Cumbia, Bikers, Ice Cream and Babes: Austin has a summer music fest for everyone

We have four months til Donald Glover, Janelle Monae, Paul McCartney and many more hit the big stages at Zilker Park for our city’s outdoor music behemoth, Austin City Limits Festival, but don’t fret movers and groovers, Austin’s festival calendar doesn’t slow down for summer.

Riders Against the Storm host RAS Day in August. Erika Rich For American-Statesman

Whether you’re into cumbia or conscious hip-hop, bikers or babes, there’s a mini-fest for everyone. (And yes, we are classifying September as summer, because Austin.)

June 2: Illectric River at Whitewater Amphitheater. The new locally produced fest boasts a lineup of electronic dance music DJs including Getter, Jai Wolf, Liquid Stranger and more. The event also will feature art installations and live graffiti painting. $55-$90. 4 p.m. gates. 11860 FM 306, New Braunfels. — D.S.S.

June 7-9: ROT Rally at Travis County Expo Center.  The Republic of Texas Biker Rally hits town June 7-9, and they’re bringing ZZ Top with them this time. The multimillion-selling Texas rock trio will play the annual bash at the Travis County Expo Center on Saturday, June 9, with El Paso’s Dirty River Boys opening. The lineup for Friday, June 8, features Shooter Jennings and Richie Kotzen, with an opening night on Thursday, June 7, teaming Hairball with the Lacs. Tickets, $30-$99, are on sale via the event’s website. The event’s traditional downtown parade is set for Friday evening, June 8, with a party on closed-off Congress Avenue to follow. — Peter Blackstock

PHOTOS: Highlights from the 2017 ROT Rally

June 9: Wepa Festival at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard. The cumbia roots festival launched last year by Colombian-American artist Kiko Villamizarexpands to nine cities around the world with dates in Germany, Austria, Mexico and Colombia. The festival celebrates masters of the cumbia tradition, and this year’s headliner is Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto, described by Villamizar as the orginators of Colombian cumbia. Villamizar and a host of other local and international artists also will perform. The event will include an artists market curated by Las Ofrendas. $23.16 (advance), 2 p.m., 1106 E. 11th St. — D.S.S.

June 23: Ice Cream Festival After Dark at Fiesta Gardens. The popular ice cream extravaganza expands, complementing the kid-friendly daytime bash (which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with a night party featuring boozy frozen drinks for the grown folks. The music lineup tilts toward sizzling soul, with funky R&B lifer Lee Fields and the Expressions headlining. Austin’s queen of soul, Tameca Jones, silky alt-R&B standout Mélat and expressive local pop outfit the Wild Now are also on deck. Former President Barack Obama’s favorite turntablist, DJ Mel, rounds out the roster. $35 (day-party passes $15, kids under 6 free). 6 p.m. 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.  — D.S.S.

Snoop Dogg performs at RIO on 6th St. during SXSW on March 16, 2017. (Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

July 21-22: Float Fest in San Marcos. Tube the river and groove to tunes: It’s a natural pairing for a Central Texas summertime fest. This one invariably has had strong lineups, too, and this year is no exception, with Tame Impala, Snoop Dogg, Bassnectar, Run the Jewels, Glass Animals, Modest Mouse, Lil Wayne, Bun B, Joywave, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a solid raft of locals. $79-$119 includes music and camping (separate charges for tubing, parking and RVs). 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. 601 Dupuy Ranch Road, Martindale. — P.B.

July 26-29: Hot Summer Nights. After a successful showing last year, the mini-fest dubbed “Free Week in July” will take over clubs in the Red River Cultural District again this summer. Artists, show times and participating venues will be announced later this summer. — D.S.S.

August 25: RAS Day at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard. Headlined by soul eccentric Saul Williams, who rose to prominence 20 years ago with a starring role in the 1998 movie “Slam,”  and has consistently created powerful protest rock and rap for over 20 years, the family-friendly get down hosted by husband-and-wife rap duo Riders Against the Storm returns to its original location in historic East Austin. Also on the lineup this go round are excellent female rappers Nitty Scott and Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh, who blew us away performing with Common’s new project August Greene at South by Southwest. Afrofuturist Brazilian duo Gato Preto rounds out the bill. $20. 3 p.m. 1106 E. 11th St.

August 30-Sept. 2: Babes Fest. The signature event from Boss Babes ATX, Austin’s premiere badass woman collective, includes three days of panels, films, comedy, workshops and more. Music will be woven into other events, but the big bash is a Saturday night concert at the Mohawk headlined by blazing hot hip-hop and R&B duo Oshun who hosted an epic soul shakedown during SXSW this year.  Also on the bill are Latasha and local R&B sensation Alesia Lani.   $25 music showcase only; $50 all inclusive. 912 Red River St.

