The 2018 Old Settler’s Music Festival was held this past weekend from April 19-22, just a little outside of Lockhart, Texas. Since 1987, Old Settler’s has been a beloved festival for Austinites and many others near and far, providing long weekends full of live music, camping, local food and drink vendors, arts & crafts, and plenty of dancing. For me, Old Settler’s has become a festival near and dear to my heart, and I know many others share the same sentiment.
I can vividly remember the first time I discovered and experienced Old Settler’s. I was a sophomore in college at Baylor University, borderline obsessed with Iron & Wine. I mean, Sam Beam is still one of my favorite humans ever, but at that time “Naked as We Came” was all I listened to for months straight. So when I stumbled upon an event page online announcing that Iron & Wine would be performing outside of Austin, Texas, I knew I had to go.
My friend and I bought a day pass for Saturday and made the short trek down to Austin for the weekend, not knowing much at all about Old Settler’s nor bluegrass for that matter. We truly went into it all blindly, with zero expectations/plans. Looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
At that point in time, I’d never even been to out to The Salt Lick, so the hill country was completely foreign to me. I’d never seen those rolling hills, endless vineyards, and fields of green and gold. For a moment while driving out there, I truly wondered if I was still in Texas. The grounds of the festival surprised me equally, lush with grass and wildflowers, surrounded by babbling Onion Creek, under a canopy of tall pecan trees. Call me cheesy, but it felt magical (I’m a nature junkie if you couldn’t tell).
Though I attended the festival solely to see Iron & Wine, I got so much more. It was there that I truly fell in love with bluegrass and discovered many artists/bands I’ve grown to adore: Gaelic Storm, Lissie, Greensky Bluegrass (also in this year’s lineup), and Sarah Jarosz, whose music career started as a young girl in the festival’s youth talent competition… she now has two Grammys! (More to come on her music and performance with I’m With Her this year.)
Did you know @sarahjarosz has a rich history with Old Settler’s? Press play to learn more. Don’t miss her playing with @imwithherband. Tickets still available https://t.co/lqWaYRGGIG pic.twitter.com/NngFnk7y7A
— Old Settler’s Music (@Oldsettler) April 21, 2018
Psst! Sarah Jarosz isn’t the only famous artist with Old Settler’s! Check out our article here on Austin’s beloved Shakey Graves!
Years later, I found myself back at Old Settler’s for the third time and, though in a different location, it still felt like the same Old Settler’s Music Festival I now know and love. Held in Tilmon, Texas, this year’s location was even more special than past. Why, you may ask? Well, given the longstanding history of Old Settler’s (31 years!), the festival finally decided to find a permanent home. This land in the beautiful Caldwell County is now their land forevermore, and I know every Old Settler was so happy hear this.
The lineup this year did not disappoint either (it never does): Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, I’m With Her, Calexico, Jamestown Revival, The California Honeydrops, Bob Schnieder, JD McPherson, Wade Bowen, and so much more. If you’re curious, we listed our top five “must-see” bands here, though I’ll admit that there are many I’d tack on to that now that the festival has come and gone. Stay tuned for more on that!
Although I didn’t camp this year, I enjoyed walking over to the campgrounds to see all the tent sites, vintage airstreams, and funky RVs (Old Settlers go all out with their set-ups!). Campers even have access to an exclusive campground stage for late night performances and jam sessions – if you want an even more unique experience, I highly recommend camping one year!
Though half of the weekend delivered not-so-great weather (down-pouring rain…😬), we still had more fun than we could have imagined. Between the music, the amazing vendors, the fantastic food and drinks, the kind volunteer staff and lively crowd, I couldn’t have asked for a better time and honestly wish it lasted longer (as I always do).
Personal highlights/favorites this year included the following:
Food: The Original Blacks BBQ, Cooper’s Concessions
You won’t understand until you experience it yourself, but there’s just something about this festival that feels like home. It’s a place where you immediately feel welcome. Welcome to be your weird self, to dance the way you want to dance, to sing out loud and make new friends along the way. To feel truly free. For me, Old Settler’s is more than just a music festival; it’s a reminder to carry this free-spirited and lively nature through my daily life and never let go of it, never forget it.
Check back in later this week for more recaps and photos galleries from OSMF 18, and be sure to check out our other articles here!
Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.