Texas Music Festival
Thomas Michael Riley's (TMR) annual music festival is one of the best music festivals in Texas and his sixth annual in Luckenbach was no exception. Typically, music festivals are just about the music, but Thomas Michael Riley's Music Festivals are about excellent music but also about:
- reacquainting with friends, making new friends, and getting to know the musicians - TMR's festival is like a family gathering and unbeknownst to you, you might be listening to the music next to one of the performing artists
- camping on the Redneck Riviera which is just a couple football fields from the music
- a small friendly group of outgoing music fans who attend each year for good music, lots of laughs, and some dancin' and drinkin'
- being somebody in Luckenbach ("where everyone is somebody") with all of it's character and charm including Virgil the security guard, really cold beer, t-shirts and souvenirs, and the best dance hall in Texas
- roosters and chickens (including chicken poop bingo for a good cause), dogs and cats, young kids, Army veterans, bikers dressed in their colors, and grandmas and grandpas all out for a fun few days of music
- "Holler 'n Swoller" as you sing along with Thomas Michael Riley
During the three days of music at Luckenbach, it's impossible to not meet someone new or reacquaint with someone you met from last year. The small music fan base of around 500 or so is here for music and good times and during the day is joined by hundreds of motorcyclists stopping in for a beer and music before continuing their tour of the surrounding beautiful hill country. The festival is just the right size where you don't feel crowded, you can still get up close to the stage, and the lines for food and cold beer are short. After playing, most of the musicians don't go hide in their bus, they mingle with the crowd, enjoy a cold beer, and sit and enjoy the music. And the ultimate socializer, Thomas Michael Riley, is continuously meetin' and greetin,' sharin' a cold beer or good story, or huggin' and laughin' with the fans. He seems to know, or wants to get to know, the vast majority of the people who attend the festival. What a sincere, friendly, and outgoing guy - you can't help but love him. Oh, and he's also a very good singer songwriter!
If you're planning on attending the festival, you've got lots of options for lodging. You can dry camp (for a $15 fee) on the Redneck Riviera Sponsors around a cluster of oak trees about 500 yards from the stage. After the music ends you can continue the party with singing around the campfire - this year it included Hal Ketchum, a couple guys with fantastic voices from Houston, several music fans, and TMR. In fact, TMR confirmed it on Sunday morning from behind sun glasses shading his blood shot eyes that the party went on until 5:30 and ended with Hal Ketchum sleeping on the floor of one of the RVs - he had a nice cabin reserved, which was only 3 miles from the festival, but none was in shape to drive him there!
Less than a mile from Luckenbach is the Armadillo Farm Campground - a rustic small hill country campground with water and electricity and a few sewer hook ups or five miles from the stage is the fantastic Fredericksburg KOA Campground with full hook-up sites and several cabins. Fredericksburg, which is about 10 miles west of Luckenbach, is home to several campground, lots of B&Bs, motels, and other unique lodging. So make it a weekend if you plan on attending next year.
As mentioned, one of the things we love about the festival are the music fans. It's a small, friendly group of older music lovers but ranges from young kids to seniors. They are quiet and respectful of the artists when the music starts, love to drink beer and have fun, and they're outgoing and friendly. Doesn't get much better than that!
How can you beat live music in Luckenbach? To paraphrase John Steinbeck, Luckenbach is a "State of Mind" where you can kick back, relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life - it's like stepping back in time. Within the only city block is a feed store (grill with everything from delicious curly fries to sausage and burgers), a beer joint, a post office that was converted to a store with lots of souvenirs, an outstanding outdoor stage under the oaks, a blacksmith shop that now sells hats, and the infamous Luckenbach dance hall where everyone from Pat Green to Willie Nelson to Jerry Jeff Walker to Waylon Jennings has played since the town was founded in 1849. There is always something going on in Luckenbach year round from picker's circles, to dances, to major festivals and events.
The population of Luckenbach is 6 but there must be over 100 if you count the chickens and roosters that mingle with the crowd, seem to enjoy the music, and love to be the center of attention in "chicken poop bingo" where the music fan bets on which square the chicken will poop on - all of the funds go to a good cause. And the roosters and chickens seem to enjoy the music and always climb up in the oak trees above the stage to get the best view in the house.
