Old Settlers 2017 Music Festival

In early April I start getting ready for one of our favorite Texas Music Festivals - Old Settler's Music Festival in Dripping Spring. My preparation for the festival includes:

  • Old Settler's Music Festival 2017getting the motorhome ready for a fun week of camping - filled with gas, water, food, lawn chairs, and, of course, beer
  • practice sitting in a lawn chair or reclining in the grass for several hours a day listening to the radio - I need to condition my back and butt for the over 40 hours during the 4 days of music that I'll be sitting listening to music
  • walking around the block carrying a lawn chair, a cooler, and camera to get in shape for the hike from our campsite to the music stage - the neighbors think I'm nuts but I've got to get in shape for walking back and forth between the Old Settler's Music Festival venues
  • pulling out my list of people that I've met at previous festivals and trying to associate a face with the name so I don't have to say "hi guy"
  • doing an internet search of some of the artists in the festival line-up so I know which bands I don't want to miss
  • checking to make sure that my heavy jacket, gloves, raincoat, and mud boots still fit because 50% of the time it rains or is very cold at least one day
  • practice staying up later each night a week before the festival until I'm still full of energy at 3:00 AM when the music around the campfires starts to slow down and I can finally go to bed

This year was Old Settler's Music Festival 30th anniversary and it was a fantastic celebration - an unbelievable line-up, lots of friendly caring music loving fans and lots of great music in the campground and the music stages. Old Settler's Music Festival has always been known for "it's good vibe of happy, friendly people smiling and enjoying the music together and this year was no exception.

Camping at Camp Ben McCullock

Driftwood TexasCamping at Old Settlers Music FestivalAfter 3 weeks of the above exercises I was ready to go to Camp Ben McCulloch in the thriving metropolis of Driftwood just south of Austin. Camp Ben is the place to be for Old Settler's Music Festival camping, music around the campfires or in the pavilion, and to reacquaint with fellow festival fans and meet lots of new friendly folks. There are no designated campsites and it's first come first serve for electricity and a place to park your camper or pitch your tent. As such, a lot of campers come in several days in advance of the Festival to get a site with electricity. We came in on Monday and the campground was already very crowded.

If you've got an RV there are lots of places to park but you may or may not find something close to a water and 110 amp or 30 amp electric hook-ups. Bring an extension cord for both water and electric hook-ups. There is also no dump station. But camping is still the way to go - you can set up under some big oak trees, next to some cool people that you may or may not know until the second day of camping, and there are some great tent sites under the trees and next to the river.

Camping at Old Settlers Music FestivalCamping at Old Settlers Music FestivalCamping at Old Settlers Music Festival

Camping at Old Settler's Music FestivalCamping at Old Settler's Music FestivalCamping at Old Settler's Music Festival

Regardless of where you camp you'll find friendly people and as you stroll through the campground you'll always find some of the campers pickin', singin',and playin'. Anyone is welcome to pull up a chair, pop a cold beer, join the pickers circle, or just sit and enjoy the music.

Pickin' and Playin' at Old Settler's Music FestivalPickin' and Playin' at Old Settler's Music FestivalPickin' and Playin' at Old Settler's Music Festival

Driftwood, Wimberley, and Dripping Springs Things To Do

Coming in early before the Festival starts is always fun - reacquainting with friends, relaxing and enjoying getting away from work, or exploring Dripping Springs, Driftwood, or Wimberley. There are lots of wineries (there 12 within 10 miles of Camp Ben McCulloch) and breweries and a couple distilleries plus golf courses, some fun bars, good restaurants, and more within 25 minutes. On this trip we drove less than a quarter of mile to Lost Creek Winery to sample some good wine, played golf at nearby Grey Rock Golf Club, walked across the street from Camp Ben McCulloch to eat some excellent BBQ at the infamous Salt Lick, drove into Wimberley to check out Jacobs Well swimming hole, stopped to taste some wine and enjoy

Grey Rock Golf ClubDriftwood VineyardsJacobs Well

a fantastic view at Driftwood Vineyards, and enjoyed some great pickin' and singin' around the campfires. You shouldn't run out of things to do and best of all you'll have a better chance of getting a good campsite with water and electric if you come in early. We also enjoyed some excellent margaritas and good food at Flores, sipped a few good craft beers at Twisted X brewery, played some dominos, and listened to a good singer at a fun local bar in Dripping Springs called the Barber Shop where 275 people have stopped in and asked for a hair cut and not a cold beer and the local dog was passed out on the floor in front of the bar!

