Outlaws & Legends Music Festival 2016
Billed as “the biggest one stage event in Texas,” the 2016 6th Annual Outlaws & Legends Music Festival in Abilene was one of the best country music festivals that we’ve attended in Texas. This was our first Outlaws & Legends and we loved it and can’t wait to get back to next year’s event.
The line-up of 23 country artists and bands was outstanding, the crowd was fun and lively, the camping is close to the stage, it’s BYOB and lawn chairs, and the ticket proceeds go to the Ben Richey Boys Ranch – hard to beat all of that! The festival is so good that it was named “Top 5 Festivals of the Year” by Texas Regional Radio Music Awards
Outlaws & Legends Music Festival
Six years ago Mark Powell started this festival with a group of friends and fellow musicians picking around a fire pit and today it’s grown into a 2 day festival that attracts over 6,000 music fans. Mark owns Backporch Productions and the 100 acres that are home to the festival which is just a few miles north of downtown Abilene. Each year over the past six years Mark and his team have made several improvements to the stage, grounds, backstage, and everything that contributes to making this a fantastic event.
The stage area now has:
a stone wall which surrounds a large concrete pad with firepits that’s set aside for dancing only
a huge elevated stage with astro turf just in front of the stage and a jumbo tron on the right side
an area around the inside perimeter of the fence for tailgating
a special covered VIP area at stage level plus a two story pavilion in back of the stage for VIPS
Attendance at Outlaws & Legends is limited so we never felt crowded during the festival and the view and access to the front of the stage was great. I also loved the ticket options which are unique and included:
Camping and Festival Entrance Tickets – the fees for both were reasonable for such a fantastic event
Camping & Tailgating Deal – included 15 general admission tickets, a 15 by 20 foot space along the inside perimeter of the fence for tailgating and camping in anything that fits within that area (trucks, tents, small campers)
A Bigger Camping & Tailgating Deal – same as above but this one includes 30 general admission tickets and a 20 by 30 foot spot in the back middle of the event
VIP All Access Pass – provides access to the backstage pavilion, drinks from two bar stations on the upper deck, access with artists, limited seating and finger foods for both nights (good nachos with beef on Friday and Saturday included sausage, beef sliders, beans, and nachos) plus a view of the festival from the upper deck balcony overlooking the stage and more – VIP backstage parking and camping are also options that are available
Sponsor’s Package – can include the VIP all access plus reserved tables on the upper balcony and a covered area right in front of the stage
The Outlaws & Legends Music Festival Lineup
Outlaws & Legends is best know for it reputation as a fun festival with an excellent mix of Outlaws and Legends (some of which over the years has included Gary P Nunn, Dean Dillon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Merle Haggard, Pat Green, Robert Earl Keane, Charlie Daniel’s Band, David Allen Coe) and some of the best Texas up and coming country artists. And this year’s lineup was representative of that reputation.
With rain threatening, the music kicked off on Friday at 2:00 with a superb line-up that included:
- Clay Shelburn – self-taught multi-talented artist who labels his music “funcktry”…a fusion of funk, rock, and country.
- Morgan Reatherford – winner of the 2013 Outlaws & Legends Singer Songwriter Contest and at 17 Morgan Reatherford might be the youngest performer at Outlaws & Legends but she’s got more experience on that stage than many of the more seasoned singers
- Blue Water Highway – their delivery, timing, lyrics, and harmonies and overall musicianship make them the real deal.
- Chris Knight – dubbed “Honorary Texan” by Governor Rick Perry and best known for “Framed” and “It Ain’t Easy Being Me”
- Randy Brown – a 2010 nominee for Entertainer of the Year and 2008 Texas Music Male Vocalist of the Year
- Gary P. Nunn – honored as “the Music Ambassador of Texas” and a Texas Hall of Fame inductee with a slew of hits like “What I Like About Texas” and “Home With the Armadillo”
- Dean Dillion & Texas Jamm Band – a 3 time grammy nominee with hits songs like “The Chair and Tennessee Whiskey” and 55 George Straight hits
- Matt Caldwell – a contemporary country singer with an easiness in front of a crowd, approachability and honest-to-goodness humble nature
- Jerry Jeff Walker – he’s strongly associated with the progressive (“outlaw”) country scene that centered around Austin, TX, in the 1970s and best known for “Mr Bojangles,” “La Freeway,” “Jaded Lover,” and “Trashy Women”
- Mark Powell & Lariat – Mark’s a 2 time TRRA Award Nominee and 3 time AWA Award Nominee and song of the year recipient with Dublin Dr. Pepper
Friday was cold as hell but that didn’t send any of the fans home until the music stopped. Everyone was bundled up with hats, gloves, ski jackets, ear muffs, and blankets to try and stay warm and dry from a light drizzle. I had four layers on and was still so cold I almost entered the dance floor to take a few laps to try and warm up. And all the cold beer I consumed didn’t seem to warm me up! I was sure that it was going to snow but we got lucky – what was forecasted to be a winter storm with severe rain turned out to be a drizzle for an hour or so and 40 degree temperatures.
Outside of the cold, Friday was a fantastic day of music – we thoroughly enjoyed every set, but Mark Powell & Lariat stole the show from our perspective. This is the first time we’ve seen Mark and we loved his band, songs, enthusiasm, infectious smile, energy, and the fact that he seemed to love his fans and was having as much fun on stage as the audience was.
