The first week of June for the last several years we've anxiously awaited to get another fix of Thomas Michael Riley (TMR) at his annual Thomas Michael Riley's Music Festival in Luckenbach. Ok I admit it - we love Thomas Michael Riley with his infectious full face smile, huge deep laugh, quick wit and humor, outgoing friendly personality, and tall handsome good looks (this may be an exaggeration, we don't want him to get cocky). And his festival is a true reflection of his personality - as he states "it's about good music and good people. Over 3 years ago we got rid of all the ass holes and now all we have left are good people at the Festival" and it's true - his fans are friendly and outgoing and love music and a fun party! I think TMR knows them all, or is trying hard to get to know them all - during the entire festival instead of hiding out backstage he is mingling with the crowd warmly greeting first timers and hugging, kissing, back slapping, laughing, or sharing another story with people he's met before. And then there is his music which includes over 500 songs that he's written all of which are unique. During his sets you'll want to dance, sing along, stand up and join in with a "holler and swaller", wipe tears from your eyes, or laugh so hard your belly hurts. What a great vibe that lasts the entire festival! And no, I do not want to marry TMR, I'm happily married!
Luckenbach's the perfect place for TMR's festival - like him (albeit a little older!) it's funky, friendly, laid back, unique, and a great place to drink lots of beer and it's always filled good folks, great music, and good times, plus T-shirts and other paraphernalia that states "everybody's somebody in Luckenbach." It's a perfect place for a small intimate music festival like TMR's Festival which gets around 700 people over the three days. The outdoor stage has rows of bench seats 3 feet in front of the stage, lots of trees for shade, plenty of picnic tables, and the bar is just steps away! The dance hall is world renowned and hasn't changed much since it opened for live music and dancing in 1887. Over time the walls have heard music from Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and lots of other great artists.
Luckenbach has a funky bar, a gift shop, an outside beer stand, and a feed store that serves everything from grilled cheese to pork sandwiches to burgers or sausage wraps. You can also buy a cowboy/cowgirl hat, a pearl snap shirt, some jewelry, or lots of Luckenbach souvenirs.
This year's 10th annual festival started on Wednesday night with a pre-party on Hondo's cool outdoor patio on Main Street in Fredericksburg. Unfortunately we couldn't make it and heard it was outstanding. Thomas Michael Riley, Tommy Alverson, and Tom McElvain found it a little confusing to understand who was being referred to when someone would say "play this one Tom!"
Thursday night Thomas Michael Riley hosted a party for the sponsors of the Festival. This year is was held at the historic Cave Creek School - TMR treated us to cold beer, whiskey, vodka, wine, chicken express and the fixings, plus lots of delicious homemade desserts! I must have sampled most of them because the next morning my tummy was a little swollen! While we ate and drank, Max Stalling, Heather Stalling (wow, can she play the fiddle!), and TMR entertained us. A fun evening with good music, good people, and good food. Next year you should consider getting VIP tickets
Friday the music started on the little outdoor stage at 1 and them moved to the main stage at 6:30and the line-up included:
Prior to the music starting in the Dancehall, Jason Aldeen played an excellent acoustic set in the sponsor area where the Riley's had set up tables and chairs plus free beer, wine, and water in back of the dancehall. A perfect setting under the shade trees for an acoustic set.
With a little bit of a fuzzy head, we were back in our lawn chairs at 12:00 on Saturday to listen to a great day of music from:
Before the music started with Davin James in the Dance Hall, Dave Thomas had a great set in the sponsor area with some of his best songs - hard to beat that! TMR closed the festival with an excellent set and then music started again in campground and went on 'till 4 or so!
The late night party animals slept in as late as possible but arrived in time for Sunday's music at 1:00 with:
Every Sunday at 5:00 Luckenbach sponsors a picker's circle where anyone can join in and sing and pick. Everyone we heard was really good!
As Thomas Michael Riley said several times during the festival he's sure happy to hang out and sing for such a great group of music fans. His fans are a mix of all ages but generally speaking it's an older group in their 40's and 50's that are outgoing, friendly, and fun. No beer throwing (who wants to waste a good beer), no rowdy behavior, and no fist fights - and no need for security! The fans love TMR and his music and fellow artists plus they love to drink, dance, and have fun! It's a small festival with around 700 people over the three days and it never feels crowded, it's easy and quick to get another beer or a burger, there's lots of room on the dance floor, and plenty of room to sit and listen to the music - it just doesn't get any better. The Festival is also kid and dog friendly plus lots of free roaming chickens and this year in attendance was even a pork belly pig with pink painted toenails.
Luckenbach is about 8 miles east of Fredericksburg and is home to lots of lodging options for the festival - you'll find plenty of hotel, lots of B&Bs, and several unique lodging options. From our perspective the best way to enjoy the festival is to camp and not have to worry about driving home after the music ends and the party begins in the campground. 15 to 20 fellow campers circle around TMR's motorhome on a small hill under a cluster of trees 700 yards from the entrance to the Dance Hall in what TMR has labeled the "Red Neck Riviera." There are no designated sites and no hookups but if you get there early you can tie into a rental generator for a fee to help defer the rental cost. Shortly after the music stops in the Dance Hall the artists who are camping (like TMR and Dave Thomas and others) migrate to TMR's campsite for some pickin', singin', drinkin', and having fun which on Friday and Saturday night lasted until around 4 AM. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay up that late but several people told us that it was a blast with lots of excellent music - 30 to 40 singers and pickers and several other fellow music lovers gathered to listen to the music. Maybe next year we can keep our eyes open a little longer! If you don't want to dry camp in the Red Neck Riviera, there are several full hook-up campgrounds (see this Fredericksburg Camping Map) within 10 miles of Luckenbach.
If you're planning on coming next year, you should consider being a sponsor. Sponsor programs vary from solo to group to a private reserved table at the front of the stage in the Dancehall. You'll get to enjoy some sponsor only music, free food, and drinks plus get to meet some of the artists at the sponsor party and backstage during the festival and you'll get a coveted TMR festival tee shirt - I have a whole collection and my wife claims I wear one of them every day!
It's hard to pick a couple highlights when everything was great, but here goes:
Our thanks go out to three of the greatest people in Texas - Thomas Michael Riley, Courtney Riley, and Linda Worley who spend lots of time and effort to make sure this festival is fun for all of us! See you next year.