Review of the 12th Annual Fischer Fest - 2015

Fisher FestWow, what a fantastic Texas Music Festival and I'll expand on five reasons in this review why we can truthfully say that Fischer Fest is one of the best music festivals in Texas - it's got a superb line-up, really cool venue, free camping, good food, and great fans. Read on to learn more.

Fischer StoreFischer Fest, the 12th annual "Gathering of our Company of Friends", is held in Fischer Texas, which was founded by

    founded by German emigrants in the 1850’s and is currently an agricultural community consisting of the Fischer Store (established in 1866 is a tin building that once served as the post office, bank, and saloon); Fischer Haus - which was built in 1908 is a historic Country Victorian Farm Haus that is now a vacation B&B rental (perfect place to stay during the Festival) and home to some outstanding small music events throughout the year; Fischer Hall, and the adjacent Fischer Bowling Club which is a nine pin bowling alley with young kids as pin setters! The Bowling Club brought back memories of when I was a pin setter getting 15 cents an hour and had no career path!

    #1 - A Really Cool Venue at Fischer Fest

    Inside Fischer HallFischer Hall Fischer Fest is held in Fischer Hall which was built in the 1880s because the townspeople found it too difficult to get along with their neighbors at the dances in nearby Cranes Mill. They brought in Al Kloepper, a one-eyed master carpenter from New Braunfels, who was known for crafting the kind of strong and graceful arches which soar across the Fischer Hall's open ceiling. Worn wood floors, gaps between the wall siding, white Christmas lights, a tin roof, all wood raised stage, wood slat wood panel windows that open by pulling a rope or swing out on an old hinge, and wooden arches all give Fischer Hall a lot of character and make it very popular for dances, music events, weddings, and more. Bench seating is around the walls and for Fischer Fest around 150 folding metal chairs are set up in rows for the audience. The acoustics are great and wherever you are within the Hall you've got a good view of the stage. Under the same roof are some ancient restrooms and a room used for t-shirt and CD sales and a meet and greet with the artists after their set. If you're familiar with Gruene Hall, I think Fischer is much cooler and has a lot more character. Bottom line, it's an intimate, cool setting for a music festival.

    Yard bird seatingFischer HallSet off on the left side of Fischer Hall and under the sprawling oaks is an area for yard bird seating for the festival - tickets are less expensive and it's bring your own lawn chair - you can hear the music and you'll have a restricted view of the stage through a side door and two windows. Out the other side of Fischer Hall is a concrete patio and tables and chairs, the beer and wine sales, what used to be a barn, the vendor food trucks, and then the bowling alley. The barn served as a second stage with some music each evening and it was also home to some art work and a silent auction with the benefits going to the Rice Harrington Art Scholarships.

    #2 - A Phenomenal Fischer Fest Music Line-up

    Previously known as Rice Fest, this year's Fischer Fest kicked off with the Inaugural Fischtivarian Goodtimes Parade at 5 on Friday. Nowhere else would you see such a unique concoction of parade stuff - a whale, some canoes, parade members tossing beads, 3 horses, three flag bearing marching soldiers, and a trailer full of Slim Richey fans with his customary big sun glasses A fitting way to kick off this year's Fischer Fest.

    ParadeFischer Fest ParadeParade at Fischer Fest

    Slim RicheySpeaking of Slim, he passed away on Memorial day 2015 and this years Festival was dedicated to him. Slim was one of the first artists to play the Festival and he played at every one - either on stage or jamming in the parking lot or campground. Slim was 77 when he passed and was an American jazz guitarist, fiddle player, and bandleader best known for his long white beard, unique sun glasses, and electric guitar style that crossed genres from jazz to swing to country. Jason Lawson, a local glass artist that lives and operates his studio in Fischer painted a fantastic picture of Slim that watched over us during the entire festival - Slim was here in Spirit!