The Barber Shop Bar One two many beerssinger at The Barber Shop

Since we were close to Austin, we also got to zip into town and watch one of our grandsons play baseball on Tuesday and the other grandson play football on Wednesday. Not to brag, but I'm proud to say that the oldest grandson was 7 for 8 on passes with 3 touchdowns and the other grandson hit well (3 for 3 and 2 RBIs) and got several outs! Before we knew it, the Festival music was kicked off on Thursday night in the campground.


The Music at Old Settlers Music Festival

Jean Spivey is the executive director and co-producer of Old Settler's Music Festival and part of her responsibility is finding the artists to play the the festival and what a fantastic job she does each year that we have attended. This year for example:

  • there were over 35 very talented musicians/band playing for us and they came from Sweden to California and all points in between - North Carolina, Austin, Boston, Montana, California, Brooklyn, San Antonio, and Nashville for example
  • a nyckelharpaa large portion of the artists were award winners - several Grammy award winners and several winners of Lifetime Achievement Awards and International Bluegrass Music Association Awards plus award winners for best emerging artists, best folk album, hall of fame awards, best guitarist and best songwriter awards, instrumentalist of the year, and more
  • the variety of instruments that you'll hear is amazing - in addition to the standard keyboard, guitars, mandolins, banjos, and bass we heard a saw, bagpipes, trumpets and other horns, flutes, mandolin, washerboards, and a nyckelharpa which is a Swedish keyed fiddle
  • the genres of music also cover the spectrum - bluegrass gospel, rock, R&B, Tex-Mex, "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass," zydeco, jazz, cumbia, blues, classical, newgrass, gypsy, Celtic, folk, pop. and Irish and Scottish music including some rocking bagpipes

Out of this year's line-up I had seen only two bands at other venues or festivals (Shinyribs and Reckless Kelly), listened to seven others from previous Old Settler's Music Festival, and there were nine artists that we saw for the first time that absolutely knocked my socks off - like American Dreamer, Session Americana, Billy Strings, Gregory Alan Isakov, Shakey Graves, The Lone Bellow, and River Whyless for example.

As I mentioned come early and enjoy the music in the campground, which for this Festival started on Peter RowanWednesday night on the campground stage and included:

  • Rhythmic Statues with legend Peter Rowan - Americana Jam Band
  • Gravel Tooth - five rowdy and wild ingenious musicians
  • The Stumble Brothers - Alt-country jam experience that grew from a duo to a full on rock band
  • Lost Wages -at funk, rhythm and blues and functions band
  • Darrell Commander - self-taught keyboardist that is decidedly non-traditional and influenced by guitar and banjo players
  • plus three other local bands

Unfortunately, we missed it because we had no idea it was happening and had committed to seeing the grandson play football.

During the 4 days of music at Old Settlers, there are over 35 bands and singer songwriters that took the stage and, unfortunately, it's impossible to see them all. So the key is to study the program, read the bios, talk to people about their favorites, and then pick who you want to see. There are 4 stages - the Campground Stage, the Bluebonnet Stage, the Hill Country Stage, and the Discovery Stage which is all workshops. All of the stages are just a couple minutes down the road at Salt Lick Pavillion, a beautiful setting with grass, wood post fences, lots of trees, and Onion Creek.

Thursday's Music At Old Settlers

The Festival officially started on Thursday with music from the following on the Campground Stage:

  • American Dreamer - wow, they know how to make some beautiful music - professional classical musicians with songs that flow easily with intricate, lush harmonies, and expressive instrumentation with one foot in classical music and the other in folk
  • Session Americana - Boston based with music that covers the spectrum of American roots music from folk and country to rock and jazz - a real joy to listen to

American DreamerMusic fansSession Americana

  • Mandolin Orange - a North Carolina duo with graceful melodies and seamless, Appalachian harmonies
  • The Peterson Brothers - these 17 and 20 year old brothers have lots of raw energy and play blues with a groove
  • Billy Strings - named the 2016 Momentum Awards Instrumentalist of the year for guitar, banjo, and mandolin - enough said

The Peterson BrothersMandolin OrangeBilly Strings

The Campground Stage is my favorite stage because it attracts a smaller crowd, is much more intimate because you can stand right in front of the stage, and outside the covered pavilion are lots of oaks, picnic tables, and places to set up you lawn chair to listen to the music.

