Music

Jackie Venson and the Magic of the River Revival Music Festival

The River Revival Music Festival takes place in late September at KL Ranch Camp “on the River” in New Braunfels, Texas. The festival was founded by Splice Records and is heading into its fifth year.

After attending two River Revival Music Festivals, I can tell you without a doubt, it’s a slice of magic. What makes River Revival so special, you may wonder? The people and artists who attend this music fest are true lovers of music and of having a good time. And I don’t mean “let’s take a photo and post it on Instagram” to show we’re having a good time kind of thing. River Revival is pure and it’s magic. You won’t have cell service at this fest, so being present and in the moment is something that sets this festival apart. Yes, you’ll actually have to interact with the people you go with and who are in attendance. But don’t worry, everyone who attends is there for the right reasons.

There’s proof of this magic I speak of. Last year we were graced with the live performances of a women-led Saturday night curated by Splice Records’ founder Shaun Brennan. He wanted to honor women in music, like the powerhouse Austin musician Jackie Venson. After having to cancel her performance in 2017 due to being booked as the opening act for Gary Clarke Jr. that year, Venson promised to return to the festival in 2018. Jackie blew up (to no one’s surprise), and Brennan thought there would be no way she’d return in 2018.

Brennan points out that “Jackie is the type of musician that I knew that it was all just a matter of exposure, and she would start hitting her head on the constellations. I reached out to her personally and, with very little negotiation or hesitation, she agreed to perform at the Fourth River Revival, and the idea of making the lineup all about the women started to take shape.”

Those other women included the Texas funk band Tight N’ Up, the Maggie Belle Band and Houston giants The Suffers. They all rocked that stage like the talented artists they are. Brennan really nailed that lineup, adding that “I have been working in the music industry for quite some time, and I really wanted to make a statement by having our last night at River Revival be all about women. There is something quite empowering for all when we witness a strong female voice commanding the stage. I had hoped it would resonate and, for the most part, it did as for the first time ticket buyers were 60%+ females this year, but little did I know how it could touch some little girls’ lives and especially little Madeleine.”

River Revival 2019
Jackie Venson at River Revival 2018 | Photo credit: Clay Wisner

When Jackie got added to the River Revival lineup, Brennan got a call from Christina Spear, who asked whether River Revival was “kid-friendly” because her daughter Madeleine wanted to go to her first concert and support a homegrown festival. Brennan gave the usual response of, “Yes, kids are welcome. And ticket buyers with kids will be assigned a camping spot in the ‘Family Section.’ Even though kids are welcome, the festival is not exactly designed for kids, as the festival can be adult-themed at times. We do ask that kids need to be in bed for the late night shows. We do have kid activities during the day time.” 

That didn’t stop Jackie Venson super-fan Madeleine from attending. She bought her tickets, joined the festivities and even created a very cool float for the River Revival annual float parade. When Saturday rolled around, I was front and center listening to Jackie, but little did I know that Madeleine was right there in the front row, jamming to her favorite artist and experiencing her first concert. This is the magic of River Revival, and it doesn’t even end there. Because unlike other festivals, the magic of the festival doesn’t end when you leave.

For Madeleine, her first concert experience left an impression and she started making art for Jackie, writing letters and even turned her dolls into a band by putting handmade guitars in their hands and setting them up on her make-believe stage for a pretend show. Hey Mattel, can you get on making that Jackie Venson Barbie? Cool, thanks.

Jackie was so touched by Madeleine’s adoration that she asked her mom, Christina, if she could meet her in person. They made a plan and surprised Madeleine so she was able to meet her new music idol in person. And not only that, but Jackie also came bearing gifts in the form of a pink mini-Fender Stratocaster for Madeleine to learn and — one day maybe — make her own music.

River Revival 2019
Jackie Venson super-fan Madeleine | Photo credit: Splice Records

If you’re hesitating about hitting ‘Buy’ on those badges or doubting how magical of a experience you’re going to have at River Revival, I hope Jackie and Madeleine’s story changes your mind. This festival is a must-attend event.

River Revival takes place September 26 to September 29, and tickets are all-inclusive. You don’t need a fancy wristband loaded with money here. Just bring a good attitude and the essentials, and get ready to have a great time!

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