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Down on the Farm

A wild night at the annual Red, White & Blue Ball
Doug Freeman, 1:00pm, Mon. Jul. 1, 2013
photo by Doug Freeman
Whiskey Shivers fiddler Bobby Fitzgerald lets his true colors show, 6.29.13

No signs marked the way out to this farm. Driving 30 minutes east of Austin past the Circuit of Americas’ complex into Dale’s dry fields and ranches, back roads tested my GPS system until I turned down a dirt lane and heard the music welcoming revelers to the Red, White & Blue Ball.

If the lack of guideposts to the event, now in its second year, required a willingness to let go of a measure of control, it foreshadowed Saturday night’s raucousness and joyful abandon. With a makeshift campground spread amongst the trees and cacti, plus a giant inflatable water slide, and an eclectic local lineup curated for maximum movement, the farm became a playground for the several hundred fans reveling in the Texas summer heat.

The musical entertainment likewise fueled and fed off the energy of the audience as the sun began to disappear, with local quintet the Couch rocking the freshly constructed stage to kick off the evening. The audience opened initially thin for the performance, but the quartet set the precedent of sweat and catharsis in Taylor Wilkins’ crunchy guitar licks. Soon after, the Gents brought harmony-laden roots pop from their debut EP, an ideal soundtrack to the setting as the front of the stage began bursting into an enthusiastic, inebriated dance party.

Bluegrass bad-boys Whiskey Shivers brought the festivities to a full boil afterward. The barefoot Austin quintet strung up the stage through traditional tunes like “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” then torched the crowd with homespun favorites like “D-Tune” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” With it, the scene also quickly devolved into a shirtless bro-down as the band moved down into the crowd for rousing acoustic closer “Rocky Top.”

If Whiskey Shivers blazed, follower Crooks stoked those flames into a roar. The outlaw country quintet recently added accordionist Anthony Ortiz, Jr. into the mix, making its country sound more of a ripe meld of Tex-Mex that left its mark like a branding iron. Tenpiece brass funk orchestra Hard Proof Afrobeat closed out the night.

As bedroom songwriter Roger Sellers ushered in Sunday morning with a DJ set, the clouds began to gather and the heat broke into an unexpected thunderstorm that may have best summed up the entire experience: a surreal and wild night down on the farm in Dale, Texas.

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