These palm trees have the wrong idea. Two long trunks proudly stretching out among scattered taco trucks in a farm-to-market oasis.
I’m struggling to keep ahead of an impeding minivan southeast of Austin on a winding two-lane road. My eyes stay locked on my rearview mirror for miles until I finally reach the camouflaged entry for the Old Settlers Music Festival.
It’s a welcoming scene on a slightly-cloudy day at the sprawling ranch. Black’s brisket from barbecue mecca Lockheart keeps the campers happy as they lounge in their collapsible chairs. The lineup is a major step forward for the festival this year, welcoming hometown hero Amanda Shires and her counterpart Jason Isbell to headline Friday evening.
John Moreland kicked-off the day with a songwriting display that hit to the core. His duo included John Abney on lead guitar and harmonica, adding a perfect bite to the material.
The crowd laughs as Moreland announces his intention to “play a sad one.” It’s often hard to determine whether such material is low-down, or merely a portrait of the daily struggles and inner demons so many face.
John Moreland performs at the Old Settler’s Music Festival. Photo by Andrew Blanton.
Amanda Shires gave a rock and roll performance in a Texas flag themed jumpsuit and large-mirrored glasses, alternating between electric guitar and fiddle with a full-backing band. Shires invited husband Jason Isbell to join the band for most of the hour-long set, bringing applause from fans and leaving me wondering just how many guitars one band needs.
The Del McCoury band provided the bluegrass that every festival enjoys. A true legend with silver hair lead a five-piece group in high and lonesome fashion. The festival has a family-friendly atmosphere that I’ve enjoyed seeing over the past year. The organization of having a seperate camping location away from the main grounds helps people remain respectful in terms of any hush-hush activities.
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires perform at the Old Settler’s Music Festival. Photo by Andrew Blanton.
Jason Isbell kept eyes glued to the stage with songs from his recent albums. After a quick wardrobe change, Shires joined her husband on stage with vocals and fiddle. The festival has a different sound for everyone throughout the weekend, with a performance from the funky and energetic band Galactic that I’m sorry to miss. With a new location set in stone and a major improvement in the line-up, the Old Settler’s Festival is sure to be around for many years to come.