The 12th annual Trans-Pecos Festival took place September 28th-September 30th in Marfa, Texas and featured headlining performances from Lee Ann Womack, Wilco, and Fiona Apple. Below are just a few highlights from the magical weekend in the cosmic desert.
1. Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple delivered a phenomenal set with a little help from her friend Annie Clark (St Vincent). Read more about their performance here.
2. Hurray For The Riff Raff
Winsome folk rockers Hurray For The Riff Raff performed ahead of Wilco on Friday night of Trans-Pecos Festival. The trio delivered a moving set that was celebratory and impassioned. After several songs in, front-woman Alynda Segarra invited singer/songwriter Ron Gallo on stage who’d performed earlier that evening. Alynda informed the crowd that Ron was celebrating a birthday and invited everyone to join her in serenading him. There was a cute exchange between the pair as Gallo, embarrassed, wanted to retreat off stage and Alynda cut the song short as she joked that she’d put him out of his misery.
Returning to the set, Alynda changed tone, singing a song in Spanish. She then addressed the crowd about the dire situation in Puerto Rico and called on people to lend their support and to “take care of each other.” Alynda, who’s of Puerto Rican descent is selling Puerto Rico prayer candles on the band’s website with proceeds going directly towards purchasing items for the Eco-Kit and other relief efforts to affected communities on the coast of Puerto Rico.
Ending on a lighter note, Hurray For The Riff Raff closed with a whimsical cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark,” which took on multiple meanings given the current state of affairs.
The band’s speech served as a reminder of why we support music and festivals: to heal ourselves, to come together, and to feel united whether we’re surrounded by thousands of like-minded souls in the desert, or dancing in the dark in our bedroom.
3. Nina Diaz
Powerhouse vocalist Nina Diaz pulled off the most difficult set of the festival on Saturday night. Just as she was slated to perform around 6PM, a crack of lighting pierced the sky and the heaven’s rained down on El Cosmico. The storm only lasted about thirty minutes but it was all it took to flood the grounds and many people’s tents. Music was delayed for two hours as the Trans-Pecos crew scrambled to clean off the soaked stages, and get everything up and running again.
As a result, Diaz was moved from the main stage, to a small stage in front of El Cosmico’s check-in office, Highland House. A crowd started to form as word got out, while rain soaked festival-goers wondered whether all systems were still a go for the night.
The San Antonio based singer took the small stage among the buzzingly apprehensive crowd and began her set. From Diaz’s first note, the room instantly fell silent as the crowd perked up, listening in awe. I’m pretty sure some actual jaws dropped, mine included, as I thought to myself, who is this? Turns out she fronts a band with her sister that you may have heard of, Girl In A Coma. In 2016 Diaz released her first-solo project, The Beat Is Dead, filled with empowering, high-octane ballads and Diaz’s dynamic, resonating vocals. But don’t take my word for it, take NPR’s who crowned Diaz, “one of the two or three most exciting, scary-good vocalists in rock today.” From the moment you see her live, you’ll understand why.
4. Ron Gallo
Singer/songwriter and guitar shredder Ron Gallo delivered an amazing high-energy set at Trans-Pecos Festival. Switching from ballads to charged-up rock anthems, Gallo was completely engaging as he played tracks from his debut record, Heavy Meta.
Gallo’s charismatic stage presence and unpolished rock flavor made him a favorite discovery from the festival. At one point the Nashville based artist jumped off stage and riffed as festival-goers formed a circle around him.
Before closing out his set Gallo invited the crowd to join him in letting out one big “Om.” “Let’s have a real nice human connection,” said Gallo. “Get nice and centered for the rest of tonight’s good times. Don’t forget to breathe.” And with that everyone breathed in the cool West Texas air and let out one those good vibrations.
5. Lee Ann Womack
Everyone knows country crooner Lee Ann Womack’s hit single “I Hope You Dance” which largely defined much of 2000’s musical landscape. While the Nashville native may have seemed out of place at the festival she actually had good reason to be there. Womack releases her new album The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone on October 27th which she recorded in Sugarland, TX. Womack is a big fan of Texas saying “music is a way of life” there, as opposed to it feeling like a business in big music cities like Nashville.
Womack sounded fantastic and played the hits for her fans, including the song everyone was waiting for, “I Hope You Dance.” And you bet your ass we danced. We danced, we sang, and we Instagrammed, just to make sure our friends back home could appreciate the moment.
Chicago’s Wilco closed out the second night of Trans-Pecos Festival with an epic two hour set featuring some new songs along with classics like “California Stars,” “Jesus, etc.,” “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” “Random Name Generator” and many more. The largest crowd of the entire weekend formed in front of the stage to watch them play. From overheard conversations and some friends, it was clear many made the treck out to Marfa just to see Wilco and then followed them back to Austin to watch them play Bass Concert Hall two nights later. The consensus? They did not disappoint.
7. Chinga Tu Muro
Behind the bar at the festival was a sign in lights that not so subtly read, “Chinga Tu Muro” which translates to “Fuck Your Wall.” Marfa sits very close to the Mexican border, so the effects of the current political climate is especially palpable this far West. This festival of ‘Music and Love’ is about inclusion, and this sign said it all. During the day there were vendors set up encouraging people to petition and donate in support of different causes close to El Cosmico and it’s West Texas home.
Trans-Pecos Festival offers numerous workshops over the span of the weekend. Everything from chair-making, indigo-dying, yoga, bitters-making, candle-making, and more. I learned all about essential oils at the candle making workshop hosted by Manready Mercantile. Thanks for the fun mid-day activity and for the delicious cinnamon and grapefruit scented candle I got to take home with me.
You won’t see them on the lineup, but dogs are a low-key featured guest at the pup-friendly Trans-Pecos Festival. Just like their human counterparts, you’ll find them stage-front enjoying the music, rocking floral collars and bandanas, and making friends with the other festival pooches. I bonded with many. Shout out to the cutest mini-Frenchie in the land, Pickle.
10. Take Me Out To The Ballgame
The annual baseball game between Austin’s Texas Playboys versus Marfa’s Los Yonke Gallos always promises to be entertaining. The talented Tift Merritt started off the game by taking a knee as she sang the National Anthem, while the ball players followed suit. For half-time everyone was treated to a performance by Marfa’s Highschool Marching Band and dance troupe (who choreographed a routine to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”)
To make sure the baseball experience was truly complete, Shiner Beer and hot dogs from Franks were on hand. A little friendly competitive sport with your music festival? Why not.