, swing, and jazz that offers an old-timey, feel good vibe of music that brings to mind a simpler time in America
Darrell ScottGhosts Along the BrazosCahalen Morrison & Eli West

Most of the fans appeared a little groggy and blurry eyed for Sundays music that ran from 11 to 5 with:

  • Michael O'Connor - raspy voice outlines the often simultaneous desire for pleasure and salvation
  • George Ensle - a multi-award winning singer songwriter with a unique finger picking style honed to flow seamlessly with his lyrics that paint portraits of real people making it in the real world
  • Steve Smith & Hard Road - this duet delivers a divine offering of profound lyrics, passionate instrumentalism, silky harmonies, and witty stage banter

Michael O'connerGeorge EnsleSteve Smith & Hard Road

  • Slim Richey & the Jitterbug Vipers - Viper music is a special kind of swing music from the 30s & 40s with internationally known Slim Richey, “The Most Dangerous Guitarist in Texas.”

Slim RicheySlim Richey & the Jitterbug Vipers

Camping at Rice Festival

Part of what makes this festival great is that camping is free and if you don't need hook-ups, the camping is in the old village rodeo grounds, which today is a big open grassy field across the street from Fischer Hall. There is a section for generators and the rest is open camping - in the open field, along the fence line, or a little farther back (600 yards or so from Fischer Hall) under some oak trees and at the base of some rolling hills. In the back section, there are some picnic tables, and common area water spigots

Camping under the treesCamping at Rice Festival

You can sit in you campsite and still hear the music in the dance hall if that's your preference. And best of all, after a fun day of music and drinking, it's just a short walk back to your site and the campground is always alive with music from breakfast to the wee hours of the morning. You're welcome at any of the pickin' circles and you'll hear some very talented musicians as well as several of the festival artists who are camping for the weekend.

Singing in the campgroundCampingSinging in the campgroundSinging in the campground

If camping isn't your thing, the nearby Fischer Haus has B&B rooms (as well as a small campground with water and electric) and nearby Wimberley (20 minutes away) is loaded with a wide variety of lodging options - B&Bs, cabins, lodges, or motels.

Other Fun Rice Festival Stuff

If all of that isn't enough to get you beer and wine drinkers to attend, then hows this - for $5 you can buy a cup which is good for refills of beer or wine for the rest of the festival! Adjacent to the beer and wine was Asleep @ the Grill cooking some good BBQ, burgers, chicken fajitas, hot dogs, and pork. If you just happened to bring a bottle of vodka or rum, you could buy a buy a virgin frozen margarita or pina colada from Maui Wowi Hawaiian Smoothies. And to keep us going for the last sets, Imperial Coffee was selling coffee, espresso, cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

BBQ at Rice FesitvalMaui WowiImperial Coffee

During the festival there was a "Kids Fun Tent" set up in the camping areas for kids to enjoy some storytelling, songs, games, and to make a banjo and cardboard guitar. There was also a silent auction with the proceeds going to help fund a college scholarship. During the auction, which was in another building, John & Jimmie Whipple were performing for most of Saturday.

Highlights of Rice Festival

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Rice Fest and can't wait to do it again. Here are the highlights from our perspective:

  • the venue is unique and loaded with character and history - a perfect setting for a fun music festival
  • Sam Baker is always enjoyable and when he was joined by Carrie Elkin and her band it couldn't have been any better
  • how can you beat all the beer you can drink for the weekend for $5
  • I could have listened to Story Hill for another two days - great songs and perfect harmony and when they were joined on stage by Carrie, it just couldn't get any better
  • being able to walk less than 100 yards to our motorhome was perfect
  • Terri Hendrix and Llyod Maines are always one of our favorites and a joy to listen to
  • the Rice Festival fans are fun, friendly, and outgoing and it's a small crowd of true music fans - when the music starts it's perfectly quiet

Sam Baker & Carrie Elkin Story HillTerri Hendirix

Our sincere thanks go out to sound and stage guys, the MC, the "Bored of Directors"  (Jeff Gavin, West Warren, Dixie Watkins and Paul McCullar) and all of the volunteers from the beer servers to the merch booth to the staff who held flashlights to light our way across the street and back to the campground. Rice Festival was perfect and very well run. Can't wait for the 10th annual. See you there next year - get tickets early, there are only 300 or so and it typically sells out quickly. Oh, and don't forget about RiceGrass IV which is the spring fling that is held in March - same place with good times, a fun crowd, free camping, and a great lineup of Old Timey and Bluegrass music. 

MC for the weekendJeff Gavin Sound guysStaffing the beverage area


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