This April, Antone’s Brings Blues (and More) Back to Waterloo Park

Austin Blues Festival invites Los Lobos, Adrian Quesada, and more


Clifford Antone, eponymous owner of the famed Downtown blues club and a patron saint of Austin live music, organized the first-ever Antone's Blues Festival at the turn of the century. The event, which ran from 1999 to 2001, brought the likes of Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and Ray Charles onstage at Waterloo Park.

Thanks to the efforts of current Antone's co-owner Will Bridges and talent buyer Zach Ernst, the festival finds a fresh start this spring under a new name: Austin Blues Festival. On April 29, the festival returns to its Waterloo Park home with a series of blues, gospel, R&B, and rock performances at the 5,000-seat Moody Amphitheater. Tickets are available now at moodyamphitheater.com, where buyers can find $50 early bird pricing options until February 17.

"During the pandemic, we had a lot of time to reflect and set goals for the future, when and if Antone's ever opened again," says Bridges, also co-owner at Arlyn Studios and Lamberts. "One of the goals we set was to create a marquee event that represented Antone's outside of the four walls of the club."

Certified headliners include Chicano rock virtuosos Los Lobos, soul pioneer Booker T. Jones' 10-piece Stax Revue big band, and Robert Randolph Band. Moving the festival outdoors allows the Antone's team to book big-name artists whose popularity creates problems for the venue's intimate 400-person capacity.

"Antone's connection to Los Lobos, for example, is so deep, but it's been difficult to stay connected to them because it makes more sense for the band to play somewhere larger," explains Ernst. "Same with Booker T. Jones. We've always wanted to book his Stax Revue show with extra vocalists and a horn section, but could never make financial sense out of it."

To complete the lineup, the duo recruited a number of artists who don't fit neatly into the traditional stylings of blues, like breakout R&B artist BLK ODYSSY and funk-infused psych-rock royalty Adrian Quesada playing his 2022 LP Jaguar Sound. The Glorifying Vines Sisters, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, plus DJ Raquiqui and DJ Mahealani round out the Waterloo fest. Following the park performances, a separately ticketed aftershow will take place at Antone's featuring the first Austin performance by Trouble No More, a supergroup of Memphis musicians playing the music of the Allman Brothers Band.

Quesada and Chief Cleopatra host a pre-festival performance at the venue on April 28.

"We don't feel the need to take the genre too literally," explains Bridges. "Antone's is known as a blues club, but we also present all different kinds of music. It's something we all learned from Clifford and Susan [Antone], and it's become second nature. We're trying to take the magic of Antone's and, just for one day, bring it to a wider demographic than ever before."

Bridges and Ernst's quarantine daydreams sparked conversations with Moody Amphitheater general manager Jared Stone, who encouraged the idea of transporting the nightclub's legacy outside of its brick-and-mortar presence. The event marks the first return of a festival to the Waterloo grounds following the musically historic park's major renovation and 2021 reopening. The green space has hosted eclectic live performances dating back to 1975, including Pachanga Latino Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Mess With Texas, and the Chronicle's Hot Sauce Festival. Come April, blues enthusiasts of all ages are encouraged to attend.

"Since Antone's Nightclub is usually 21 and up, we're hoping this family-friendly festival will allow more young people to be introduced to the great blues and soul artists that we love," elaborates Ernst.


Antone's and Waterloo Greenway present the Austin Blues Festival Sat., April 29, at Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park, 1401 N. Trinity.

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