    Friday's Music at Fischer Fest

    This year's Fischer Festival started on Friday around 6 right after the Fischtivarian Goodtimes Parade with:

    • Ellis - funny and wise, thoughtful and uninhibited with a captivating voice and infectious smile and laugh
    • Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Award Winners - a song swap with Tom Meny, Amy Kucharik, Wes Collins, David Berkeley, Ann Tivel, and Becky Warren - a set we hated to see end

    EllisDavid BerkeleyBecky WarrenAnna TivelAmy KucharikTom Merry

    • Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin - Danny is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics and gypsy spirit Carrie has incredibly soulful and dynamic vocals
    • Slaid Cleaves - a beautiful and dusty yearning voice with songs about the working class and romantics

    Slaid Cleaves

    Wow, what a fantastic evening of music - we hated to see it come to an end. Within an hour the campground came alive with singing and picking and laughing around the campfire. I don't know what time it concluded but I know it was still going strong at 3:30.

    Fischer Fest Line-up on Saturday

    Several fellow campers didn't get much sleep and looked a little groggy eyed when the music kicked off at 12:15 on the main stage with:

    • Wood & Wire - this Austin based bluegrass band is a culmination of distinct musical personalities with heartfelt performances
    • Kevin & Dustin Welch - we've see them before, but this set was incredible and mesmerizing
    • Steve Smith & Hard Road - very distinctive voices with a blend of Southwestern roots and bluegrass

    Wood & WireKevin & Dustin WelchSteve Smith & Hard RoadSteve Smith & Hard RoadSteve Smith & Hard Road

    • Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboys - heartbreaking ballads, hell raising sing along's from Jonathan who is a preachers son, Gulf War veteran, and award winning songwriter from North Carolina
    • John Fullbright - hailing from the home of Woody Guthrie, John's outstanding singing, songwriting, and playing guitar, harmonica, and piano have won him national acclaim
    • Tim O’Brien - a master of American folk music, Irish music, and Scottish music

    Jonathan ByrdJohn FullbrightTim Obrien

    • Shinyribs - unbelievable, you've got to see one of Shinyribs shows to believe this full of energy group with lively, foot stomping, belly-laughing, hand clapping, entertaining, and song slinging that's a mix of country-soul, swamp-funk, and tickle

    Shinny RibsShinny RibsShinny Ribs

    With a sore belly and cheeks from laughing so hard at Shinyribs, we meandered on over to hear some more music around the campfires before heading back to the motorhome to get some rest for Sunday's lineup.

    Sunday's Music at Fischer Fest

    • The Kerley Girls - a Texas hill country sister band that plays fiddle tunes, swing music, and jazz
    • MilkDrive - a fantastic set from an Austin based very talented team of skilled multi-instrumentaists versed in a variety of musical styles

    Kerley GirlsKerley GirlsMilk DriveMilk DriveMilk DriveMilk Drive

    Ghosts Along The BrazosGhosts Along The BrazosGhosts Along The BrazosGhosts Along The BrazosJitterbug Vipers

    While the music was playing in Fischer Hall on Friday evening 3 Hands High, Pat Green (not the Pat Green you're thinking about), and Rose & Judy entertained fans on the small Barn Stage. Saturday on the Barn Stage included: Pat Green, The Backbone Howlers, Eric Gerber, John & Jimmie Whipple, Bubba & Patsy Brown, Jeffro Greasewood, and Rose & Judy.

    Barn StageBarn StageBarn Stage

    And as I've mentioned earlier, the music doesn't end after the last set on Friday and Saturday, everyone is invited to pick and play and sing under the stars at tent with a fire ring set up in the campground. You'll hear some very accomplished singers, great pickers, and even some of the main stage artists. And music goes on until the wee hours of the morning! And you'll always find a group of campers singing and playing around their campsite.

    Music in the campgroundMusic in the campgroundCamping in the campground

    #3 - Free Camping at Fischer Fest

    The Fischer Fest camping is in a large multi-acre ranch property which is across the street from Fischer Hall. There are no hook-ups but generators are allowed in a designated generator area. One section of the ranch has a port-a-potty and a couple picnic tables and some big trees to camp under. The rest of the property is an open field where you'll find everything from tents to vintage trailers to pop-ups to some huge $300,000 motorhomes.

    camping at fischer festCamping at Fischer Fest Campingcamping at Fischer Fest

    #4 - Tasty Food & Drinks at Fischer Fest

    Wheelie GourmetThe original with Gyro MeatThe campground is BYOB but your food and drinks aren't allowed on the grounds around Fischer Hall. Don't worry, they sell beer (3 or 4 tasty craft beers) plus Bud Light and wine. And beer was only $2 a cup!!!