Highlights from Thursday were:

  • the free kegs of beer - a tradition since the start of Old Settler's 30 years ago
  • the American Dreamer and Session Americana were unbelievable
  • the campground stage where you can BYOB, get close to the front of the stage, and hear some great music
  • the cute beer-bellied bow legged little boy with no shirt and diapers coming out the top of his pants stole the show - he would run up to the front of the stage and start dancing, his dad would grab him before he wandered away, and a few minutes latter he was back and this went on for three days - the kid loves music

Little kid dancing at Old SettlersLittle kid dancing at Old SettlersLittle kid dancing at Old Settlers2the cute beer bellied bow legged little boy with no shirt and diapers coming out the top of his pants - he would run up to the front of the stage and start dancing

The Kids of Old Settler's Music Festival

Speaking of kids, Old Settler's Music Festival is very kid friendly and you'll find lots of them playing, sleeping, or enjoying the music. Old Setter's even has a Kids' Village at the Salt Lick Pavilion Festival areas and it has bungee trampoline, a mechanical bull, face painting, bounce house, petting zoo, inflatable slide and more. Plus there are a range of activities that include hands-on environmental education, games, art projects, musical instrument petting, and a few other things. At the campground there is a big playground, a face painter, balloon tier, basketball court, rope swing, and of course Onion Creek for swimming/wading.

kids at Old Settler's Music Festivalkids at Old Settler's Music Festivalkids at Old Settler's Music Festival

To encourage new generations of roots musicians Old Settler's Music Festival offers performance opportunities, scholarships, and a Youth Talent Competition on one of the stages where the winner gets to perform a set on the Bluebonnet Stage. A couple of the main stage artists were previous winners of the Youth Talent Competition, one of which was Sarah Jarosz who won a Grammy in 2017 for Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Performance.

So to honor the kids who we hope will continue their youthful enthusiasm for music and dancing, help keep the Old Settler's Music Festival going for several decades, and might one day achieve their dream of being a headliner on one of the Old Settler's Music stages, we dedicate this page to the Kids of Old Settler's Music Festival.

The Old Settler Lineup at Old Settler's Music Festival on Friday

Friday morning started with a Yoga Class in the campground followed by music by: Jan and Rose, Pearl and the Polka-dots, and Gal Dang It.

Jan and RosePearl & the PokadotsGal Dang It

The shuttle buses ran all day to get the campers from Camp Ben McCulloch to the Festival grounds which is just two minutes down the road at Salt Lick Pavilion where you'll find the Hill Country Stage, the Bluebonnet Stage, kids village, several food and merchandise vendors, the Discovery Stage, and beer and wine sales. You can bring your lawn chairs and blankets but no coolers, food, or alcohol. Food vendors sell everything from ice cream to gyros, Philly Cheesesteaks, hot dogs, pizza, and more.

Hill Country Stage

  • Lil' Smokies - they play an inclusive set pickin' and fiddlin' on everything from traditional staples to progressive newgrass wonders
  • Gaelic Storm - fun and lively with lots of audience participation and whimsical lyrics and elegant harmonies
  • Sam Bush - Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist and mandolin icon

Lil' SmokiesGaelic StormSam Bush

  • Gregory Alan Isakov - graceful interplay of banjo and guitar
  • Shakey Graves - a stark, blusey, pop sound

Gregory Alan IsakovShakey Graves

Bluebonnet Stage

  • Session AmericanaSession Americana - how special it was to get to see a second set from these first time visitors to Austin and fans loved it when they all got off the stage and came into the audience to sing a couple songs
  • California Honeydrops -their music draws on San Francisco Bay-area funk, R&B, and New Orleans blues
  • Reckless Kelly - adept at pairing melodies and lyrics together in ways that emphasize the emotions behind the words
  • Anders Osborne - Offbeat's Best Songwriter award four times and a three time winner of Offbeat Magazines Best Guitarist award
  • Leftover Salmon - "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass" with a style that is puree of bluegrass, Cajun, zydeco, blues, and jazz

Leftover SalmonReckless KellyAnderss Osborne

The music started at 4:00 and ended around 12 at which time the road to campground was closed and the after show march back to the campground started. Some of the highlights from Friday included:

  • the fun, affluent, well educated and friendly fans who are a large part of making this one of the best festivals and who are at the festival to listen to some great music, meet some new people, and have fun - several of the artists commented on what a special festival this was, how clean the fans kept the grounds, and how surprising it was not to see lots of police or big burley muscled security guards
  • what a great day of music - loved Gaelic Storm, Shakey Graves was outstanding as were the California Honeydrops
  • the sun was out all day, the temperature was perfect, and the stars were bright and shiney

Saturday - Another Fabulous Day of Music at Old Settler's Music Festival

Again, I missed the Yoga Class at 10 in the campground but I was one of the early arrivers to set up my chair for the music on the Hill Country Stage that started at 11 and included:

