As I was reading the Tejas Brothers newsletter I noticed that they were headed to Marble Falls for Thom & Coley McCabe Shepherd’s Second Annual Lone Star Luau. We’ve enjoyed Thom at his sets at several of Larry Joe Taylor’s Music Festivals during “Bloody Mary Mornings”. So I checked out the Lone Star Luau website and was puzzled by a Luau in Texas and the Luau’s banner with a sparkling blue ocean, white sandy beaches, and tall green mountain ranges – looks like Hawaii so I immediately ran to the wife saying “lets go to Hawaii for Thom and Coley’s festival.” She yelped and ran to the bedroom to start packing. As I read more about the Lone Star Luau I found out the Luau is in Marble Falls which does have a couple small bluffs and a nice lake with clear blue water – but it’s no Hawaii! So with tears in her eyes the wife took out the sun tan lotion, bathing suits, snorkels and flippers and replaced them with long sleeve shirts, jackets, gloves, and long pants. The only comforting fact I told her was we’ll get to listen to Thom and Coley, their fellow musicians and most likely have a Bloody Mary in our hand.
The Lone Star Luau Music Festival Venue
The Lone Star Luau festival was held at Lakeside Park which sits on the edge of Lake Marble Falls and has a skate park, tennis court, boat ramp, lots of ducks, volleyball court, and more but no white sandy beach or sparkling blue water. The music performances were held in Lakeside Pavilion which is across the street from what was once an RV Park. The Lakeside Pavilion was perfect for a winter festival – 6200 square feet with a separate area that was used for the artists merchandise sales, a full service bar, and a food service area. On the other side of the bar and merch area was a large room with windows along one side offering great views of the lake. VIP/Sponsor tables were set up 2 feet from the front of the stage and rows of folding chairs were neatly aligned behind that. The Pavilion was perfect for a February music festival – warm, excellent acoustics, limited to around 400 music fans, a good stage, and views of the lake from the windows lining three quarters of the building.
As we entered the Pavilion It was quickly obvious why this festival was called Lone Star Luau – you were greeted by tiki candles and a long banner of the beach, ocean, and mountains. The VIP/Sponsor tables were decorated with leis and palm trees on a colorful bright table cloth, and VIP/Sponsors got a gift bag with leis, koozies, drinking glass, and more goodies, The Luau mascot, proudly displayed on the front of the stage, was a long horn steer’s head with a leis draped around it’s head and horns.
The guests started arriving wearing a variety of Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head gear like bright colorful tee-shirts, hats with flowers, hawaiian shirts loaded with flowers and parrots, leis, and more. But why a luau in Texas? It turns out that Thom and Coley have played lots of house concerts and festivals with Parrot Heads from around the United States. A lot of people were in Parrot Head Clubs from San Diego to Key West and even the Dallas and San Antonio Parrot Head clubs were represented. Fun people and they contributed a lot to making this a fantastic festival! When I get home I’m signing up with the local Austin Parrot Head Club – can’t wait to wear my parrot hat.
Thom and Coley, singer Donny Brewer, and a couple musicians arrived on Thursday and we were parked right in front of them. Early Saturday morning our motorhome was being bombarded by loud pings and the pitter patter of something rolling along the top of the roof. So I got up in freezing cold in my undies to check it out because I figured it was Donny and Thom throwing stones on the roof to wake me up and get me to help them set up! Turns out it was just pecans falling from the trees we had parked under! So I went back to bed with my head under the pillow.
The Music at Lone Star Luau
It’s really hard for me to classify the Lone Star Luau music but I think Coastal Country pretty much describes a large part of the genre. The music was a pleasant mix of stories and ballads, pure country, some folk, blues, Tex Mex country, and more. But a lot of the music had an islandy sound with several bongos, songs about Florida, steel drums, and several Jimmy Buffet songs (who can easily combine country, folk, rock, and pop music with coastal as well as tropical lyrical themes into his songs).
Here is the Lone Star Luau 2018 lineup that started at 2:30 on Friday:
Michael Hearne – inspired by the great folk and country singer-songwriters who characterize the Americana roots scene, Michael leaves a mark with his signature guitar sound and songs and stories that are rich in lyrical prose, imagery and humor – a fantastic set from one of the best
James Slater – wow, what an enjoyable set from a hit songwriter and two time grammy nominated piano-playing bilingual singer-songwriter of Bolivian American descent
Emily Randle – has performed as a section player with Moody Blues, Rod Stewart, The Three Tenors, The Three Irish Tenors, Yes and others thanks to her dynamic and energetic violin playing
Thom & Coley – Thom was the CMA Texas Songwriter of the Year and Coley is a hit songwriter and together they make some great country music, in fact, Thom is the writer of two number one country songs, three Texas Music number ones, has had over 100 songs recorded by other artists and Coley has had songs recorded by artists ranging from Kristi Lee Cook to Loretta Lynn
Drop Dead Dangerous – Kitty Steadman Is a music force and arguably the most powerful female vocalist the southern rock and country-music landscape has heard and Melanie Howe plays percussion including a box drum and bongos with a wild unique attitude
Southern Drawl Band – these guys were excellent with their own brand of rockin’ country distilled in the backwoods of Tennessee and well deserving of Band of the Year and Entertainer of the Year award
The Detentions – Trop Rock Music Association Duo of the Year with Salty sounds of the Gulf Coast coupled with the folksy spirit of the Texas Hill Country to create a signature style of music they call ROCKAMOLE
What a fantastic day of music and an introduction to new artists, all of which we loved – hated to see their sets end. How are Thom and Coley going to top Friday’s line-up? After the music ended a lot of the fans packed the after party at Brass Hall less than a mile away. Since there were a lot of parrot heads, the party had to be a lip sync contest with some very Interesting outfits and even more intriguing attempts at lip singing and acting/dancing to the music.
