Old Settler's Music Festival 2016

Old Settler's Music Festival"What are all these people and campers doing at Camp Ben McCulloch - it's only Tuesday! They're here early to party, sing, pick, BBQ, reacquaint with friends, and have fun before the 29th annual Old Settler's Music Festival 'officially' kicks off on Thursday night in the campground." We thought we would get to Camp Ben McCulloch early to find a site near a water and electric hook-up - and we were surprised to find how many campers and tents were already set up. A couple people we talked to said they arrived on Thursday of last week!

There are no assigned sites - it's set up your campsite where ever you want on any of the 40 acres at Camp Ben McCulloch. We pulled into an open area near the entrance and within 5 hours we were surrounded by travel trailers and motorhomes and a huge white party tent, a large fire ring where several people sang and picked until the rain drove them into the tent, and an outdoor kitchen where the smell of bacon woke me up early the next morning. A large part of the fun at Old Settler's Music Festival is getting to know your fellow friendly campers who are always willing to share a story, offer a cold drink or a bite to eat, or invite you to sit and sing or pick with them around their campsite. So if you plan on attending Old Settler's music Festival next year you should consider camping.

Old Settler's Music Festival

What started 29 years ago with less than a 100 fans, a few bluegrass musicians, and a free keg of beer has now turned into a week long party with hundreds of campers, four stages with over 40 talented artists over 4 days, several food and merchandise vendors, and more than 20,000 music fans! Even though the Festival has grown there is still a keg (or 3) that's free when the music starts on Thursday night in the campground and the music has expanded to a wide variety of genres with award winning talent from around the world.

We've been coming to Old Settler's Music Festival for the last 10 years and it's clearly one of our favorite Texas music festivals because:

  • the music is outstanding and varies from bluegrass to country to folk to blues to pop and more - it's impossible not to listen to a genre that fits Old Settler's Music Festivalyour taste for music
  • the setting is beautiful with one of the stages under some towering trees and next to a creek with a waterfall and some of the tent camping is under the trees and along a creek that's perfect for swimming
  • the camping is tight but a blast and the campground is always alive with laughter, singin' and pickin', and the smell of food cooking on a grill or logs burning in a campfire
  • the music fans are friendly and outgoing and there to listen to, play music and have a good time
  • the VIP tickets are the way to go and they include backstage access plus free food, beer, wine, and drinks
  • the surrounding area has lots to see and do ranging from golf courses to wineries, distilleries, breweries, good restaurants, swimming holes, and more

Old Settler's Music Line-up for 2016

Thursday's Music At Old Settler's Music Festival

Campground Stage Line-up

  • The Accidentals - irresistible melodies and intricate harmonies helped to name this band to "Billboard's Breakout Band" at SXSW 2015
  • The HillBenders - edgy vocals of rock and sweet harmonies that elicit New Grass
  • Jitterbug Vipers - could be the only trippy-swingadelic 1930's rock band in the world

The AccidentalsThe HillBendersJitterbug Vipers

  • Brothers Comatose - a set replete with one lightening-quick song after another with a sound dubbed as punk bluegrass with raw energy
  • Della Mae - high energy show with emotive harmonies and world class musicianship

Brothers Comatosedella maeDella Mae

Thursday highlights were an extremely lively and enjoyable set by the Brothers Comatose from California and the opportunity to meet all of the fellow camper at the nose of our RV and getting invited to pull up a chair and sip a beer and enjoy some superb singin' and pickin' - and only having to stagger home less than 50 feet!

Walt Wilkins Another highlight was that the very accomplished and well-known musician Walt Wilkins showed up at our new friends campsite as a birthday surprise for one of the campers. Walt spent an hour or more pickin' and playin' and singin' with a group of very talented singers and musicians. What a fantastic hour of music. Don't miss an opportunity to see Walt Wilkins and The Mystiqueros - they play around Austin, Fredericksburg, and lots more nearby places.

