Old Settler's Music Festival 2023

Show Review: Old Settler’s Music Festival 2023

Show Reviews

Old Settler’s Music Festival 2023 — review by Andrew Blanton, photos by Keith Michael Kallina

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Dark clouds hover above my sedan as it shakes along the crumbling country roads outside of Lockhart. The heavy construction gear does a number on the country roads that wind around Dale, Texas and the soft ground can sink in over the years. Dangerous thunderstorms were predicted and I grabbed a poncho on my way for a little protection from the elements.

The ticket booth staff were filled with energy and met me with wide smiles as I took a look at the site map. A long driveway sends you past the main stage and I hang a left at Camp Banjo and make my way back into Camp Collings. As I set out my tent for the weekend I’m welcomed by friends from the Hill Country who’ve come to volunteer for the Green Team, a crew that collects the waste and keeps the site clean for the patrons.

Day one is held at the Campground Stage, a beautiful site between the tents with plenty of shade that could easily be the main stage for any festival. Buffalo Nichols gave an amazing performance that began with audio recordings and morphed into ambient music. It’s impossible to truly describe Nichols’ sound as it incorporates guitar, synthetic sounds and percussion.

Bee Taylor performed a soulful version on “Big Rock Candy Mountain” that really won over the crowd. Her energy and powerful voice brought up the audience just after the storms rolled in.

There was a brief pause as we took shelter from the lightning and discovered our Amazon tents are, in fact, waterproof. Jomo and the Possum Posse was one of the crowd favorites on opening day as their delivery is somewhat of a country version of Primus. Jomo’s guitar was experiencing technical difficulties early on and he took it in stride, reaching for the mic and transforming into a lounge singer for the audience. His can-do attitude went a long way in that make or break moment and the sound crew had the guitar up and running soon after. It was so smooth it almost seemed planned. Flounders Without Eyes headlined the night and gave a wonderful performance of their jam based sound.

As the Campground stage shut down the campers grabbed their instruments and found a warm fire to gather around. You can take your instrument anywhere on the grounds and find music being made until daylight at Old Settler’s Music Festival. I found many familiar faces and made new friends as the weekend rolled on.

The festival site dried out as the morning came and the Texas sun was out in full force. The Brothers Comatose were the first act to perform on George Dickel’s giant main stage. The Brothers brought in the bluegrass that the festival is known for and really went after the strings. The highlight was a cover of a Led Zeppelin song with beautiful harmonies. They even went into a riverdance that seemed fitting for the wild weather.

Elephant Revival was announced as the most beloved band of the Old Settler’s Festival and after the first song it was apparent as to why. Their sound is a perfect mixture of folk instrumentation and a modern touch.

“I love that festival,” Bonnie Paine of Elephant Revival said. “I love the feeling of it, and the family-friendliness of it. The whole group that puts it together seems really sweet.”

Elephant Revival is based in Boulder, Colorado and has performed for almost two decades. Some of the founding members met at the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Kansas and come together throughout the year to perform while away from their solo ventures.

“My Mom sang constantly in the house,” Paine said. “She even sang lullabies to me when I was a teenager. I’m grateful for that, and my Dad just had this incredible record collection.”

Through the records, Paine was introduced to rock, blues and jazz and eventually formed a family band with her sisters that backed up Randy Crouch in Texas. The current formation of Elephant Revival relies heavily on indie-folk and uses Celtic and other world influences.

“One of the new songs that we’ve worked up is Gaelic, which has been really fun to get into,” Paine said. “It’s a really old fiddle tune that gets faster and faster and more intense. It’s fun to explore that world.”

Paine said she was really excited to have the chance to see local act Ley Line, which is heavily influenced by percussion and some members of the band joined Elephant Revival during their set.

“The audience seems to be just so into music there,” Paine said. “It’s awesome whenever you can do the full spectrum of music and not feel like you’re an entertainer but you’re having a reciprocal experience with the audience where you can bring it to a really quiet place with an acapella and everybody will be respectful and attentive and really into it, and you can take it to this other threshold of a rockin’ fiddle tune and they’ll get up and dance.”

While Elephant Revival doesn’t have plans to tour full time, they’ve had such a great reception and experience this summer that they’ve taken additional festival bookings.

“There’s no rush,” Paine said with a laugh. “We’ve waited this long. It feels really good to just give it time to unfold and transform and become what it is. Everybody’s feeling really positive with it.”

Texas was the first state Paine toured from her native Oklahoma, performing at Sons of Herman Hall as a teenager, and it was a welcome homecoming.

“My grandparents are from Texas,” Paine said, “so that was always my exciting summer place to go. I have a fondness for it.”

One of the biggest local stars Shinyribs took the stage and lit the place on fire. If John Belushi was alive today I could imagine him nodding with approval from the crowd. Shinyribs is a full tilt soul band and the flashy attire is perfect for the energy they bring.

The final act for the evening was the Wood Brothers. This was one of the best folk based bands I’ve seen in a long time. They swoon the crowd with their sharp dressed outfits and their songwriting is at such a high level.

We spent the evening picking around the fire as the temperature dropped into the forties. The final day was a star studded event with one of the greatest young songwriters John R. Miller, Texas Legend Tommy Emmanuel, powerhouse Shovels and Rope, rising star and scorching picker Molly Tuttle and Yola. As campers packed up their gear Sunday Shinyribs gave a final hoorah on the Campground stage.

The organizers deserve a huge thank you for all of their hard work this year, dealing with unpredictable weather and still finding time for everyone to perform. The land was perfect to quickly soak up the rain and all of the efforts by volunteers kept the site clean and stocked with plenty of water and resources for the attendees.

For more information on the Old Settler’s Music Festival click here:

Old Settler’s Music Festival

Old Settler’s Music Festival


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