Vacationing in the Live Music Capital

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Last week I made the last minute decision to visit some friends in Austin Texas. As a fan of live music, vacations, and visiting friends it had always bothered me that I hadn’t made it out there. So I pulled the trigger with some day before departure tickets for an extended 4th of July weekend.

This technically isn’t a review, because I WAS ON VACATION, but I had so much fun and there was so much music everywhere (heck I went to two music festivals) I felt it would be a discredit to my readers, music and the city of Austin to not say a few words. And if you’re wondering why there is no photo gallery, one word: vacation.

In 1991 Austin trademarked the slogan Live Music Capital of the World because they have more live music venues for capita than any other place on earth. And literally every single place has live music. Its as if you can’t get a liquor license without having a stage. Every genre every night. Bands you’ve heard of are playing somewhere in town, not to mention all the bands that are people you know, just playing for their love of music.

As I stated earlier I went to two music festivals. The first was on The Lone Star Texas Heritage Music Festival on Thursday night at Stubbs . Matthew Logan Vasquez , Girl in a Coma, Okkervil River, and Shovels and Rope covered just a portion of the range of music you can hear on any given night in any given venue in this town. 4 bands 4 styles, and this was the first of four nights for this quartet of bands as they played their way across Texas. In short, Shovels and Rope killed it a duet pulling off the sound and harmonies of a full band. You have to see them to understand the effort they put into making their music.

On Monday for the 4th I went to Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic, which was two stages of rock and roll in the ridiculously hot Texas sun. They say everything is bigger in Texas and that apparently includes the sun and the heat it can generate.

Since 1973 Willie Nelson has hosted a one-day music festival on the 4th of July. Its traveled to a few different cities and venues over the years, and this was it’s second stint in the Austin 360 Amphitheater. I’m not sure if the 360 is a reference to that it’s a big circle or the heat. I took my time getting there at the risk of missing some bands, but I knew putting my sunburned body through another full day in the sun was not going to be my wisest decision, so I’ll go at my pace.

The festival featured two stages and did a decent job of having music start on one as soon as it finished on the other. I caught sets from Margo Price, Billy Joe Shaver, Lee Ann Womack, Cody Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, Jamestown Revival, Shakey Graves, Jamey Johnson with Allison Krauss, Brantley Gilbert and of course Willie Nelson. A lot of these groups had just been at Stagecoach, but who doesn’t like a little familiarity? The show was full of good music and good moments. Margo Price playing her new single “Four Years of Chances”. Despite his health and forgetfulness I will always love seeing Kris Kristofferson, he more than makes up for what he’s lost with his charisma, and he his an undeniably brilliant songwriter. Shakey Graves has amazing stage presence, he doesn’t command the crowd so much as keep the crowd’s eyes occupied with his mannerisms. Jamey Johnson brought a tear to my eye during “In Color” and sang some alternate lyrics to “This Land is My Land” that was a bit of a poke to question how much freedom do we have in the country. And Willie himself was on fire. He was playing songs faster, and was plucking his guitar with such conviction it was mesmerizing. He looked like a man half his age.

In short if you love live Music, go to Austin and immerse yourself in it.