Thandiwe and Niambi Sala, the duo behind Oshun. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman

SXSW Sound Style: The Afrofuturism of Oshun

September 7-9: Waterloo Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch. Hey man, you like the jams? This new event features three nights of loosely structured improvisations from the String Cheese Incident plus sets from Grateful Dead tribute act, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Railroad Earth, the Motet and more.  Tickets, $99 for a three-day pass. Prices will rise to $119 on an unspecified date.

September 22-23: Pecan Street Festival. The fall edition of Austin’s longest-running street fair features artists, food vendors and three stages of free music from local artists. Sixth Street.

Austin360 On The Record: Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, more

Jimmie Dale Gilmore, left, and Dave Alvin celebrate the release of their new album “Downey to Lubbock” on Saturday at Antone’s. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “Downey to Lubbock.” Gilmore, from Austin, and Alvin, from California, combined their considerable cred on this duo project that finds them drawing upon their broad command of Americana styles for an album consisting mostly of interpretive material. Bluesy gems from Lloyd Price and Lightnin’ Hopkins sound at home alongside classic 1960s folk tunes from John Stewart and the Youngbloods. Gilmore’s voice stands out on a rendition of Steve Young’s “Silverlake,” while Alvin brings forth a strong new original song, the western-folk ballad “Billy the Kid and Geronimo.” Check out our full Statesman feature story on Alvin and Gilmore. Release show June 2 at Antone’s. Here’s the video for the title track:

Hooka Hey, “War Cry.” Frenchman Hugo de Saint-Quentin started this rock band a decade ago in Paris before relocating to Austin, where they released the EP “Untamed” three years ago. The full-length “War Cry” extends their catalog of original tunes that are often hard and heavy, sometimes far-out and adventurous (the carnivalesque “Coney Island”). Release show May 31 at the Parish. Scenes from downtown Austin are scene in the video for the track “Herlock”:

Sam Pace & the Gilded Grit, “Judgment Eve.” As the band name suggests, this is gritty blues-rock, with perhaps a nod toward classic Northwest grunge, Pace’s first album in four years was produced by Chris “Frenchie” Smith at the Bubble studio in Austin. Release show June 2 at Swan Dive. Here’s the video for the track “Undertow”:

Zack Varner, “Blues in the Nude.” An instructor at Eastside Music School, Varner plays alto and tenor sax on this 11-song set of instrumentals that features noted musicians from the local jazz scene including bassist Daniel Durham and trumpeter Adrian Ruiz. Here’s the title track:


  • JUNE 8: Jesse Dayton, “The Outsider” (Blue Elan).
  • JUNE 8: Sarah Sharp, “Dream” EP.
  • JUNE 15: Tish Hinojosa, “West,” playing June 8 at One World Theatre.
  • JUNE 15: Half Man, “Room to Grow.”
  • JUNE 22: Giulia Millanta, “Conversation With a Ghost” (Ugly Cat).
  • JUNE 22: Young Mothers, “Morose” (Self Sabotage).
  • JUNE 29: Cody Canada & the Departed, “3” (Underground Sound).
  • JULY 3: Kinky Friedman, “Circus of Life.”
  • JULY 13: Jimmy LaFave, “Peace Town.”
  • JULY 20: Belle Sounds, “The Sea Within,” release show July 21 at One-2-One Bar.
  • JULY 27: Israel Nash, “Lifted,” release show July 27 at Scoot Inn.
  • AUG. 3: Kevin Galloway, “The Change” (Nine Mile).
  • AUG. 24: White Denim, “Performance” (City Slang).
  • SEPT. 21: Western Youth, self-titled.
  • SEPT. 21: Jonathon Zemek, “Hillcrest.”


Pocket Fishrmen, more to play benefit for Casino El Camino employees

It’s been over a month since the best greasy burger dive on Sixth Street, Casino El Camino, shut down following a late night fire .

Austin Fire Department photo

The club is a favorite watering hole for musicians, and several bands have joined together to play a benefit for the bar’s employees who are still out of work.

“Casino El Camino may be re-opening soon, but your friends that work there have to eat in the meantime,” the FaceBook event page says.

The show is set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 9 at C-Boys Heart and Soul and the bands on the roster are Pocket Fishrmen, Mr. Lewis & the Funeral Five, the Inverters, the Ugly Beats and All Monsters Attack. 

