River Revival Returns For a Solid Year Two
Cedric Burnside. Photo: Ronen Goldman
The traditional idea behind a music festival was a big bunch of artists playing in a natural setting with a communal spirit where it wasn’t a giant showcase of sponsorship logos. Before giant corporations got involved, before it became a race to see how much money attendees would spend for a hot dog or a beer, music festivals were chill and relaxed and almost always far from pavement. This weekend, you can get pretty close to the original nature inspired music vibe with Splice Records River Revival. The second year festival, taking place on the banks of the beautiful Guadalupe River in New Braunfels, is a mix of beauty and music that seem to compliment one another. The experience is like no other, especially in today’s festival circuit where the acts feel closer to a tour than a one-off event.
The River Revival is possibly the only Texas festival where you can catch Houston and Texas-based acts while floating the river. Granted, there is another festival where that looks like the case, until you realize that the two aren’t as similar as you might think. With River Revival, visitors are placed in a beautiful environment, while the activities feel like an exercise in bringing all of the attendees together as one. The run down of activities alone looks almost like the exact opposite of an average music festival. On the music side of things, the first night features a headlining set from Houston-born Austin transplant, John Evans. Evans has been going hard for a long time, and while he went through a tragic event with the loss of his daughter, he’s emerged with the strongest album of his career with Polyester. From the fuzz infused hooks of the album’s opener “Polyester,” to the sheer beauty of the soft and subtle notes of “Sweet Dreams,” this record is easily a contender for album of the year. But, if you couple catchy tunes like “Pretty” and “Instant Society” with Evans’ energetic and fun performances, then you have an act that’s worthy of headlining any festival. The first night will also feature a set from Cedric Burnside, who will convince you that the blues genre is still alive and well. The grandson of late blues great R.L. Burnside, Cedric reinvented himself with Cedric Burnside Project and came back with a vengeance last year with the stellar album Descendants of Hill Country. He doesn’t come around much to perform, so getting to catch him at this festival will be a real treat for anyone in attendance. Earlier in the evening there’s a set from Houston’s Craig Kinsey, who just released the intimate and pretty album Nylon Sessions. Aside from the album, Kinsey with a full band is like a big party, while Kinsey solo showcases the intimate beauty of his voice and his well-crafted tunes. The folky swag of Austin’s Altamesa will get the evening going on night one, and their newest release The Long Ride Home is the universe’s way of telling you to check them out.
There are also fireside sets from Kyle Reid and Hayden Jones, as well as a light show with Mills McCoin, an official River Revival song with BeLove and a nighttime dance party with DJ Chadical. This is all along with food, river and nature activities, that make the first day of this festival one to remember.
Buxton. Photo: Courtesy of Artist
However, this is a two-day festival, meaning that the second day is a Saturday full of activities and music. The activities on day two of a snake handling class with Pecos Hank, a children’s music class with Jason Ciolla, and yoga on the lawn with Christi Workman are in conjunction with all of the nature and campsite activities you can enjoy. There’s also a communal river float and an awards ceremony at the end of the night. On the music side of things there is a DJ set throughout the evening with DJ Splice Of Life and an afterparty with The Houston Krays.
In the daytime, the music is kicked off with a performance from Hogan and Moss followed by the Buxton and Dollie Barnes acoustic folk hybrid, Ancient Cat Society. I don’t think it gets said enough that these three seem to fit together, their music is as sweet and catchy as it is interesting and hard not to love. The music keeps going with a set of solid tunes from Arthur Yoria only to be followed with an energetic and beautifully crafted set from Dollie Barnes. Pecos Hank will keep the music going afterwards while Buxton will drop in to do their thing. If for some bizarre reason you missed their album from last year, Half A Native, then you’ve been missing on one of the best albums you can hear. The Suspects will close out things with one of their energy heavy live shows.
The whole event is different from start to finish, offering up a good time with communal spirit and kindness at the forefront ahead of profits and greed like many festivals have become. The festival with camping, food, drinks, and floating the river is far and away from how most music festivals are laid out, while the fireside sets in the night are something you can’t really experience anywhere else this time of year, and with the all inclusive set up, it’s probably the best value as well.
Make sure and visit the festival website here to check out what you can bring and not bring here, before it takes place this weekend — Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25 — on a dedicated campsite in New Braunfels, Texas. The two-night festival is all ages, children 10 and under are free, and has since sold out.