The first big evening of the festival was in the main festival area with two stages. They did a wonderful job of positioning the stages so that even though there was music playing at the same time you could not hear music from the other stage. The sound guys were fantastic as were the lighting technicians.
The afternoon kicked off right on time with John Moreland on one stage and The Last Bandoleros on the other. Both stages had decent crowds considering it was still early and it was pretty hot. John Moreland was amazing. I had never seen him live and I was very impressed. His songs are dark and lean towards the depressing side but his voice and guitar playing are beautiful and uplifting.
Texas native Amanda Shires took main stage next and she was incredible. I had seen her perform with husband Jason Isbell previously but had not seen her perform with her band. It was a lot of fun and she definitely raised the already hot temperature in the crowd. She was joined on stage for a couple songs about halfway through her set by Jason. He stayed in the background as this was clearly Amanda’s show. I read somewhere that Amanda Shires may be Jason Isbell’s wife, but in Texas Jason is Amanda’s husband.
I did manage to steal myself away for a few minutes to head over and catch a few minutes of the James Hunter Six band who were playing on the other stage at about the same time as Amanda. I felt like I had stepped back in time to the era of the Beatle’s and early Rolling Stones. The band is very soul and blues influenced and are a really fun band to watch and listen to. There was lots of dancing going on too.
I wandered back to the main stage via the artists and vendor section of the festival. There was everything from tie-dyed t-shirts to metal art, a very cool photo booth in a vintage streamline trailer, circus acts, hula-hoopers and giant bubbles for the kids. There was also a great big tent for kids to create all kinds of art. This is a very family-friendly event.
Back on the Original Blacks’ Barbecue main stage blue grass legend Del McCoury was playing. Del McCoury has been playing bluegrass music for 50 years and is still going strong. His band is made up of his sons Rob on banjo and Ronnie on mandolin. In addition there is Alan Bartram on upright bass, fiddle player Jason Carter and they are all led by Del himself on guitars and vocals. Del has 31 International Bluegrass Music Association awards, two Grammys, membership in the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2011.
Meanwhile over on the Bluebonnet Stage Robert Ellis aka the Texas Piano Man was rocking the stage. Ellis was decked out in a white tuxedo complete with tails, a white cowboy hat and cowboy boots. His piano was covered with a cow hide with a vase full of yellow roses and there was a Texas Longhorn skull on the front. This was a true Texas honky-tonk show without the honky-tonk. At one point Ellis seemed to be inhabited by the spirit of Jerry Lee Lewis, standing up and pounding away at the keys. It was a truly fun site to witness.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit put on an amazing and rare acoustic performance on the Black’s Barbecue Stage. The weather was perfect and the crowd was feeling great. Jason’s band includes his wife Amanda Shires, who Jason performed earlier in the day with, on fiddle. Browan Lollar –guitar, Derry deBorja – Keys and accordion, Jimbo Hart – bass, vocals, Sadler Vaden – guitar, vocals, and Chad Gamble – drums, vocals. The band opened the set with “24 Frames”. Other songs in the set included “The Life You Chose”, “Alabam Pines”, “Tupelo” and “Codeine”. He and wife Shires sang a duo on “Last of my Kind”. Before launching into “Maybe It’s Time” from the movie “A Star is Born” Jason joked “I don’t have a hit song, but I have a song that played a hit song in a movie”. They closed out the set with “If we were Vampires.”
Over on the Bluebonnet Stage North Carolina’s Mandolin Orange was playing at a smaller yet surprisingly large crowd, considering they were playing at the same time as Jason Isbell. Mandolin Orange is a husband and wife duo made up of Andrew Martin on mandolin and Emily Frantz on fiddle. They play a mix of bluegrass, gospel, pop, and traditional country. the group has toured throughout the U.S and Europe, including appearances at Austin City Limits, South by Southwest, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Pickathon, Rooster Walk, and MerleFest. Check for photos and write-up on Thursday night, here: Show Review: Old Settler’s 32nd Annual Music Fest: Night 1 https://oldsettlersmusicfest.org/