Saturday was a bright and warm and sunny day filled with a crowd in shorts, tee shirts, and sandals – perfect for a day of music that started at 1:45 that afternoon and concluded sometime after midnight. The lineup included:
- Kacey Toliver – sings traditional country mixed with red dirt and outlaw
- Stan Crawford – a keen sense of emotion and vocal ability, he is blessed with the aptitude to make his compositions incredibly believable
- Jerrod Medulla – their sound is ânewâ Old Country with some original songs that are best described as contemporary Texas Country songs with a raw edge
- Sunny Sweeney – recognized as best New Female Artist in 2013 and she’s had 2 albums and a single on the US Billboard Top
- Bracken Hale – an incredible song writer, singer, and rising star in the country and roots music field
- The Burrito Brothers – they have 10 US Country Billboard Top 100 singles and were founded by former Byrd’s members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman
- Zane Williams – a hot new up and coming very entertaining singer songwriter with two #1 singles under his belt
- Jesse Raub Jr. – a breath of fresh air on the country music scene and he’s laid-back and true to the heart
- Jamie Richards – 12 top 10 singles and some winners like “Don’t Try to Find Me,” ‘Drive,” ‘Last Call,” and “Cold as the Beer”
- Cory Morrow – what an dynamic entertainer with songs we all love like “Texas On My Mind,” “Beat of Your Heart,” “Ramblin’ Man,” and “Brand New Me”
- Brandon Jenkins – known as the âRed Dirt Legendâ by his fans and the Red Dirt Texas Music community, Jenkins is known for his unique songwriting style and musicianship
- Deana Carter – she’s not only beautiful but also a 5 time multi-platinum album and a “200 Greatest Women of Country Music” award winner
Pat Green – a very entertaining singer with many faces and some fantastic songs like “Wave on Wave,” “Three Days,” “Don’t Break My Heart,” “Carry On,” and “Texas On My Mind”
We enjoyed all of the artists but Jerrod Medulla, Cory Morrow, and Zane Williams were outstanding and Pat Green stole the show – the highlight was to see Pat and Cory singing together again and having a blast. My wife was stunned when Pat came into the press pit in front of the stage and gave her his guitar pick and a big huge hug – she’s still talking about it! And Mark Power sang a fantastic duo with Deana.
Unique to Outlaws & Legends is that as soon as the music stops on the main stage, the acoustic stage (a square box on the VIP upper deck over looking the stage) comes alive with a singer songwriter who plays until the main stage band is ready to go. Some of the artists who sang between sets included Brandon Jenkins, Randy Brown, Jesse Raub, and Bracken Hale.
After the main stage music ends, there’s always some picking and singing around the campground campfires or at the Picking Party stage firepit. And typically you’ll find some of the main stage artists joining you for some pickin’ and singin’. As Robert Earle says “the music goes on and the party never ends.”
Camping at Outlaws & Legends Music Festival
Part of what makes this a fun festival in addition to being able to bring in your lawn chairs and coolers (a $20 cooler fee) is you can bring in your camper, tent, RV, or anything else you want to spend the night in. The camping starts at the perimeter of the fence around the stage and covers around 60 acres under the trees. You’ll see tents, pop-ups, and $300,000 motorhomes. The sites aren’t marked or staked out and when you arrive a staff member will direct you where they want you to park. From just about anywhere in the campground you can be at the main stage in under a couple minutes.
If you bought a tailgate pass and have something to sleep in that fits in your space you can spend the night inside the fence around the stage area. VIPs have camping and parking in back of the stage.
The Fans at Outlaws & Legends Music Festival
Unlike some other festivals, the fans who attend Outlaws & Legends seem to be there for a good time and to enjoy the music instead of just seeing how many beers they can consume! There are fans of all ages from 2 to 92 and they are friendly, like to drink but not over do it (we didn’t see any fights or staggering drunks), and they love country music. A fun crowd and there was plenty of room to spread out so it never felt crowded. Plus I’ve never seen a cleaner bunch of music fans – generally speaking it was litter free and I didn’t trip over a single beer can!
The festival is kid friendly and during one of the sets kids were invited up to the front of the stage where they got glow in the dark wristbands and some cool foam glow sticks. All the adults got was an opportunity to try and catch a tee shirt shot out of a gas propelled cannon – but half of the time, some kid was faster and got the tee shirt.
Everyone seems to have fun including the musicians and the staff – for example during one set 8 members of the staff dressed up as animals wearing an animal mask came on stage and sang a song with Medulla’s band and again they came on stage for a song with Jamie Richards wearing Mexican hats and serapes swinging a board at a pinata!
The Food Vendors at Outlaws & Legends Music Festival
I don’t know about you but drinking beer all day makes me hungry and Outlaws & Legends had several vendors close to the stage to help keep me fat and happy. The choices included nachos, burgers, dogs, fries, old fashioned soda pop, BBQ, chicken sandwiches, and more.
Wow, what a fantastic and very well run festival with an excellent lineup, a fun crowd, BYOB, and camping. Our thanks go out to Mark Powell and his wife and the hundreds of volunteers who work extremely hard to make this festival painless and fun for all of us. See you next year.