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Waitin’ for the bikes: ZZ Top tops ROT Rally music lineup at Expo Center

ZZ Top will play this year’s Republic of Texas Biker Rally at the Travis County Expo Center on June 9. Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman

Get ready for the invasion of the motorcycles next weekend: The Republic of Texas Biker Rally hits town June 7-9, and they’re bringing ZZ Top with them this time.

The multimillion-selling Texas rock trio will play the annual bash at the Travis County Expo Center on Saturday, June 9, with El Paso’s Dirty River Boys opening. The lineup for Friday, June 8, features Shooter Jennings and Richie Kotzen, with an opening night on Thursday, June 7, teaming Hairball with the Lacs.

PHOTOS: Highlights from the 2017 ROT Rally

Tickets, $30-$99, are on sale via the event’s website. The event’s traditional downtown parade is set for Friday evening, June 8, with a party on closed-off Congress Avenue to follow.




Weekend music picks: Ely & Allen, Alvin & Gilmore and more and more

Saturday: Joe Ely & Terry Allen at Hogg Auditorium vs. Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore at Antone’s. This is a hard choice, pitting fellow Flatlanders Ely and Gilmore against each other on the same night, and both paired with intriguing partners. Ely and Allen became close compadres in Lubbock decades ago, helping to re-shape the history of Texas folk, country and rock ’n’ roll. Gilmore was an integral part of that as well, but on this night he’ll join Grammy-winning California roots-music great Alvin, celebrating the release of their new collaborative album “Downey to Lubbock.” Ely/Allen: $35-$45, 7:30 p.m. (Jo Harvey Allen opens), 2300 Whitis Ave., Alvin/Gilmore: $25, 9 p.m. (Colin Gilmore opens), 305 E Fifth St., — P.B.

RELATED: Our interview with Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore about their new album

Saturday: Brownout album release at Mohawk. Roughly a year after the 10-piece funk powerhouse hung up their Brown Sabbath-era devil horns and declared themselves “Over the Covers” with an EP of original material, they’re back to reimagining the classics. This time, they take on your favorite Public Enemy jams, songs like “Fight the Power,” “911 is a Joke” and “Don’t Believe the Hype,” with muscular, horn-heavy interpretations that throw down the psychedelic funk vibe you never knew these tracks were missing. Austin and San Antonio-based hip-hop trio Third Root and cumbia funk crew Superfonicos are also on the bill. $20-$25. 8 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. — D.S.S.

RELATED: Brownout returns to pre-Sabbath roots

Saturday: Kelly Willis album release at Stateside at the Paramount. Hard to fathom that it’s been more than a decade since the last solo release from Willis, in part because she’s done plenty since then, including two duet projects with husband Bruce Robison and a reunion of her early band Radio Ranch to mark the silver anniversary of her debut album. “Back Being Blue” follows Willis’ long history of making great records that apply her instantly engaging voice to a blend of her own songs and well-chosen covers. The originals here are mostly up-front, and the title track may be the best, a heartbreak tale set to a soulful slow-burn groove. What would be side two on a vinyl release focuses on Willis’ interpretive side, including “We’ll Do It for Love Next Time,” a Rodney Crowell tune that exquisitely balances joy and regret and sounds just perfect in Willis’ hands. $22-$40. 8 p.m. 719 Congress Ave. — P.B.

Saturday: Speedy Ortiz at Barracuda. Sadie Dupuis’ band wrapped recording on their third album “Twerp Verse” before November 2016, but after the election of Donald Trump, they reworked it to add brash protests like “Lean In When I Suffer” and “Lucky 88.” The end result is a sharp and lyrically incisive collection that cements the band’s place at the forefront of a new wave of literate indie rock. Anna Burch opens. $15. 7:30 p.m. doors. 611 E. Seventh St. — D.S.S.

Todd Park Mohr brings Big Head Todd & the Monsters to the outdoor stage at Stubb’s on Saturday. Scott Moore for American-Statesman 2016



  • Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan & George Rains at C-Boy’s
  • Cream Cheese Accident, A Live One at One-2-One Bar



  • Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Simo at Stubb’s outdoor
  • Posies at Parish
  • Jussie Smollett, June’s Diary at Empire
  • Mobley record release, Alesia Lani, Mamahawk at Mohawk indoor
  • Sam Pace & the Gilded Grit record release, Texas KGB, Matt Gilmour at Swan Dive
  • Belle Sounds, W.C. Clark, Dickie Lee Erwin at Saxon Pub
  • Zoomountchi, Electric Voodoo, Afro Jazz at Sahara Lounge
  • John Baumann, Kathryn Legendre at Stubb’s indoor
  • Billy Crockett at Threadgill’s North
  • Tender Things, Will Courtney at ABGB
  • Ampified Heat,Cloud Catcher, Crypt Trip, Bridge Farmers at Hotel Vegas
  • Eagle Claw, OMGWTFBBQ, Suckling, Black Mercy at North Door
  • Nate Boff at Lamberts


