DESPITE SWELTERING HEAT AT MIDDAY, and gusty winds and stormy skies at sunset, this year’s Canadian River Music Festival was, by our measure, one of the most consistently enjoyable yet. In its ninth year, the festival has grown up, and done so without losing its sass and swagger, and without sacrificing its acute ear for the next band on the rise—for the slightly unusual, the just risky enough, the never disappointing.
Anyone who waited to show up at Jones Pavilion until the last act took the stage, missed some fine performances—and one singularly breathtaking cover of Whitney Houston’s signature song, “I Will Always Love You,” by the day’s biggest surprise, Josh Weathers. And yes, folks, he hit the high notes, flawlessly negotiated that near-impossible key change, and was in no hurry to let it go, either.
A mic drop moment, right here in Canadian, Texas—second only to the incomparable Mavericks, who played here in 2016.
In the meantime, there was plenty of two-stepping and boot-scooting, sun-soaking and cold beer-sipping, lawn chair-lazing, and just plain good company, to make a great day filled with sweet music even better.
Total attendance at this year’s event was a little more than 2,600, according to board member Tiffany Carpenter, making it the largest festival, to date. Not bad, as this small-town event with its big-town sound slides into its 10th anniversary.
One of the things that sets this festival apart is the heart of the volunteers who make it happen every year, and who do so without fail—not just in spite of, but in addition to, the daily responsibilities they have to jobs and families. We won’t even try to name them all here, but will take this opportunity to single out a few, who are representative of the many.
Board members Randy Acosta, Wes Avent, Anna Booze, Tiffany Carpenter, Kate Estrada, and Rob Talley have earned our admiration and appreciation for their work, as have former board members and fellow instigators, Sue and Lonnie Cox. Without them, it would not happen. Without them, it likely would never have happened … and certainly wouldn’t have happened with such consistent class.
Rob Talley and the crew of Blue Ridge Oil Trucking & Crane are the boots on the ground. They are there days before the first guitar pick strums a chord, and are still there when the last trash bag filled with litter is hauled away. They assume the task of putting up fences and setting up the dance floor in preparation for festival day, and of tearing it all down when the crowd heads home to recover.
Throughout the day’s event, Rob and crew are on the scene, ready to handle whatever needs handled and to make sure it all runs smoothly. This year’s job was a daunting one, according to Carpenter, who said gusty winds leading up to Saturday blew down several sections in the process of setup. “Those guys worked into the night to make sure we had everything we needed,” she said. Carpenter also noted the BRO crew’s fabrication of an amazing hand-washing station, a few years ago.
“Rob and his crew are the MVPs in the week leading up to the festival,” she said.
It is a conclusion easily-drawn by anyone who has watched this event take shape over its first decade of life, and who has appreciated the added dimension of live music that has enriched the River City in so many ways since its birth.
Carpenter—who has also earned our praise for her role in guiding and inspiring the festival, but will, no doubt, shrug it off—adds, with characteristic humility, this final grace note: “Without the support of our community, our amazing volunteers, dependable staff, generous sponsors, and loyal attendees who come from all over the area, CRMF doesn’t happen. Period.”
Thanks to all. Counting the days.