Friday's Line-up at Old Settler's Music Festival

The bad news about attending Old Settler's Music Festival is that it's impossible (unless you only listen to 30 or so minutes of one band and then hustle over to the other stage) to catch all of the performing artists. Which means it's important to study the program which has a detailed description of each artist to decide who you want to listen to and we always talk to fellow music fans and get their opinions on some of their favorite artists. As hard as we tried we still missed several of the artists that we would have liked to listen to.

Campground Stage - Yoga Class and Korn Dog King Presents Picking for the Campers with several good local artists

Bluebonnet Stage

  • Della Mae - high energy show with emotive harmonies and world class musicianship
  • Deer Tick - an amalgam of Neil Young, Nirvana, and Spingsteen meets Tom Petty with Americana grunge
  • The HillBenders - they have transformed The Who's rock opera "Tommy" into and acclaimed bluegrass hit
  • The Suffers - a 10 piece band that specializes in a fusion of classic American soul with old-fashioned rock n' roll
  • Jeff Austin Band - hallmarked by seemingly effortless improvisation and an indefatigable passion to play

Della MaeDella MaeHillbenders

Hill Country Stage

  • Joelton Mayfield - an expressive tenor with a heart as open as his mind
  • Black Lillies - upbeat Americana, swampy R&B tunes, and country ballads
  • Rodney Crowell - a Grammy award winner with roots-inspired country

Joelton MayfieldBlack LilliesRodney Crowell

  • Hayes Carll - folk and gritty country melodies
  • Dawes - a sound and theme that ranges from glass half full optimism to soulful gospel to rocking tongue in cheek lyrics

Hayes CarllDawes

The Discovery Stage had workshops with The HillBenders; Kent Finlay (Dream reading and singing); and Della Mae doing a song writing workshop.

Friday's Highlights - what a great day of music: Hayes Carll is always enjoyable to listen to; Rodney Crowell was outstanding; and this was the first time we've seen the Dawes and we loved them. The HillBenders transformation of The Who's rock opera "Tommy" into an acclaimed bluegrass hit was outstanding. And the rain stayed away! We missed the After Show March from the stage area back to the campground. But we were full of energy when we got back to the campground and joined our fellow campers for drinks, music, and laughs until around 2:30.

The Music At Old Settler's Music Festival on Saturday

Bluebonnet Stage

  • Youth Talent Competition - the winner of the competition gets to play on the main stage next year
  • Sierra Hull - the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship
  • Carolyn Wonderland - an eclectic mix of driving tempos with lush, emotive vocals

Youth Talent CompetitorSierra HullCarolyn Wonderland

  • JayhawksDavid Ramirez - songs that go from smooth foottappers to steady ballads
  • Jay Farrar Trio - an alt-country genre that's both polished and raw
  • The Jayhawks - pioneers in the alt-country genre
  • Milk Carton Kids - their voices overlap and intertwine with grace and poignancy that echoes Simon and Garfunkel
  • Wood Brothers - dubbed the "masters of soulful funk"

Hill Country Stage

  • The Deer - at once lyrical, experimental and magnetic The Deer create psychotropic and vivid dream pop
  • Lonesome River Band -dynamic picking and gorgeous harmonies with element of country and progressive bluegrass
  • Green River Ordinance - they blur the line between country, rock, pop, and folk

The DeerLonesome River BandGreen River Ordinance

  • Dustbowl Revival - an eclectic blend of jazz, bluegrass, and swing
  • Earls of Leicester - they put their own mark on classic songs and giving listeners a bat-outta-hell joyride in a vintage car
  • Sarah Jarosz - the first Old Settlers' Youth Competition Winner in 2002 with emotive vocals and infectious melodies

Dustbowl RevivalEarls of LeicesterSarah Jarosz

  • ShinyribsShinyribs - high energy shows that are filled with a variety of interesting music and some unusual dance moves
  • Del McCoury Band - Grammy winners that bring boundless creativity to traditional music
  • Bob Schneider - a fun and lively singer-songwriter with elements of funk, country, rock, and reggae

Old Settler's Music Festival Highlights for Saturday included: a rousing performance by Shinyribs and very enjoyable sets by two bands we had never seen before - Green River Ordnance and Dustbowl Revival. Unfortunately, the cold drizzle of rain that started around 10:30 PM drove us back to our camper before one of our favorites (Bob Schneider) ended a great day of music at Old Settlers.