  • George Strait, Asleep at the Wheel at Erwin Center (sold out)
  • Polyphonic Spree, Calliope Musicals at Barracuda
  • Superfruit, Pretty Sister at Stubb’s indoor (sold out)
  • Making Movies, Las Cafeteras, Migrant Kids at Parish
  • Bret Coats, Lavelle White, TT Brown at Antone’s
  • Lovelorn, Knife in the Water, Filthy at Mohawk indoor
  • Savage Poor, Bo Davis, Emily Clark & friends at One-2-One Bar
  • Cornell Hurd Band at ABGB
  • Kevin Lovejoy at Lamberts

When Joe Ely met Waylon Jennings, and more notes from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Joe Ely performs at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Ford Theater on Saturday, May 26, 2018. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

NASHVILLE — Sunday marked the conclusion of a whirlwind four-day weekend at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate the opening of “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s,” a new Austin-centric exhibit that will remain on display for nearly three years.

READ MORE: Outlaws & Armadillos puts spotlight on Austin

A preview reception on Thursday was followed by Friday’s sold-out all-star concert in the facility’s 800-capacity CMA Theater. The weekend brought more special programming in the smaller Ford Theater, including songwriter sessions with Joe Ely (on Saturday) and Bobby Earl Smith with guests Kimmie Rhodes and Marcia Ball (on Sunday), plus a panel and a two-hour screening from “They Called Us Outlaws,” a multi-part in-progress documentary by Austin filmmaker Eric Geadelmann.

Perhaps best of all was “Home With the Armadillo,” a panel about Austin’s iconic 1970s venue Armadillo World Headquarters. Founder Eddie Wilson, now owner of Threadgill’s, took part in a lively discussion with poster artist Jim Franklin, whose armadillo-themed artwork helped make the venue world-famous, and lawyer Mike Tolleson, a key figure on the Armadillo’s operations team. Journalist Joe Nick Patoski walked the fine line of letting their stories flow while keeping the discussion on-point, and troubadour Gary P. Nunn provided a perfect benediction at the end with his classic song “London Homesick Blues” (the original handwritten lyrics for which are part of the museum display).

A few more notes from the weekend:

Ball’s appearance with Smith and Rhodes on Sunday afternoon was a last-minute but ideal addition to the songwriters session. Ball and Smith were the key figures in early-1970s Austin country band Freda & the Firedogs; Smith’s shirt from that band (with a vintage Pearl beer logo) is in the exhibit. Ball happened to be playing Sunday night at City Winery Nashville; her plane arrived at 10:45 a.m., allowing just enough time for her to race over to the Hall of Fame, where staff had a grand piano waiting for her onstage at the Ford Theater.

The night before at City Winery — an increasingly influential chain of wine-based restaurant and live music spots with locations in New York, Chicago and elsewhere — Michael Martin Murphey teamed with Nunn, his long-ago bandmate in early-’70s Austin, his son Ryan Murphey and special guest Lee Roy Parnell for an acoustic set in the venue’s intimate lounge bar. Nunn sang “London Homesick Blues” again, along with deeper cuts from his repertoire, while Murphey delighted the crowd with signature tunes such as “Wildfire,” “Cosmic Cowboy” and “Alleys of Austin.” All three of those songs, and many more, will be on “Austinology,” a new Murphey record coming this fall with guest vocalists including Jerry Jeff Walker, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, and a rather well-known fellow named Willie Nelson.

Return visits to the “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit every afternoon during the weekend continued to provide rewards with treasures I hadn’t spotted the first time through. I’d seen Susanna Clark’s painting that adorned the cover of Guy Clark’s debut album “Old No. 1” initially, but somehow I’d missed her masterfully minimal work that got reproduced more than 5 million times as the cover of Willie Nelson’s “Stardust” album. And Sunday, Bobby Earl Smith pointed out the test-pressing of a late-1970s Double Trouble album that was never released but featured guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan paired with firebrand Austin blues singer Lou Ann Barton.

