In its seventh annual incarnation, this year’s Canadian River Music Festival will feature a familiar face—the Randy Rogers Band—as its headliner, along with an intriguing mix of other bands, ranging from the genre-defying musical melting pot of the Mavericks to the alternative roots rock melodies of Amarillo’s City Will Shake.
It all happens this Saturday on two outdoor stages at Jones Pavilion.
The one-day festival is just hitting its stride this year, having established its reputation for mixing well-known headliners, like Stoney LaRue and Robert Earl Keen, with those just on the verge of discovery. The festival has expanded to two outdoor stages and the crowd of music fans that finds its way to this little Texas Panhandle town has grown each year, as well.
This year’s performances will kick off at noon with Amarillo’s own City Will Shake, which relies on a two-lead vocal approach to songwriting, with generous amounts of harmonies, rounds, and counterpoint-styled melodies. Their music takes a nod from Texas’ rich history of blues and folk, and peppers it with elements from punk and hard rock to create a fresh sound.
Shane Smith and the Saints will take the stage at 1:30 pm, unleashing a spirited, four-part harmony sound that music fans will have trouble putting a finger on, but should have no trouble putting their hands together for. Hints of folk, rock, country and Americana all shine through an aggressive, rootsy, fiddle-beat stew that’s connecting with students, hipsters, bikers, roughnecks and songwriter buffs at every stop. Although Springsteen long ago cornered the market on gritty, high-energy live performances, the band takes a back seat to no one in grinding out great live shows at legendary venues across the Southwest and beyond.
The Ballroom Thieves started out in Boston, Massachusetts, and when they step on the festival stage at 3 pm, will likely claim the title of the farthest-traveled band. On their debut album, A Wolf in the Doorway, the Thieves find themselves taking the very idea of roots music and creating ways to make its associated sound progress, while making its encompassing spirit glow by blending acoustic styles and folk conventions with the rich harmonies of modern hymnals and Delta blues grit.
Country rock singer Bonnie Bishop will shake the afternoon nap out of the sunstruck crowd at 4:30 pm. After a successful career on the Americana and Texas music circuits—including four albums, critical acclaim and a nomination for Vocal Performance of the Year at the Lone Star Music Awards—Bishop came off the road and moved to Nashville to pursue a songwriting career. Equal parts Gavin DeGraw, Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt, with a splash of Grace Potter and a shot of Robert Earl Keen, Bonnie’s affecting lyrics and musical prowess underscore her ability to encourage and validate the listener. Her stories of survival and redemption find their way into empowering and anthemic songs fit for anyone’s personal theme-song playlist. Bishop’s sixth album, Ain’t Who I Was, will be released on May 27. Expect a peek preview this weekend.
As the sun edges closer to the horizon, Houston-born Charlie Robison will bring his own brand of Lone Star music to the festival stage. Robison writes from a perspective that draws from and speaks to larger matters and issues within human experience and life in these times. After contributing to albums from Alejandro Escovedo and Kelly Willis, Robison made his solo debut in 1995 with Bandera, following up three years later with Life of the Party. He and his younger brother, Bruce, teamed up with fellow-Texan Jack Ingram in 2000 for Unleashed Live, and for a second studio effort the following spring, Step Right Up.
The stage will light up for The Mavericks at 7:30 pm. From their earliest shows as a garage band playing the punk clubs on Miami Beach, this band has had a knack for getting people to groove. Drawing on a mix of classic country, cow-punk and standards, Malo and company left South Florida, bringing their rhythmic fervor and Latin machismo, along with Malo’s lush baritone, to the world. In 2013, after numerous years as a band, multiple gold and platinum albums, world tours, breakups and reformations, The Mavericks recorded their critically-acclaimed album, In Time. With the new release of Mono, their eighth studio album, last year, The Mavericks find themselves making the most relevant music of their career.
In the final act of the evening at 9:30 pm, the Randy Rogers Band will return to the CRMF stage, following their 2012 performance which drew a crowd of nearly 2,000 to Canadian. A staple of the Texas country scene since the early 2000s, the Randy Rogers Band has racked up three top-five albums, and will likely have another one with their newest work, Nothing Shines Like Neon. The Randy Rogers Band is arguably the preeminent act in all of Texas country right now.
A FEW FESTIVAL TIPS
• All of this fine music comes with a price tag of just $25 for an all-day pass. General admission tickets may be purchased online at www.canadianrivermusicfestival.com until midnight this Friday, May 14. After that, all tickets must be purchased at the festival gate for $35 cash. Children 12 and under will be admitted free with a ticketed adult.
• Glass containers are not allowed beyond the festival gate. Coolers are welcome and will be inspected at the gate.
• While the music may seem ample nourishment for the hungry soul, festivarians can expect a variety of fine dining fare from event food and drink vendors on site.
• For the first time this year, primitive campground spots will be provided at The River Bed, located on the far east side of the festival grounds. A limited number of campsites are still available for a package deal, which includes one 30-by-40-foot site, four general admission tickets and two river bed parking passes for just $300 (+ fee). For more information, contact Wes Avent at 806.282.9534.
• Handicapped parking is available inside the festival grounds for disabled patrons with legally-tagged vehicles on a first-come, first-served basis. Check with CRMF volunteers at the gate.
• General admission gate entrance is on the south side of the grounds (follow the signs)
• At midweek, Amarillo’s National Weather Service was predicting a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms for Saturday and Saturday night. But the show will go on, rain or shine. Event organizers recommend that festival-goers bring umbrellas, rain parkas, rubber boots, and adventurous spirit and a resilient attitude with them when they pack for the day.