This years Larry Joe Taylor's Fall Fest was unique in many ways and it was a miracle that it was even held. Larry Joe and staff had to jump through a lot of hoops to make this a safe and fun festival thanks to all of the COVID-19 restrictions. Just a few of the restrictions included: the stage grounds had to be enclosed with fencing with two entrances and no more that 500 tickets could be sold; chairs and canopies had to be within specific marked areas that were safely spaced apart; everyone had to wear a mask and maintain social distancing when not seated; hand sanitizers had to be strategically placed throughout the grounds; dancing or hanging out in front of the stage was prohibited; no more than 3 musicians could be on the stage at the same time; and no outside food or drink was allowed in the stage area.
All of that didn't stop us from having a great time and enjoying some excellent music. In fact, some of the restrictions made the festival more enjoyable - it was a much smaller crowd than normal and no one was loud or rowdy; the spacing for chairs and canopies was well organized and gave everyone lots of room to spread out; there were three bar stations and the buckets of beer were cold and the lines were never long; the front of the stage was empty so everyone had a great view of the musicians; and the campsites were well marked and seemed more spacious than normal. The only downside was it was difficult to talk, sing, and drink with a mask on: there was no hugging, back slapping kissing, or handshaking as we greeted old friends; and some of the performers were missing their full band. For several of the artists this was their first real paid gig with a live audience in several months - and you could tell that they were happy to be back performing again and the fans were excited to get out of the house, camp, socialize with old friends, and listen to some great live music. Our heartfelt thanks to Larry Joe, Sherry, Zack, and Martha Taylor and all the staff and volunteers for making this happen. We loved it!
Each year, Fall Fest starts with a singer songwriter competition and this over 300 singer songwriters applied to enter the contest and 30 were chosen to perform at the festival over the 4 days of the festival. The winner of the contest gets to play at next years Fall Fest. Some of the contestants included: Ox Martin, Alex Belin, Della Roase, Dustin Brown, Lank Rudolf, Robert Irvin, Travis Bolt, Tyler Rodgers, Bar Ditch Hippies, and Madison Rodges. Winners or participants that have played on the main stage at Fall Fest or LJT's Texas Music Festival include - Jarrod Morris, Cole Risner, John D. Hale, Parker McCollum, Dalton Domino, Luke Wade, Kody West, Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry, Randall King, and Kaitlin Butts.
The music started on Wednesday afternoon with several of the Songwriter Competition semi-finalists. All of the acts during this year's Fall Fest were acoustic performances and limited to no more than three musicians on stage at once.
Following the contestants were:
On Thursday afternoon was another round of the Songwriter Competition
which was followed by:
Fridays line-up included:
Saturday started with one of my favorite parts of Fall Fest - Bloody Mary Morning with Larry Joe Taylor and Davin James. Davin and Larry Joe have been good friends for years and the used to tour together as "James Taylor" to attract a larger crowd - at least that's what they claim after a few stories and Bloody Marys! Together they are hilarious - telling stories and tall tails, bantering back and forth, and laughing at each other plus swapping some songs. My eyes were watering and my cheeks and stomach hurt from laughing so much! Very good time from two of the best.
Following that performance was the finals for the Songwriter Showcase which included: Robert Irvin, Travis Bolt, Tyler Rodgers, Bar Ditch Hippies, Alex Bellin, and Madison Rodges. The winner of the Songwriter Showcase was Bar Ditch Hippies. They won a guitar, time in LJT's recording studio, and a time slot at next years Fall Fest.
The final night of music included:
What an excellent four days of music! We hated to see it end.
Ticket sales were limited this year which made it fun for those of us lucky enough to buy tickets early. This year's fans ranged from 3 years old to over 75 and all were very respectful and quiet when the music started. In fact, at times you could hear a pin drop, well maybe not a pin but a good sized boulder and I had to check to make sure everyone was still awake! COVID-19 restrictions prohibited what is normally a lot of back slapping, hugging, high fiving, dancing, and occasional kisses as fans reacquaint with friends, family, and people they've met at previous festivals. But it was great to see everyone and at least say hi and sit and chat for awhile. And everybody was happy to be out and listening to some great Texas music.
When we first started camping at LJT's Melody Mountain Ranch for his Texas Music Festival and Fall Fest there were less than 20 sites with water and electricity and there very few designated well marked sites. Melody Mountain Ranch is over 300 acres and there are now over 200 sites with water and electricity and for Fall Fest all the sites are well staked out with the campers name on the stakes - which made it much easier to get into and out of your site. Each site is spacious and big enough to allow you to spread out and set up your chairs, grills, games, and have room for picking parties around the campfire and into the early morning! Some of the sites are close enough that you can sit in your lawn chair under your awning and listen to the music - and the rest of the sites are a short walk to the stage. The campground is always alive with music, laughter, games, and the smell of bacon in the morning and BBQ grills smoking some type of meat the rest of the day. You can wander through the campground and always find a group picking and singing from after breakfast to just before the sun rises - and everyone is welcome to pull up a chair, pop a beer, and strum or sing along.
Thanks to COVID-19 we weren't allowed to bring in any outside food or beverages. Three vendors were set up inside the perimeter of the stage area and served burgers, BBQ, pizza, and more. Three bar stations were set up and served liquor, frozen margaritas, wine, soft drinks, and water.
Fall Fest has always demanded a lot of planning, hard work, and lots of staff and volunteers - but this year it was even harder due to the COVID-19 restrictions. I know that all of the musicians were very appreciative for the opportunity to play in front of a live audience and for some musicians this was their first paid gig in several months. Thanks again to Larry Joe, Sherry, Zack, and Martha Taylor for making this festival fun and painless for all of us!