PHOTOS: A gallery of highlights from the Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit

Best of all, though, was a story relating to a giant Raeanne Rubenstein photo of Waylon Jennings hanging at the exit of the exhibit that was taken at the iconic New York City venue Max’s Kansas City in 1973. You won’t find this story in the exhibit, but Joe Ely tells us he was there that night. Ely, who was living in New York in the winter of 1972-73, knew Waylon was also from the Texas Panhandle, so he figured he’d go check out the show and maybe say hello. Waylon was onstage when he arrived, so Ely took a seat next to a woman near the stage as Waylon performed. During the set break, Waylon came over and sternly informed the young Mr. Ely: “You’re in my seat, hoss.” He’d sat down next to Jessi Colter. Fast-forward 45 years, and it was Ely and Colter who were the featured artists on Thursday’s press-preview tour of the exhibit.

Austin troubadour Joe Ely and country singer-songwriter Jessi Colter speak to the media on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at a preview for the Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit opening May 25 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

This week’s music picks: The Wine Down, Richard Buckner, more

Wednesday: The Wine Down series with Sour Notes at 3Ten. The local indie band, whose 2017 album “Darkest Sour” was their fifth release in less than a decade, celebrates is 10th anniversary by playing this seasonal series that features local bands plus tastings of Charles Smith Wines on the last Wednesday of every month. There’s also free bites from neighboring restaurant Trace. Free. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd.

Thursday: Richard Buckner at Cactus Cafe. A sort of modern-day rambling-troubadour who’s called a lot of places home — including Austin at one point — during his quarter-century career as a recording artist, Buckner has made quite a few memorable albums for labels including MCA, Overcoat and more recently Merge. Cast early in the alt-country crowd, he soon proved to transcend such boundaries with songs that often connected more with indie audiences. $18-$20. 8:30 p.m. 2247 Guadalupe St.

Midge Ure performs Tuesday at 3Ten with Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather. Contributed/Andy Siddens



  • Beto O’Rourke benefit with Black Eyed Vermillion, Fontanelles, Shoulders, Uncle Pie Hole, more at Barracuda
  • Handsome Ghost, Beta Radio at Stubb’s indoor
  • Blind Owls, Ugly Beats, Dayeater at Mohawk indoor
  • Mystery Monday with Christine Albert, Bill Kirchen, Bob Livingston, Walt Wilkins at El Mercado
  • Nate Boff, Blue Monday Band at Antone’s
  • Church on Monday Band at Continental Gallery
  • Matthew Judson, Dave Scher Trio, Jeff Bryant at One-2-One Bar
  • Jonathan Terrell at Sam’s Town Point
  • Colin Gilmore at Hilton Cannon & Belle


  • Midge Ure, Robert Harrison at 3Ten
  • Smallpools, Great Good Fine OK at Stubb’s indoor
  • Kym Warner, David Grissom at Saxon Pub
  • Alex Coke/Rich Harney Quintet, Sarah Sharp at Elephant Room
  • Toni Price at Little Darlin’
  • James McMurtry at Continental Gallery
  • Mike Stinson, Bonnie Montgomery at Continental Club
  • Night of the Cadillacs, Dylan Bishop, 8-½ Souvenirs at C-Boy’s


  • Migrant Kids, Weed Martyr, Dossey, High Church at Hotel Vegas
  • James McMurtry, Bonnie Whitmore, Big Fix at Continental Club
  • Paul Nelson Band, Tommy Shannon Blues Band, Bill Carter at Antone’s
  • Jack Wilson & Grace Rowland Park at Cactus Cafe
  • Texas Radio Live with Ty Richards, Craig Marshall at Guero’s
  • Naked Wednesdays with Conrad Keely, Leslie Sisson, Michael Booher, Jeremy Nail, Mina Soto at Spider House Ballroom
  • Wild Rivers, Katy Kirby at Stubb’s indoor
  • Lonely Biscuits at Mohawk indoor
  • Warren Hood at ABGB
  • John Inmon at Threadgill’s North
  • Barbara Nesbitt at Hilton Cannon & Belle
  • Nichole Wagner at Geraldine’s


  • Matisyahu, Stephen Marley at Stubb’s outdoor
  • Josh Garrels, Strahan at Emo’s
  • Brownout at Waterloo Records
  • Nightmares on Wax, Catching Flies at Mohawk outdoor
  • Just Blaze at Empire
  • Unplugged at the Grove with Los Coast at Shady Grove
  • Jonathan Terrell, Carson McHone, Saddle Sores at White Horse
  • Curtis McMurtry, Ali Holder at Townsend
  • Bonnie Whitmore, Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few at Continental Gallery
  • Jai Malano, Big Sugar, Paul Oscher at C-Boy’s
  • Accidentals, Patrice Pike, Love & Chaos at Saxon Pub
  • Jimmie Dreams, Speedy Sparks at Sam’s Town Point
  • Brother Brothers at Radio Coffee & Beer

