Off the Record
Wide Open Spaces
When it comes to Texas songwriting, history happens first at the Kerrville Folk Festival. The annual 18-day outing in the scenic confines of Quiet Valley Ranch has helped discover some of the most important voices in American music. The festival commemorates its 40th anniversary this year, featuring the Lost Pines (May 26), Slaid Cleaves (May 27), Judy Collins (May 28), Eliza Gilkyson (May 29), and Randy Rodgers & Wade Bowen (May 30), all leading up to a closing concert memorializing late friends and family of the festival as conducted by David Amram and starring Marcia Ball, Trout Fishing in America, and Will Taylor & Strings Attached. (For a full lineup see www.kerrville-music.com.) Lending perspective to Kerrville's longevity, OTR compiled a hits timeline, with thanks to founder Rod Kennedy's Music From the Heart, Erinn R. Barefield's The Kerrville Folk Festival: The Path to Kerr-version, and www.happenstance-music.com. For memorable first-hand accounts, see "Marshmallow Love," May 24, 2002.
1972: The Flatlanders come uninvited and turn former President Lyndon Johnson's head.
1973: Progressive Country: Willie Nelson, Michael Martin Murphey, and Thirteenth Floor Elevators' Benny Thurman with Plum Nelly
1974: Lucinda Williams visits from New Orleans.
1975: Peter Yarrow's fifth straight performance; Vince Gill debuts as part of Bluegrass ReVue.
1976: Future Big Boys guitarist Tim Kerr unplugs. Rains during 1975-76 cause $100,000 in losses.
1977: Punk breaks; Townes Van Zandt arbitrates.
1978: Introducing "Stephen Earle" from Wimberley
1979: B.W. Stephenson, Peter Rowan, and Milton Carroll crown Tish Hinojosa at the New Folk Competition. Kenneth Threadgill's Great American Yodel-Off gives way to a Great Harmonica Blow-Off.
1980: "Five Great Days in May"; Guy Clark meets future colleague Lyle Lovett.
1981: Ooze Brothers make their second round at the campsite.
1982: Austin Lounge Lizards debut an annual tradition.
1983: Robert Earl Keen wins the New Folk Competition; Stan Rogers perishes on his return flight aboard Air Canada Flight 797.
1984: Javier Cortez hosts second Fajita Thursday event. Odetta performs, along with Carolyn Hester and Townes Van Zandt.
1985: First edition of the "Kerrictionary" is published, and Darden Smith earns New Folk honors. Peter, Paul & Mary set attendance records.
1986: British producer Pete Lawrence records volunteer Michelle Shocked on a Walkman and produces The Texas Campfire Tapes.
1987: The festival expands to three weekends as San Antonio's James McMurtry takes top honors.
1988: Shawn Colvin visits from New York City; West Virginia's Mountain Stage records two shows.
1989: A then-record of 453 songwriters enter the Sing Out!-sponsored New Folk Competition.
1990: Rod Kennedy files for bankruptcy twice.
1991: The 20th anniversary finds Scottsdale's Darcie Deaville taking New Folk over San Antonio's Monte Montgomery.
1992: Saturday morning Shabbat service is added. Slaid Cleaves wins New Folk Competition, stops playing Sixth Street.
1993: An American Indian tribute, the Festival of the Eagle, ends after a three-year run.
1994: The "Land Rush" campsite provision is implemented; Ani DiFranco debuts.
1995: Three years before Wide Open Spaces, Dixie Chicks bust out in Kerrville.
1996: The 25th anniversary prompts an all-star lineup: Carolyn Hester, Guy Clark, Michael Martin Murphey, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, and Jerry Jeff Walker.
1997: "What Men Don't Know" seminar is a rousing success.
1998: Steve Gillette creates the "Texas and Tennessee" song circle.
1999: The festival is sold to former staff member and volunteer Vaughn Hafner. Ray Bonneville stakes his claim at New Folk.
2000: Terri Hendrix: "There was something that I can't put my finger on, but it was a beauty."
