Amid all the hubbub about festival behemoth, South by Southwest (SXSW) arriving next month, the venerable Old Settler’s Music Festival that takes place out at Salt Lick Pavilion each spring quietly dropped a surprisingly good lineup of folk, bluegrass and alt country acts featuring frequent performers Del McCoury Band and Sarah Jarosz complemented by several buzz acts. Houston’s red-hot, The Suffers are a good example. The group appeared on The Daily Show last week.
A second cousin to the sprawling Kerrville Folk Festival which is spread over nearly two weeks, Old Settler’s is a three (or four) day event (April 14-17) depending on how you look at it, that typically draws a similar demographic to Kerrville; middle-aged fans with a penchant for drinking craft beer while sporting the latest Crocs or Birkenstock sandals available. There are a fair amount of families that come to Driftwood where the venue is located as the event offers camping and impromptu jams. You’ll even see some folks in festival costume adding a carnivalesque air to the proceedings.
This year’s lineup features several bands that skew towards a younger audience. Deer Tick, The Suffers, The Wood Brothers, The Accidentals, Dawes and The Deer all claim fans in the 18-24 age bracket yet appeal to older fans. Deer Tick and The Wood Brothers own members fall somewhere in between Baby Boomers and Millennials attracting fans from both age groups in addition to younger audiences. The festival’s Executive Director, Jean Spivey maintains the lineup diversity is by design.
I always book a spectrum of acts that I hope will appeal to all ages. At Old Settler’s, you get to sample a range of artists — from the energetic sassiness of The Suffers to marquee bluegrass acts like Del McCoury Band to the jammy sounds of the Jeff Austin Band. And the good news is, if you don’t like what’s playing on one stage, you can get up and go to the other one.
I think those same younger acts will appeal to a more mature crowd as well. Take for instance, The Accidentals — they are in their teens (or just out of them) and they are tremendously talented, with a large dollop of winning charm. Actually, I wish my daughter would grow up to BE them. And Sarah Jarosz grew up at the festival; festival veterans, newbies and my 13-year-old all love her.
The Wood Brothers appeal to a younger audience but when I first saw them at Winnipeg Folk Festival and the man I was standing next to — in his 60s — loved them.
The setting, just south of Austin is gorgeous. Salt Lick Pavilion is located along a running creek with towering oak trees providing ample shade at one stage. The moderately sized crowds make it easy for fans to move from one stage to the other, stopping in between to order craft brews and BBQ. The early April dates ensure mild weather in bucolic Texas Hill Country. Folks even have the option of visiting world-famous BBQ spot, The Salt Lick next door for an all-you-can feat of grilled meats. In some ways, Old Settler’s is the quintessential Texas music festival.
Tickets are available as low as $68 for a single day pass. Festival-goers have the option of adding camping and VIP packages. Organizers advise campers to purchase car camping tickets early as they sell-out each year.