READ MORE: Check out our guide to 200-plus summer music events

Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit-opening concert brings the 1970s-era music to life

The Country Music Hall of Fame commissioned new artwork for its Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit including this Sam Yeates piece depicting Willie Nelson’s early-1970s move to Austin after a fire at his Nashville-area farm. Contributed/Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

NASHVILLE — The relatively new CMA Theater attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a fairly ideal place for showcase events such as “Country’s Roaring ’70s,” Friday’s concert to mark the opening of the museum’s new Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit. Built as part of a massive add-on to the original Hall along with a hotel and several shops and restaurants, It’s an intimate (800 capacity) yet grand room with first-rate sound and a circular construction reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

With a lineup that ranged from present-day chart-topper Jason Isbell to Nashville living legend Bobby Bare to Austin honky-tonk lifer Gary P. Nunn, the show sold out well in advance. At the helm were ace producer Dave Cobb (Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price) and musician Shooter Jennings, whose father Waylon and mother Jessi Colter — also a performer on this night — are featured significantly in the museum’s impressive new exhibit.

RELATED: Outlaws & Armadillos puts spotlight on Austin

More than two dozen featured performers and backing musicians delivered 24 songs in two sets, all focusing on the golden decade that marked Austin’s rise as a haven for country artists who longed to work outside of Nashville industry norms. As is often the case with such all-star undertakings, the results were uneven, but the high points reached pretty darn high.

Many of them came in the first half-hour. Jennings, playing piano for most of the night, set the tone by leading the house band through a ragged, rowdy version of “T for Texas, T for Tennessee,” practically the theme song for the new exhibit. Bare’s 1974 classic “Marie Laveau,” his only No. 1 hit, featured key backing vocals from fiddler Amanda Shires. “It just dawned on my backstage that of this huge group, I’m the oldest guy here,” mused Bare, 83, sounding simultaneously blessed and shocked at that realization. His presence was important and greatly appreciated by the crowd, in that much of the evening focused on the music of legends who are no longer with us.

PHOTOS: A gallery of highlights from the Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit

Billy Joe Shaver might have been next-oldest on the bill, so it was fitting that he followed with two of his best-known numbers, “Honky Tonk Heroes” and “Georgia on a Fast Train.” Shires, who’d accompanied Shaver on his his two songs, then explained that she’d moved to Nashville from Texas after touring extensively with Shaver, and paid tribute to her old boss with an a cappella delivery of his heart-stopping ballad “Star in My Heart.” That highlight, in turn, proved a perfect setup for the single best musical performance of the night as Shires’s husband, Jason Isbell, joined for a glorious rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty.”

From there, things were a bit up and down. Canada’s Colter Wall visually fit the part of singing “Red Headed Stranger,” but his voice is such a ringer for Waylon’s that it was somewhat surprising he didn’t do a Jennings tune. Jack Ingram’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train” was a fitting tribute to Guy Clark, but the second-set inclusion of Clark’s “She Ain’t Going Nowhere” by the more pedestrian Jason Boland seemed unnecessary. Tanya Tucker seemed a somewhat out-of-place inclusion, in that her 1970s rise as a teen country star was more of a coinciding parallel to the music presented in the exhibit than a part of it.

Still, some great moments continued to pop up throughout the second set. Most people in the crowd probably weren’t familiar with Austin’s Bobby Earl Smith, but the former Freda & the Firedogs linchpin sounded great with Kimmie Rhodes on “Contrabandistas,” a song he wrote with Rhodes’ late husband, the longtime Austin DJ and producer Joe Gracey. Joe Ely, who’d served up the best musical moment at Thursday night’s preview reception, stood out once again with his own “I Had My Hopes Up High” and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “Dallas.”

Jamey Johnson, arguably the best singer on the bill, then stepped up with an impromptu solo reading of Shaver’s “Just Because You Asked Me To” after noting that Shaver had asked him backstage, “When are you going to do a whole record of my songs?” To which Johnson said he answered, “Tomorrow.” (That would be a welcome development, as it’s been nearly a decade since Johnson last released an album.) He followed with a rollicking take on the Waylon & Willie classic “Good Hearted Woman” that brought out the best in the night’s solid-as-a-rock backing band: directors Jennings and Cobb on piano and acoustic guitar, respectively, plus guitarists Chris Shiflett and Charlie Worsham (with Isbell occasionally joining them), Shires on fiddle, pedal steel guitarist Robby Turner, bassist Brian Allen, drummer Chris Powell, bacing singers Maureen Murphy and Kristen Rogers, and Chris Hennessee on harmonica.

