Except for autumn, spring is festival season in Houston. This time of year most people can probably be forgiven for losing track of all the events in the area that take advantage of the agreeable weather and humans' unquenchable appetite for food, drink, fellowship and live music to wash it all down. Then again, the urge to celebrate surviving another earth cycle is probably as old as the changing of the seasons.
But one local event hasn't quite received the credit it deserves, especially for its musical merit. Within just a few years, the Texas Crawfish & Music Festival, an outgrowth of the nonprofit Old Town Spring Preservation League, has quietly emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the state's concert calendar. Spread out over this weekend and next, this year the festival will host some of Texas' top bands in both rock (Los Lonely Boys, Bob Schneider) and country (Jason Boland & the Stragglers, Kevin Fowler), plus an undercard full of up-and-comers: Austin's Shakey Graves and the Wheeler Brothers, Tyler's Whiskey Myers, Lufkin's Downfall Rising and even UK soul-jazz outfit The Filthy Six.
That's to go along with stalwarts like Dale Watson, Jesse Dayton, Bri Bagwell, Alejandro Escovedo and Heartless Bastards. Houston acts are prominently featured, whether rock (The Tontons, Dmitri's Rail, Fighting Gemini), R&B (the Suffers, Nick Greer & the G's) or country (Junior Gordon Band, Folk Family Revival). There's something for almost every taste, plus a few surprises -- and isn't that what every good music festival aims for?
Indeed, last year the TCMF managed to draw some 40,000 people (not counting the people partying in nearby Old Town Spring, too) despite losing one of its Saturdays to a wicked rainout. Considering it traditionally gets a fraction of the media coverage of similar but higher-profile events like Free Press Summer Fest or the Houston International Festival, that's nothing to sneeze at. And considering the advantages those two events enjoy, what's happening in Spring is that much more impressive.
The TCMF has actually been around since 1986, but its leap in visibility is largely the work of producer Dave Conway, who grew up in Old Town Spring but has only been with TCMF for two years. The organizers brought him aboard when they decided it needed "a little bit of a boost," he says.
"It had kind of leveled off with a lot of the same bands playing each year," Conway explains. "They basically wanted to the bookings of the artists and try to grow a little bit there, as well as just try to make a better experience for people coming out."
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