2001: Thirtieth anniversary edition boasts canoe trips on the Guadalupe River with Bill Oliver and Joe Kendall.
2002: Kennedy retires after three decades.
2003: Longtime staffer Dalis Allen assumes the producer's mantle.
2004: Premiere of the New Folk In-the-Round performance series
2005: Gary Primich leads a three-day harmonica workshop.
2006: Another anniversary brings out the ghosts; Austin's Gordy Quist wins New Folk.
2007: Record rainfall floods Turtle Creek, cutting Kerrville off from Quiet Valley Ranch.
2008: Acquired by the Texas Folk Music Foundation, the festival achieves nonprofit status.
2009: Rebecca Loebe performs before her turn on The Voice.
2010: Kennedy turns 80.
According to Ozomatli bassist Willy "Wil-Dog" Abers, there are three essential elements to any Tejas party: barbecue, piñatas, and cumbia. The L.A. ensemble certainly held up its end of the bargain, bringing stadium swagger and classic hip-hop to Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, May 21, in the most engaging headlining performance at the Pachanga Latino Music Festival to date.
Chico Mann supplied the piñata. From behind his laptop and keyboards, the Antibalas orchestrator wove digital folklore on the Patio Stage, crafting a real-time mixtape of galactic funk and 8-bit Afrobeat. Houston rapper Chingo Bling pinpointed the only missing ingredient: "We need some Pa-Chingo in this Pachanga." Indeed, the unlikely urban cowboy got down convincingly with a twopiece live band on club banger "Bottles Up" and Big Tymers parody "Still Mexican."
After a slow start spurred by sauna-level humidity and Willie Alvarado's last-minute cancellation, Austin's Gina Chavez proved a rare double threat. The bilingual songstress with a deeply expressive voice also supports a noble cause: Austin 4 El Salvador, a college scholarship for four female students to attend Don Bosco University in Soyapango, where she lived and worked in 2009 (learn more at www.crowdrise.com/austin4elsalvador). Girl in a Coma's Nina Diaz upped the ante, issuing 1950s pop with the spirit of a puritan witch. Her snarl pierced even on softer numbers like Selena's "Si Una Vez," which prompted David Garza to join in on percussion. Garza, whose cameos have become an annual tradition on par with San Antonio's lively Mariachi las Alteñas, later joined Adrian Quesada's Echocentrics for Rodriguez's "Sugar Man," a set highlight that captured the eerie wonder of the original psych-folk gem.
Elsewhere on the local front, La Guerilla proved a mob squad with zoot suit riots that alternately pulled from the ska-pop of Sublime, the gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello, and Mano Negra's Patchanka. The real party took place in the tented area, where Master Blaster Sound System's electro-cumbia was followed by Mexicans With Guns' tweaked-out beat chemistry and Toy Selectah's border-town techno that raved like spring break.
"We were especially happy the world didn't end, and it didn't rain too," reports organizer Rich Garza, who says he's already planning next year's festivities.
Just when it looked like the 2011 Austin City Limits Music Festival couldn't get any better, C3 Presents added the King of Bongo, Manu Chao (Sunday), and Kurt Vile & the Violators (Friday) to the bill. Meanwhile, Gayngs' bus fiasco at ACL 2010 was settled in court last week, with the collective being awarded more than $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
Rise Against's Zach Blair gave a guest lecture at Austin's School of Rock on Tuesday, May 17, and signed some items now being used as part of a Kickstarter campaign to help send three local students on the national School of Rock AllStars tour. Visit www.kck.st/kDQPdQ to donate.
Actor Jeff Bridges pays tribute to his Crazy Heart colleague Stephen Bruton on his self-titled debut for Blue Note Records, covering the late Austinite's "What a Little Bit of Love Can Do" and "Nothing Yet." The T Bone Burnett-produced album, due Aug. 16, also features guest vocals from onetime local wrangler Ryan Bingham and Rosanne Cash.