Things got a little comical at the end when Jennings, caught up in wishing his mother a happy birthday, almost skipped over her signature song. Fortunately the band reminded him in time to turn the spotlight on her for a sterling rendition of “I’m Not Lisa” featuring just piano and steel guitar. Elizabeth Cook joined in for the house-rocking finale of Mickey Newbury’s “Why You Been Gone So Long,” sadly not credited to the monumental songwriter.

Perhaps the most revealing moment came near the end of the first set, when Nunn played his signature tune “London Homesick Blues” and encouraged the crowd to sing along on its well-known “Home With the Armadillo” chorus. At the end, there was a rousing standing ovation, but only from a minority segment of the crowd. That’s when you know exactly who the Texans in the audience were — a perfect visual cue for that Austin-Nashville push-pull that the museum’s exhibit portrays. (Nunn’s original handwritten lyric sheet for the song is in the exhibit.)

The exhibit’s opening-weekend festivities continue Saturday and Sunday with afternoon musical sessions involving Ely, Smith and Rhodes, plus a panel discussion about the Armadillo World Headquarters and an excerpt from Austin filmmaker Eric Geadelmann’s in-progress documentary series “They Called Us Outlaws.”

‘Outlaws & Armadillos’ exhibit opening in Nashville puts spotlight on Austin

[cmg_anvato video=4402617 autoplay=”true”]

NASHVILLE — Walking into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit is like entering a time warp back to 1970s Austin.

Posters from the Armadillo World Headquarters and Willie Nelson’s early Fourth of July Picnics line the walls. Video screens loop footage of Joe Ely, Guy Clark and other Texas greats when they were young and on fire, first making names for themselves. Murals both from the era and recently commissioned help to establish the mood of what Austin was like “back in the good old days,” as the ’70s are often pegged now.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville touts its new Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit, which opens this weekend and will run through early 2021. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

And then there are the artifacts. The door from the Luckenbach dance hall that graced the cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s landmark 1973 album “Viva Terlingua”? Check. The Randall knife that Guy Clark wrote about in perhaps his finest song ever, a touching tribute to his father? It’s here, along with its sheath. The jumpsuit Joe Ely wore when he tended animals for the circus just before he embarked on a solo career post-Flatlanders? Got it.

The actual Randall Knife owned by Guy Clark’s father that inspired Clark’s song “The Randall Knife” is part of the “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit opening May 25 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

On Thursday, the exhibit was unveiled to media and attendees of an invitation-only preview reception, before a grand-opening weekend commences with an all-star concert on Friday night at the museum’s 800-capacity CMA Theater. In the works for several years, “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s” will remain on display until early 2021.

READ MORE: Country Music Hall of Fame announces lineup for ‘Outlaws and Armadillos’ concert

The concert kicks off a weekend of activities that will involve several Austinites. Sessions featuring Ely, Kimmie Rhodes and Bobby Earl Smith will focus on the music Austin produced in that golden decade of cosmic cowboys and country outlaws. A Saturday afternoon panel moderated by Wimberley author Joe Nick Patoski will discuss the significance of Armadillo World Headquarters with key figures Eddie Wilson, Mike Tolleson, Jim Franklin and Gary P. Nunn (writer of the song “London Homesick Blues” and its definitive “home with the Armadillo” refrain).

RELATED:An excerpt from Eddie Wilson’s Armadillo memoir

Sunday, Austin filmmaker Eric Geadelmann and country star Jessi Colter will present an installment of a documentary series that Geadelmann, a co-curator of the museum exhibit, has been working on for years. Colter, the widow of outlaw icon Waylon Jennings, also was in attendance at Thursday’s preview, as was their son Shooter Jennings, who teamed with Nashville producer Dave Cobb to organize the Friday concert.

As she viewed a couple of dresses she donated to the museum for the exhibit, Colter recalled how special her visits to Austin were during the 1970s, citing performances at Willie’s Picnic and Armadillo World Headquarters as particularly memorable. “I always felt like it was the prettiest city,” she said. “And the audiences were so much fun to play to.”

Austin troubadour Joe Ely and country singer-songwriter Jessi Colter speak to the media on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at a preview for the “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit opening May 25 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Across the way, Ely was checking out a handful of items he’d donated, including a guitar he used to write most of his earliest songs and a rare 8-track tape of the 1972 Flatlanders album he made with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. Most intriguing, though, was that circus jumpsuit, which he wore in 1973 shortly after the Flatlanders album was made but before he began playing music on his own.