Campground Stage Line-up on Sunday at Old Settler's Music Festival

  • Lonesome River Band - dynamic picking and gorgeous harmonies
  • Honey Honey - this provocatively eclectic duo creates a collective sound that run the full spectrum of Americana music
  • Band of Heathens - carefully crafted songs and country-tinged Americana
  • Milk Drive - multi-instrumentalists that create a sound that combines bluegrass, jazz, and Western swing

Honey HoneyLonesome River BandMilk Drive

  • Shinyribs - a high energy show with Southern soul horns and rootsy strings create a sound of Gulf Coast funk that makes the audience move to the music


Highlights - to me the best day of music that I've enjoyed over the last 10 years at Old Settler's Music Festival has almost always been at the Camp Ben McCulloch campground stage on Sunday. I think it's because the setting is beautiful (an open air pavilion with tall trees and picnic tables outside the stage) and intimate (you can get up close to the artists) setting, the fans are there for the music, and the line-up is always fantastic. And this Sunday's line-up was no exception - everyone was outstanding and Shinyribs brought the house down and ended the festival leading a congo line of dancers around the outside of the pavilion and back across the stage. A fitting end to another fun Old Settler's Music Festival.

Camping At Old Settler's Music Festival

Camping is the best way to truly experience Old Settler's Music Festival - there is no worry about having to drive home as a campground shuttle bus will take you from the campground to the stage area; you'll get to meet some very friendly and outgoing music lovers; and it's impossible to beat the music in the campground that is continuous at various campsites from 10 AM to 4 AM.

Picking in the campgroundPicking in the campgroundPicking in the campground

Here is just a small example of the campground camaraderie we experienced this year - unbeknownst to us we parked in the outside edge of a group of 10 RVs (there were only two when we first arrived) that have been coming to Old Settler's and camping together for several years. In the center of their camp they set up chairs, a fire pit, two huge canopies, tables, and a big cooking grill. It was impossible not to get to know each of these 20 or so friendly folks and over the next few days they invited us to join them for pickin' and singin' (starting around noon and going on until after 2 PM), laughin' and story or joke tellin', enjoying a cold beer or margarita out of their margarita machine, or devouring a good breakfast (egg casserole, French toast, or eggs, bacon, and hash browns) as well as an early dinner, one of which was a crawfish boil with 120 pounds of crawfish, potatoes, corn, and more. Fun group of people and can't wait to join them next year.

120 Pounds of CrawfishFriendly neighborsMargarita machine

So if you're thinking about coming to Old Settler's next year, you should plan on camping. Campsites are not marked and they are on a first come first served basis and if you get there on a Friday afternoon, it may be hard to find a place to park a camper - there's always lots of room for tents down by the creek.

Camping at Old SettlersCamping at Old SettlersCamping at Old Settlers

Old Settler's Music Fans

Part of the fun of Old Settler's Music Festival is getting to know some of the fans or reacquainting with music lovers that you met last year. The fans range from 2 to 92, come from all walks of life, and seem to really love music. They're mature, fun loving, friendly, and outgoing.The Festival is very kid friendly, in fact the campground has a playground and the main stage area has lots of kids activities ranging from face painting to "get to know a musical instrument" to pony rides, bean bag toss, bounce house, petting zoo, and more.

Fans of Old SettlersFans of Old SettlersFans of Old Settlers

Click on this link to see more pictures from Old Settler's 2016 Music Festival

Hope to see you there next year!

Our thanks go out to Jean Spivey (executive director), Scott Marshall (president of the board), all the staff and hundreds of volunteers who make this a fantastic music festival. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Kids in a New Groove youth foster care organization, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, and the Center for Texas Music History. In addition, Old Settlers is committed to growing and supporting musicians who want to pursue a career in music and they offer scholarships as well as youth talent competitions.

Old Settler's  StaffOld Settler's  StaffOld Settler's  Staff

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