Hill Country Stage

  • Griffin Carter - last year's Youth Competition Winner with a percussive, Americana sound that leans toward blues-rock
  • Vasen - a Swedish band that blends the haunting, lonesome sounds of their homeland with modern infectious melodies and traditional Swedish instruments
  • Peter Rowand Bluegrass Jam with Wood & Wire - a blue grass legend playing with a head-turning blend of fiery footstompers from Austin's Wood & Wire

Griffen CarterViasenPeter Rowand and Wood and Wire

  • California Honeydrops - music that draws on Bay-area funk, R&B, New Orleans second line and Delta Blues
  • Elephant Revival - a combo of electric and acoustic strings and washboard rhythms that evokes elements of gyps, Americana, Celtic, and folk music
  • The Lone Bellow - vocals that fuses the earnestness of folk, the passion of gospel, and the foot-tappin catchiness of rock

California HoneydropsElephant RevivalLone Bellow

  • Del McCoury Band - always at the top of the bluegrass genre with multiple awards
  • Sarah Jarosz - this two time Grammy winner has persuasive melodies that define American sound
  • Los Lobos - four time Grammy winner that redefines American roots music with rock, cumbia, blues, and Tex-Mex

Del McCoury BandSarah JanoszLos Lobos

Bluebonnet Stage

  • Youth Talent Competition - 10 eight to eighteen year old musicians/songwriters vying for the opportunity to win some money, a short set on Saturday, and an opportunity to play at next years festival

Youth Talent CompetitionYouth Talent CompetitionYouth Talent Competition

  • The Honeycutters - from Asheville North Carolina they use electronic keyboards and steel guitar to create a versatile sound that ventures into rock and pop while still keeping the solid country foundation
  • Youth Talent Winner Set - unfortunately we didn't catch who won
  • Wood & Wire - a head-turning blend of fiery footstompers and loose acoustic jams
  • The Travelin' Mccoys -the chops to honor old school bluegrass hits with an obvious love of all music
  • Peter Rowan & Friends - Grammy Award Winner with haunting melodies, elaborate lyrics, and almost primal rhythms

The HoneycuttersWood & WirePeter Rowen & Friends

  • Nikki Lane - a gutsy country rock n' roll sound, lush with reverb and vintage strings
  • Old 97's - a sound that is both reckless and pop friendly with an explosive rock guitar
  • Shinyribs - a fun and lively country-soul-swampy-flip-your-hari-funk-performance

Nikki LaneOld 97sShinyribs

For most of the day there was plenty of activity at the Discovery Stage with Parent's Instrument Petting Zoo, Shaker Workshop, Workshop with the Travelin' McCourys, Songwriting with Sarah Jarosz, and meet the Vasen.

Saturday was full of musical highlights from several bands that we heard for the first time and absolutely loved - for example: California Honeydrops, The Lone Bellow, and the Honeycutters.

Sunday's Music at the Campground Stage

By Sunday morning I'm starting to feel the effects of lots of miles walking back and forth between stages and up to the front of the stage to take pictures, 29 hours of sitting in my chair listening to music, a couple too many beers, and a hoarse voice from singing and socializing. Next year I'll have to get in better shape. But I was confident that I could make it through what is traditionally my favorite day of music.

Sunday Music at Camp Ben McCulloch

  • Vasen - a Swedish band that blends the haunting, lonesome sounds of their homeland with modern infectious melodies and traditional Swedish instruments
  • River Whyless - haunting melodies, elaborate lyrics and almost primal rhythms made their show a celebration of diversity of sound
  • The Last Bandoleros - a unique amalgam of Tex-Mex and country rock infused with a Beatles sound - catchy and upbeat energy

VasenRiver WhylessLast Bandoleros

  • Elephant Revival - a combo of electric and acoustic strings and washboard rhythms that evokes elements of gyps, Americana, Celtic, and folk music
  • Shinyribs - a fun and lively country-soul-swampy-flip-your-hair funk-performance

Elelphant RevivalShinyribsShinyribs

Wow, what a way to end the 30th annual Old Settler's Music Festival - a beautiful day, a great bunch of fans, lots of dancing, and superb music that ended with Shinyribs leading a very long Congo line that twisted and turned through the pavilion and around the outside as band members stepped off the stage to join the crowd!!!!

Shinyribs congo lineShinyribs congo line

The highlights for Sunday include the friendly fun vibe, the free style dancing, Shinyribs, Elephant Revival, and we loved The Lost Bandoleros from San Antonio.

What a fantastic 30th annual Old Settler's Music Festival. Our thanks go out Jean Spivey (Executive Director) and Johnny Harvey (President of the Board), and the hundreds of staff and volunteers who make Old Settler's Music Festival one of the best festivals in Texas. See you next year.

Staff Staff


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