Let me set the picture for you. Think of camping next to a beautiful, scenic river with a bunch of your friends. Add amazing live music to that. Add amazing food and drinks to that. What do you see? If you’re thinking that sounds like heaven right now, well you’re right, but it’s called River Revival.
In its fourth year, the music festival has managed to grow and stay true to itself at the same time. In collaboration with Saint Arnold Brewing Company, River Revival was created for music lovers to share great times, music and memories while enjoying the beautiful Texas Hill country along the Guadalupe River. River Revival takes place at KL Ranch Camp “On the River” campgrounds in New Braunfels, Texas. What makes River Revival different than other festivals is that the experience stays with you and makes you reflect on where you are at currently – at least in my case it does.
I experienced my first River Revival in 2017 and I was blown away by the experience. I’ve been to many festivals – both music and film – but this one was different. It didn’t feel like work. Work to get ready, work to make it out or work to get pumped for the day. Since River Revival is limited to only about 1,000 campers, it takes away the overwhelming feeling that other music festivals are known for. River Revival is all about the live music and getting in touch with nature and people. You’ll never have to fight for a spot or wait hours in line to make sure you get front row to see the headlining band. Everyone is equal at River Revival. You prop down your lawn chair and leave it there for the rest of the weekend. Yeah, it’s amazing knowing you’re going to experience the same festival as everyone else attending without having to upgrade your badge to “VIP.”
That’s what makes River Revival special. You’re basically spending the weekend with a bunch of your friends and having a big ol’ camp-out with outstanding live musical performances as your entertainment. It truly is a special experience that everyone should have, whether you’re a music lover or not.
This year, I really wanted to experience the festival and be present in the moment. I spent a lot of time last year taking photos or trying to find perfect moments to capture and write about. But to write about River Revival, you have to experience it fully. I took the snaps I needed this year, but I really set my phone down to enjoy the moment. It’s funny how a day at River Revival feels. I swear the two days I spent there felt like a week. Everything slowed down because I wasn’t glued to my phone. I didn’t even have a signal for the whole festival. I was disconnected from everything outside of River Revival and so I was forced to enjoy the time and the beauty of this festival and appreciate it for what it is.
This year, Splice Records’ Shaun Brennan put together another amazing lineup of musical talent and festivities. From one year to the next, it was amazing to see how much the festival grew, but also felt the same. That’s not easy to do, especially when it can be so easy to go “corporate.” Here are some of the highlights from River Revival 2018.
The musical lineup was a live music dream: The Suffers, Jackie Venson, Tomar & the FCs, John Evans, Maggie Belle Band, Arthur Yoria, Swimwear Department, Vodi, Ancient Cat Society, Pecos Hank, Craig Kinsey, Dem, Tightn’ Up, Buxton, Full Service, Rosie Ledet and Zydeco and the Playboys, Hector Ward & the Bigtime.
A few my favorites were Jackie Venson, who rocked out her guitar solos; Tomar & The FCs who played David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and brought the River Revival stage down; Maggie Belle Band, who brought New Orleans soul and The Suffers, who closed out the festival in style. It was a good weekend of music y’all! If you didn’t make it to the festival, you can listen to the tunes on the official River Revival Spotify playlist.
The Food and Drink
One thing you won’t go at River Revival is hungry or thirsty. Tickets are all-inclusive, so not worrying about carrying your card or cash around is AMAZING. Another reason why I love this festival so much. You’re all in. There’s no excuse for you to not be present and in the moment. The folks at River Revival make it easy to have a great time. A big shout out to Chefs Jason and Becca Kerr from Little Kitchen HTX and Eat My Pralines. They stepped in when the original chef had to back out this year and cooked up so many great dishes and lots of it! They were true rock stars!
And shout out to the drink sponsors providing all the tasty beverages, including: Saint Arnold Brewery, Deep Eddy Vodka, Old Humble Distilling Company and FIX Coffee.
River Revival Activities and Art Program
This year added a few more festivities to the mix and some of the same traditions. There was an art program featuring Journey Through, Black Cassidy and the Input Output Creativity Lab all partaking in making the campgrounds beautiful in their own way. Notably, there were artists Gelson, Alex Ramos and Billy Baccam creating murals during the festival that lit up at night.
There were also plenty of river activities including the Group Float, hiking, paddle boarding and lots more. I took advantage and floated on the river and it was so calm and relaxing with the sound of live music playing in the background.
River Revival Prizes and Message from Splice Records’ Found Shaun Brennan
One of the fun parts of River Revival is the awards. There are awards for Most Creative Campsite, King & Queen Campers, Should’ve Been at Woodstock Award, Most Creative Float and Most Creative Style Award. As all the awards were handed out, Splice Records and River Revival founder Shaun Brennan took the stage to say thank you and be honest about the toll the festival takes on him every year. “I’ll be honest, this festival almost killed me this year. But it’s worth it seeing all the happy faces,” Brennan expressed.
I’m not aware of many festivals where the founder and owner are deeply embedded in the creation and execution of the festival and so involved. It’s an amazing thing to see Brennan go through the crowd and stop every five seconds because he knows everyone personally at the fest. This isn’t a festival that is out to make a ton of money, it’s meant for keeping live music and the experience of nature alive. Brennan expressed to campers that the future of River Revival does depend on the doing something different. He urged for anyone who has attended to consider helping either financially or any other ways they can to help keep the festival alive.
River Revival 2018 was one for the books. There’s a vibe in the air when you arrive and it stays with you throughout the festival. You know everyone is there for the right reasons, not just for the photo op. Everyone attending is there to have a great time, enjoy each other and listen to live music. It was another experience in the books that has stayed with me since I left the campground. Take me back to River Revival.
Splice Records also hosts BowiElvis Fest, which honors two of the greats of rock n’ roll who happen to have shared the same birthday, January 8! You can learn more about BowiElvis Fest and Splice Records here.