    Out the side door of Fischer Hall three food trucks were set up to keep us well fed. Wheelie Gourmet was my favorite - they specialize in Moroccan Street Food and I had "The Original" which was a juicy gyro with lamb, feta, their special seasoned slaw, tzatziki sauce, pickled red onions. It was so good, my next meat was "The Chika, Chicka, Bang Bang" - chicken slowly cooked in Moroccan spices, olives and preserved lemons on a bed of their seasoned slaw, feta cheese and garnished with red pickled red onions and parsley. In addition to Wheelie Gourmet there was a food trunk selling ice cream and another (KHILL BBQ) selling BBQ - ribs, sausage, pork, and beef. You could also perk yourself up with some good espresso from Imperial Coffee Company of which John Imperial is the proprietor.

    #5 - The Fans are Great

    A large part of what makes Fischer Fest fun are the festival fans - most are older and clearly enjoy music and good times. Kids are welcome, dancing is encouraged, and the motto is have some fun. When the music starts the chit chat stops and everyone listens to the music.

    Parade membersFans of Fischer FestFans of Fischer Fest

    Fans of Fischer FestFans of Fischer FestFans of Fischer Fest

    Fans of Fischer FestFans of Fischer FestFans of Fischer Fest

    And The Awards Go To

    This year it was hard to pick just a select few award winners, because everyone from the fans to the staff to the musicians was well deserving of an award. But this year our awards goes to:

    • Band With the Most Smiley Faces - no question, the winner was Ghosts Along the Brazos because every one of the 5 band members was always smiling and they seemed to really enjoy playing for us
    • Most Unusual Dance Moves And Best Congo Line Leader - hands down, Kevin Russell with Shinnyribs dances home with this award - every song he sings features some very unique and unusual dance move and everyone joined in as he led us in a Congo Line and through a tunnel of hands
    • Most Infectious Personality - a couple artists came close, but nobody could beat Ellis

    All of the Ghosts along the Brazos had infectiious smilesShinny Ribs and the end of the Congo DanceEllis

    • Best Cold Beer for only $2 - I drank a lot of them but don't remember which one I liked best so the award goes to all three of the different Solid Rock Brewing Company craft beers
    • Best Butt Bumper Sticker - the Jitterbug Vipers bassist player with a bumper sticker across her back side that stated "Ass to the People"
    • Most Delicious Sandwich - Wheelie Gourmet's Chika, Chicka, Bang Bang
    • Best Picking and Singing Around the Campground - don't know the names, but they were great

    Best Butt Bumper StickerWheelie Gourmet SandwichPicking around the campground

    • Best Female Vocalist - Carrie Elkin runs away with it
    • Best Male Vocalist - I really enjoyed David Berkeley from Santa Fe as he sang some of his songs as part of the song swap with the Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Award Winners
    • Best Duo - Kevin and Dustin Welch had an outstanding set
    • Most Unusual Instrument - we heard lots of different instruments from flutes to mandolins to trumpets and sax but the xylophone and an Eskimo from north of the Arctic Circle playing a Shiner Beer box wins the award - a close second was the thing played by Ghosts along the Brazos

    Carry ElkinWierd instrument

    Our thanks to Dennis Hubbard, the Mayor of Fischer and the President of the Fischer Fest Bored (yes, that's spelled correctly) and all the staph (I know, but that's how they spell it at Fischer Fest) and volunteers who worked so hard to make this years festival fun for all the rest of us.

    Fischer Fest tickets go on sale May 1st at  Don’t delay as there is a limited number of seats in the Hall. See ya next year.

    Dennis HubbardSome of the StaphSound man

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