Above left, Americana award-winner Shakey Graves makes his debut performance at the 30th Old Settler’s Music Festival in 2017.
Above right, American country-soul band Shinyribs performing at Old Settler’s Music Festival.
Photos by Sigi Gonzalez
Old Settler's Music Festival, new location
The Old Settler's Music Festival is back this year, debuting their new location with a slew of new and old performers.
After celebrating their 30th year in 2017 at the Driftwood site, the Old Settler's Music Festival, Central Texas’ premier rootsmusic event, moved their roots to Caldwell County – to the tiny town of Tilmon, Texas.
“It’s in a little town called Tilmon, which has one building in it and doesn’t even have a post office,” Executive Director Jean Spivey said. “This will be our first year here and we didn’t plan on being here in 2018, but our old site asked us to leave a year early, so we did.”
The change in locations didn’t happen without a little controversy; former Old Settler organizers tried to start a competing festival at the old Driftwood site, which eventually lead to an injunction and a lawsuit that was settled out of court. But the Old Settler’s developed the 145 acres – double the size of the Driftwood site – in Tilmon, in time to debut it for the 2018 festival.
The Original Black’s BBQ, one of Lockhart’s famed barbecue joints, will take over the helm as the sponsor of the festival’s main stage. There will also be a slightly smaller stage, the Bluebonnet Stage, named for the long-used stage at the Driftwood site. There are four campgrounds; including a site for the Campground Stage, where workshops and performances will be held Thursday and Sunday. And new to this year’s festival is “Camp Shhhtimes,” a stage among the trees in the rear campground, where artists will be giving past-midnight performances in an intimate setting.
This year’s lineup has a mix of long-established artists and ones on the rise, nationally known and homegrown. The main attraction is I’m With Her, a supergroup the features the Wimberleyraised Sarah Jarosz – the 2002 Youth Talent Competition winner at Old Settler’s Music Festival – Sara Watkins – of Nickel Creek fame – and Aoife O’Donovan, a solo artist that played with the Crooked Still.
Other top touring acts include Calexico, Oklahoma’s rockabilly firebrand JD McPherson, Travelin’ McCourys and Greensky Bluegrass. Local bands will get some of Old Settler’s Fest’s spotlight too, with local indie folk band the Deer, the Peterson Brothers and Ray Wylie Hubbard sharing the bill.
“Since we’re in a new location, we wanted a mix of old favorites – the things that people know – and then mix that with some things people haven’t heard of,” Spivey said. “I think one of the things that is important to our show is the musical discovery, the names that you get to hear first, names that become big later. We stay true to our bluegrass roots.”
Performers like Jason Isbell and St. Paul & The Broken Bones have cut their teeth on the Old Settler’s Fest stage, before gaining national and international fame.
Old Settler’s Fest is open to music lovers of all abilities and ages. The venue is kid-friendly and the new space offers designated ADA camping.
This year will also feature some fun activities for kids that include arts and crafts, environmental games and workshops, sing-alongs, storytelling, play areas with inflatables, an instrument petting zoo and a man that can blow bubbles the size of a car. And the Youth Talent Competition, that helps foster young artists, will go on as always.
The musicians aren't the only artists showcased at Old Settler's. Each year, artisans, craftsmen and purveyors of quality handmade items come from every corner of Texas to provide festival goers with unique, one-of-a-kind items. Attendees can buy everything from artisan jewelry and leather goods to handcrafted fabric art and wood furniture. Food and beverages from vendors, including beer and wine, will be sold during the festival.
Tickets are available for four days (Thurs-Sun) or three days (Friday – Sunday) with camping. Or attendees can buy a ticket for three (Friday-Sunday) days without the camping option. Also new this year, special teen (13-17 years) package price and children age 12 and under get free admission if accompanied by a paying adult. Tickets are on sale now. The venue is located at 1616 FM 3158 in Dale, Texas. For more information and a full list of ticket packages and pricing, go to oldsettlersmusicfest.org.
“Since we’re in a new location, we wanted a mix of old favorites – the things that people know – and then mix that with some things people haven’t heard of. I think one of the things that is important to our show is the musical discovery, the names that you get to hear first, names that become big later. We stay true to our bluegrass roots.” - Jean Spivey