I surprised myself and made it to the music that started at 10:30 on Saturday with another outstanding line-up that included:
- Jesse Rice – Jesse is another hit songwriter and a multi platinum selling and award winning singer-songwriter and producer from Nashville and as a writer he has won ACM, CMA, AMA, Billboard, BMI & SESAC Awards, including Song of the Year and ACM and CMA Single of the Year
- Matt Hoggatt – as a part storyteller, songwriter and comedian he turns his performances into a unique experience with a mix of Americana-comedy, trip rock country, folk-rap, and mainstream-music-protest-songs – wow, another set we hated to see end and after the set I had to stretch out my cheeks and dry off my shirt from all tears of laughter
- Nadirah Shakoor – she has received a Grammy nomination, an MTV Video award and released three highly acclaimed solo albums and she was the female vocalist for the Hip Hop group Arrested Development and a key member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band
- John Patti & Ben Hammond – with a wide irresistible smile John and his steel pan bring a new life of melodies and styles and he has the ability to blend Latin percussion and steel drums into various genres (an island infused jazz and blues style) which creates a refreshing twist on popular hit songs and together with Ben Hammond (“Funky…guitar-looping, beat-boxing, soul-singing…powerhouse”) they make a dynamic duo when Hammond’s “guitar looping, beat boxing and soulful singing” (Sarasota Herald Tribune) which explodes with Patti’s rhythmically addictive percussion and smooth steel pan sound.
- Thom and Coley Band – this was one of the best sets I’ve heard from Thom and Coley – I can’t put my finger on why but it may have had something to do with their grand entrance to the pavilion riding on a huge long horn steer with leis dropped from it’s horns
- The Tejas Brothers – love these guys who use the stage like a weapon, attacking your heart and poking at your funny bone with a mix of their own songs and songs sung with a Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash voice
- Donny Brewer – what a way to close this wonderful festival with Donny’s enthusiasm, energy, and excellent voice singing everything from rock to blues to islandy tunes and he got all of the musicians still hanging around to join him in a rousing close – the stage was packed with several bongos, steel drums, fiddles, and guitars and nine different artists singin’ and having fun on stage
The lineup on Saturday was as good as Fridays – wow, wow, wow! What a couple days of excellent music and fun music loving fans! I was so tired I couldn’t make it to the after party at Brass Hall or Thom and Coley’s motorhome which I understand was filled with music, laughter, and 16 people until 2 AM!
Sunday Morning Music at Lone Star Luau
I woke up Sunday morning, looked outside and muttered “oh no, I either drank myself blind last night or I somehow lost my vision because everything outside the motorhome is gray and blurry”. I’ll admit I did have a few but not enough to go blind. I went fumbling for my wife, told her my dilemma and she said “sober up and don’t worry it’s only morning fog, not drinking fog, and it’ll go away in a couple hours.” Whew… I went back to bed.
After my second wake up call and several cups of coffee, we drove a few miles upriver along Lake Marble Falls for music at 10:30 at On the Rock Restaurant – on the way I was praying that they would have Bloody Marys. Low and behold, as soon as we walked in there was a full bar including delicious Bloody Marys made with Zing Zang. Wow (I’ve used wow several times in this article because I can’t think of a better descriptive word) what a beautiful place sitting on top of a tall bluff with an outside bar and stunning (and clear to me) view of the Lake LBJ. The music played under a covered open air structure but most of the fans sat outside soaking up the sun and view.
We got to listen to an enjoyable set from Rob Hill (been best known as an accompanist to award-winning vocalist Brittany Kingery; in fact he is the writer or co-writer of all of Brittany’s trop rock hits, including the raucous 2015 Trop Rock Song of the Year “Tequila Talking”). Rob was followed by John Patti on steel pans and Sunny Jim with his rockin’ guitar, a rhythmic steel drum and backup tracks and a enjoyable combination of popular cover songs, his own beach songs, romantic ballads, fun-loving and upbeat Soca and reggae tunes, and stories of sailing adventures which depict life in the Caribbean and the tropical sunshine. What a way to bring Lone Star Luau to a close – warm sunny day, beautiful setting with a superb view, fun fans, great music, and excellent Bloody Marys – life just doesn’t get any better!
