The Texas music scene is heading out west later this month—or at least a big chunk of it. About 55 Texas acts are making the trek to Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis, Marathon, and Lajitas for the Viva Big Bend Music Festival, taking place July 22-27.
The fourth annual edition of Viva Big Bend features more than 75 shows across 11 venues in the region. A twirl through the schedule could take you from Suzanna Choffel and Joe King Carrasco at Padre’s in Marfa to Billy Joe Shaver at the Granada Theater in Alpine. Other big names on the bill include Reckless Kelly, the Texas Tornados, Butch Hancock, the Tejas Brothers, and Colin Gilmore and Nicolette Good.
“We want to throw a lot of stuff at people,” says Stewart Ramser, the producer of the festival. “If someone walks away and they feel like they didn’t get to do everything, well that’s great. We want them to come back. We want people to continue to explore and come out.”
The bulk of the activity takes place at clubs in Alpine and Marfa, with three-day passes available for $60 in advance. VIP tickets for specific nights at specific venues cost $35.
There will also be free concerts at the Lajitas Golf Resort on Tuesday and Wednesday (July 22-23); the Holland Hotel in Alpine (July 24-27); the Gage Hotel in Marathon (July 25); and at the Audrey & Tyrone Kelly Outdoor Theater in Fort Davis (July 26).
Ramser says bands love coming to the Big Bend region for the event; many bring their families and make a vacation out of it. Viva Big Bend also puts on industry workshops, an art festival, and shows for children in Fort Davis, Alpine, and Marfa.
“There’s a wide variety of music, and a little bit of something for everyone,” says Ramser, who is also the publisher of Texas Music Magazine. “A lot of people come out and they have specific artists that are their favorites. But what I’ve found is that we’ll throw a great lineup in a club, and people will say they intended to leave for other shows but they stayed there all night and found some new favorites. Part of it is just exploring and being exposed to new artists that you haven’t heard.”
And Ramser stresses that the weather should not be a deterrent. Most days top out in the 80s in the area, and there’s even an occasional day that doesn’t get hotter than the 70s. “While there are parts of West Texas that are extremely hot, the mountain area, the high elevations, the bulk of our activities, are in those communities that are at 4,500 feet or higher, and the climate is much different than the rest of the Texas.”
To discourage drunken driving on the 26-mile stretch between Alpine and Marfa, Viva Big Bend provides a free shuttle at night when the shows are taking place.
Check out this YouTube video to get a sense of what Viva Big Bend is like,