It was sort of by accident: He went to check out the circus when it arrived in Lubbock, but employees mistook him for a crew member. He played along. “They gave me this outfit and about $60 a week. So I jumped on in what was called ringstock, which is pretty much just taking care of the llamas and the world’s smallest horse.”

RELATED: Our 2015 interview with Joe Ely

The museum’s Peter Cooper, who worked with Michael Gray and Geadelmann in curating Outlaws & Armadillos, pointed out a couple of items he’s most proud to have in the exhibit.“ The first thing we collected was the copper still where Tom T. Hall and the Reverend Bill D. Campbell made whiskey,” he said, noting that while Austin artifacts are central to “Outlaws & Armadillos,” its theme ultimately is about the push-pull partnership between Austin and Nashville in the 1970s.

To that end, he added, “Somebody who’s shared by Austin and Nashville is Guy Clark, and so Guy Clark’s Randall knife and Susanna Clark’s artwork are incredibly special.” A painting by Susanna, Clark’s wife and a heralded songwriter in her own right, was used for the cover of Guy’s 1975 debut album “Old No. 1” and is among the most striking pieces in the exhibit.

This painting by Susanna Clark became the cover of Guy Clark’s first album, “Old No. 1,” in 1975. It’s part of the “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit, which opens May 25 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville and will run through early 2021. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Speaking to about 1,000 attendees of the preview reception in a grand room overlooking the Nashville skyline, museum CEO Kyle Young further suggested that although the relationship between the Austin and Nashville music communities is often considered contentious, he sees a lot of symbiotic ties.

“Nashville needed Texas,” he told the crowd. “We needed Guy Clark and Susanna Clark. And Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. And Waylon Jennings and Rodney Crowell. And Delbert McClinton and Townes Van Zandt. And hundreds more who first embraced and then enhanced this town’s depth and texture.”

In turn, he continued, “Texans needed Nashville. Musical Texas wasn’t set up in opposition to Nashville. If it had been, there would have been a preponderance of studios and entertainment lawyers and infrastructure. Kinky Friedman and Michael Murphey, and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jerry Jeff Walker, and Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, and George Strait and Jack Ingram, and so many more all came here to record, to commune and to create. We all needed each other.”

MORE PHOTOS: From the Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit

The entrance to the new “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit, which opens May 25 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville and will run through early 2021. At left is a portrait of a young Willie Nelson painted by Austin artist Kerry Awn. Peter Blackstock/American-Statesman

Nashville, here we come: Austin-themed exhibit opens at Country Hall of Fame this weekend

An exhibit opening this weekend at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville focuses on Austin-Nashville connections in the 1970s.

Are you ready for a cosmic-cowboy journey back in time? We’re in Nashville this weekend to cover the opening of “Outlaws and Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s,” a major new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum that details the push-and-pull between Austin and Nashville during the years that marked Willie Nelson’s return to Texas and the rise of the landmark venue Armadillo World Headquarters.

RELATED: Austin figures prominently in new Country Hall of Fame exhibit

Check back Friday morning for a report from Thursday evening’s preview reception, which will feature an early look at the exhibit and intimate musical performances by Joe Ely, Jessi Colter and Shooter Jennings. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, with a sold-out concert in the museum’s CMA Theater Friday night featuring more than a dozen performers including Austin’s Joe Ely, Kimmie Rhodes and Jack Ingram as well as Texas greats Delbert McClinton and Billy Joe Shaver plus Nashville artists including Bobby Bare and Jason Isbell. We’ll have a full review of the show on Saturday morning.

READ MORE: Country Music Hall of Fame announces lineup for ‘Outlaws and Armadillos’ concert

We’ll also have a follow-up report on additional opening-weekend events, which include a panel discussion with key Armadillo World Headquarters figures Eddie Wilson, Mike Tolleson and Jim Franklin; songwriting sessions with Ely, Rhodes and Bobby Earl Smith; and a focus-group screening of a two-hour segment from Austin filmmaker Eric Geadelmann’s in-progress 12-hour documentary series, “They Called Us Outlaws.”

The exhibit will remain on display at the museum until early 2021. It will feature instruments, recordings and clothing from major artists of the era, short excerpts from Geadelmann’s documentary, and artifacts such as the Randall knife owned by Guy Clark’s father and written about in his song “The Randall Knife.”

ALSO: An excerpt from Eddie Wilson’s Armadillo memoir