Thom and Coley stated that they “want to showcase some of our friends and people we love from our travels around the US and introduce you to some talented musicians you probably haven’t seen or heard” and they exceeded that objective. We attend a lot of festivals and normally we know at least 8 or more of the artists and if we like 50% of the ones we don’t know, the festival is hit from our perspective. Besides Thom and Coley, the only other musicians we knew were the Tejas Brothers and Michael Hearne – all three of which we love, but more importantly we thoroughly enjoyed all of the artists at Lone Star Luau and would go out of our way to see them again and If I had enough money, I would have bought a CD of each of the artists.
Eric Babin from Phlockers Magazine summed up the 2017 Lone Star Luau like this: “Thom Shepherd and Coley McCabe’s first Lone Star Luau music event was a smashing success. As I would scan the crowd during each of the shows it seemed everyone was having the time of their lives. It was not uncommon for artists to join each other on stage as it seems each set included some sort of “all-star-jam.” It’s a rare combination to have such an event that results in the artists being just as happy as the audience. The entire weekend seemed like a family reunion in which you shared great times with distant cousins you haven’t seen in a while as you also bond with cousins you may have never met until then.” And the Lone Star Luau 2018 was an exact replica!
Lone Star Luau Fans & Parrot Heads
As I mentioned the venue was perfect, the weather was great on Sunday, and the music was superb – but the fans contributed a lot to making this one of the best festivals we’ve been to. A large number of the fans were Parrot Heads and many of the Parrot Head clubs were represented – California, to New Orleans to Minnesota to Florida and even some members from the San Antonio and Dallas Parrot Head Clubs. Thom and Coley knew a lot of them as did many of the other artists from playing at Parrot Head gatherings or at a Parrot Head’s house party. Lone Star Luau felt like a big family reunion – and everyone was here to enjoy the camaraderie and music and to have a good time. But when the music started you could almost hear a pin drop. One performer actually said “it’s wonderful playing to a listening crowd! You guys are great!” This year the festival sold out of all 350 tickets, so next year get in early. You might also consider one of the sponsor packages which helps pay for the musicians and this year it included reserved tables and chairs two feet in front stage, a welcome gift loaded with goodies, and a Friday lunch. Speaking of food, Soap Creek Saloon BBQ Team provided lunch and dinner each day – brisket, sausage, frito pie, and all the fixing – and all of the donations for food went to 4H Youth of Texas and FFA.
Camping & Lodging at Lone Star Luau
The Lakeside Park used to have a campground under the trees but it’s now closed. Somehow Thom got permission for his motorhome fans to park anywhere in the old campground as well as in the Pavilion parking lot. We got to the Festival on Thursday expecting to spend the night in a parking lot or a dry dusty field! Instead, we were warmly greeted by Mrs Brewer who showed us where we could park and ask us to join her cluster of RVs which included Thom and Coley, as well as, she and her husband (Donny Brewer who was the headliner for Saturday night) and some other fellow musicians and campers. We politely declined because it would have been very difficult to squeeze in beside them and right in front of them was a beautiful place to camp under the trees with a concrete patio and picnic tables and a view of an arm of Lake Marble Falls. All of which was less than 100 yards from the music pavilion! If you’re not camping, Marble Falls has lots of hotels, home rentals, B&Bs, as well as the fabulous Horseshoe Bay Resort which is 10 minutes away. Lone Star Luau is in a great location – overlooking the lake, walking distance to lots of restaurants, shops, and more. Thursday night we walked over to River City Grill for the sunset over the lake and some good food. River City Grill sits on a small bluff and has a deck that overlooks the water – beautiful setting and lots of cold beer and pretty good food.
This is a festival that has no headliners – they all could have been headliners. And it’s very hard to pick some highlights because everything was so enjoyable! But here is just a bit of what we really loved
- the camping within a hundred yards of the venue
Matt Hoggatt’s humor and funny songs made me laugh so hard I was crying
the closing number with Donny Brewer and any other musicians who were hanging around (at one time there were over 10 people on stage singing to songs backed by a fiddle, several guitars, bongos, steel drum, piano, and more) was outstanding
the food from Soap Creek Saloon BBQ Team – sliced and chopped beef, sausage, beans, frito pie, potato salad, and all the fixins’ – was good and the donation went to benefit a worthy cause
the after lip sync party was interesting
the superb piano playing by James Slater, the unbelievable voice of Nadirah Shakoor and the powerful Kitty Steadman, the accordion playing and dancing by Dave of the Tejas Brothers,and the fiddle playing of Emily Randle were fantastic
Thom and Coley arriving on a huge longhorn steer with leis on it’s horns was an unusual surprise
the small friendly fun crowd, terrific venue with a view of Lake LBJ and excellent Bloody Marys was outstanding
I was impressed with how well run Lone Star Luau was – it started on time, had quick set changes, ended on time with no encores, and lots of volunteers helped make it fun and painless for all us fans. My only complaint was the beer and drinks were a tad expensive and you weren’t allowed to bring your alcohol or drinks into the Pavilion – a city ordinance.
Thanks to all the volunteers and Thom and Coley who make this a well run and fun festival for the rest of us – see you next year.