In addition to all that, Thomas Michael Riley's 6th Annual Music Festival had a fantastic lineup. Thursday night, to say thanks to the sponsors who help make this festival possible, TMR, Chris Wall, and Larry Nye played for about 3 hours at the historic Cave Creek School. What a enjoyable evening - TMR is always fun and entertaining, Larry Nye has to be one of the most accomplished guitar players in Texas, and Chris Wall is an excellent singer songwriter with lots of funny stories coupled with a great wit and sense of humor. For example, when a beagle with long flapping ears meandered casually up the steps and onto the stage some of Chris's comments were: "I remember the days when it was pretty women rushing the stage," "did you see those ears," and "I guess our show's gone to the dogs." An entertaining evening under the moon and stars that we hated to see end.
Friday the music kicked off at 4 on the small outdoor stage with:
- Jake Martin - a young songwriter with an old soul and his writing carries a pureness and a quiet integrity wrapped in the lonesome imageries of the heart of a true cowboy
- Dirty Pesos - a very pleasant surprise from the resonant baritone voice of Tom McElvain, a singer's singer, and his accomplished dynamic band
Around 6 the fans migrated to the Luckenbach Dance Hall (which is only 50 yards from the outdoor stage) to listen to:
- Thomas Michael Riley - you just can't beat his songwriting skills with songs ranging from "Redneck Riviera" to "Cow Pasture Golf" to "Holler 'n Swoller " to "Perfectly Normal," his spirited music, and his wonderful sense of humor
- Hal Ketchum - backed by Kenny Grimes on guitar, Hal was enjoyable as he sang a mix of new and old hits like "Small Town Saturday Night," "Past the Point of Rescue" and "Hearts Are Gonna Roll"
- Max Stallings - Max puts on a dynamic live show that’s smart, charming, and as listenable as it is danceable
On Saturday we drug our bodies out of the camper and down to the outdoor stage in time to catch the 1:00 start of a full day of music with:
- The Rankin Twins - these two identical twins put on a lively and entertaining set with songs full of life and promise
- blacktopGYPSY - the blacktopGYPSYs never disappoint and Heather's fiddle playing is unbelievable, what a joy to listen to (and watch)
- Larry Joe Taylor - a good 'ole country Texas boy influenced by Guy Clark, Bob Dylan, Jerry Jeff, and the Doors with songs about the Texas coast and "ya got to love it" coastal theme with a familiar calypso beat - check out his Rhymes & Vines and Texas Music Festival, two fantastic multi-day music festivals
- Tejas Brothers - recognized as one of the consummate entertainers, Dancing Dave Perez, just released a new CD (Live a Little More) that is fantastic and his set highlighted a lot of the new songs - a lively, entertaining, set with some great music
- Thomas Michael Riley - it doesn't get much better than TMR playing with Heather Stalling's fiddling, Larry Nye and Kenny Grimes on guitar, Rick Boss, an excellent harmonica player, and a rousing song with Hal Ketchum
- Daryl Dodd - he's always fun, lively, and full of energy and he seems to have as much fun on stage as the fans he's entertaining
If that wasn't enough, the music continued around the campground until the wee hours of the morning but stopped in time for Sunday's lineup on the small outdoor stage:
- Davin James - excellent guitar playing, outstanding original songs, lots of enthusiasm, and a deep baritone voice pretty much sum up this enjoyable performance
- Thomas Michael Riley - even after hearing him two previous times during the festival, he was still entertaining and sang a lot of great songs
Some of the highlights from this years Thomas Michael Riley Music Festival were:
- the fun, friendly fan base of music lovers and the ambiance of Luckenbach
- Larry Joe was in rare form and what a great set as he was joined by TMR, Larry Grimes, and Chris Wall singing and dancing to his hit "Trashy Women"
- we love the Tejas Brothers and they never disappoint us - but our favorite is when Dave and Larry Joe sang "7 Spanish Angels"
- Thomas Michael Riley played all three days and we never get tired of his wit, great songs (he has written over 500 songs and knows another 1000!), and outgoing friendly attitude and contagious laugh
- Chris Wall had us laughing at his humor and quick wit
This festival wouldn't be half the fun if it wasn't for all the hard work by Thomas Michael and Courtney Riley, Linda Worley the festival chairwoman, Ray, the sound man, Virgil on security, the bartenders, and lot more dedicated souls - thanks!
Wow, what a fun time - hope to see you there next year.