Fischer Fest Music Festival Review
How can you beat 3 days of excellent Americana music from a very talented group of musicians hailing from Memphis and Minnesota to Austin and beyond, free camping across the street from the dance hall, a music venue with a lot of character, cold $2 beer and tasty food, and a small group of friendly outgoing music lovers. That's what you'll find at Fischer Music Festival in Fischer's infamous dance hall.
Where in the world is Fischer Dance Hall you ask? Well, it's in Fischer, Texas which has a population of 688 country souls about 15 minutes west of Wimberley. I was starting to have my doubts that my GPS didn't know where Fischer was either and what was it doing taking our motorhome through some tight turns on a very scenic, but narrow, back country road. In fact, I was sure we were lost - who would build a dance hall in the middle of nowhere unless they thought that the cows, deer, bobcats, squirrels, and other wildlife were big music fans. After swearing we were lost, I was starting to pull over to make some calls for direction when I was flagged down by a pickup that had been following us for 10 miles at 20 MPH - I was sure they were going to give me the bird as they drove past. But instead, two nice ladies pulled up and as I stuck my head out and said "do you know where ...," they interrupted and said "you're almost there, follow us!" And sure enough, two minutes later we arrived at Fischer Hall.
Seeds for Fischer were sown in 1876 when two brothers, Herman and Otto Fischer bought some land and one brother went into livestock operation and the other built the Fischer store which quickly expanded into the community's post office, bank, and saloon. In 1900, Fischer Agricultural Society was formed to build a new dance hall because the local Fischer townspeople found it too difficult to get along with their neighbors at the dances in nearby Cranes Mill. The well known one-eyed carpenter, who originally built ships, was hired to build a new dance hall. Shortly after the dance hall was built, a 9 pin bowling alley was built and today it's still alive with a lot of local bowling and several bowling tournaments. The four lane bowling alley has a lot of character and still employs teenagers as pin setters - after each roll they grab the ball, send it back down the ramp to the bowler, pick up the pins and reset them as necessary. The Fischer store and post office is still standing and has been converted into an antique store.
The Fisher Dance Hall is perfect for a small intimate music festival - it's a barn like structure with wooden doors and windows that open by pulling a rope. Inside is raised stage, wooden floors, and one of the coolest wood beam ceilings I've ever seen. Looks similar to the beams forming the inside shell of a boat! Lots of character, beautiful with the sparkling lights, and unique with sunshine peaking through the wall slats! Several artists said that Fischer Fest and the Hall was their favorite venue for music and the people who attend are the best!
Out the side door is the Yard Bird Seating for those who want to save some money and enjoy the music under the trees with their blankets and chairs. On the right side of the Hall is an old barn used for an arts and crafts show and an auction, a tent set up for "Tweener Sets" (music sets that play at the same time as the main stage), a beer garden, and five vendors selling food and some merchandise
The Fischer Fest Music Lineup
The "Tweener Sets" in the Tweener Tent was host to several talented musicians and songwriters which included: Greg Glowka and Ordinary Elephant played Friday night; Pat Green (not the "Pat Green"), Judy & Rose, Jefffro, Elliott Leonard, David Lee, John Whipple, Gal Dang It, Michael Samuels took the stage on Saturday; and on Sunday the Tweener Group Jam did a tribute to Jimmie Bell whipple. Everyone we listened to was very talented - they could be part of a Fisher Fest II.
On Friday the Festival started off with the Fischer Annual parade - a hodgepodge mix of floats, decorated cars, a marching band, some kazoo playing and a variety of interesting people.
At 6:15 the music started and the lineup included:
- Tish Hinojosa - traditional Mexican folk songs and her own original songs sung with passion
- Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy - between heartbreaking ballads and hell-raising sing alongs, these Cowboys were entertaining, inspiring, and made you want to jump up and get involved in the show
- The Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Award Winners: Winona Wilde, Letitia VanSant, Chris Moyse, Rachael Kilgour, Mia Rose Lynne - it's easy to see why these five were the winners from over 2800 submissions - a very enjoyable songwriter circle from 5 very talented singers
Saturday at 12:15 we were back in the barn to listen to another day of great music from:
3 Hands High - a "high-energy, toe-tapping, hand-clapping, finger-snapping good time" with traditional cowboy music, bluegrass, and more
- The Carrie Elkin Band - a beautiful voice, great personality, and passionate songs that straddle the Americana, Folk, and Indie Rock worlds
Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore - Mollie's vocals swing from delicacy to domination and Rich's guitar playing is much more than just background music
- The Bill Hearne Trio - "his husky Texas baritone finds its way into a song's interior with the mellowness of fine bourbon and the warmth of a Sunday picnic"
Willis Alan Ramsey - with scores of accolades from artists ranging from the Allman Brother to Shawn Colvin since 1972, it was a pleasure and honor listening to his set
Tim O'Brien & Jan Fabricius -a grammy award winning singer songwriter and talented multi-instrumentalist on the guitar, fiddle, and banjo plus engaging vocals
- Joe Ely - having grown up in Lubbock, Joe Ely brings the desolation of Texas plains to life in a manner that's profoundly inspired.
Woke up tired on Sunday morning and just barely made it to the music stage to hear:
Willow City - four siblings who have been making music since they could bang on pots and pans and strum anything with strings - which hasn't been a real long time since they range in age from 14 to 24
Bob Livingston Trio -named to the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame, Bob has been a key figure in Texas Music since the 1970s and he helped create the music that got Austin named the "Live Music Capital of Texas"
Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros - a voice as comfortable as a pair of old blue jeans with music that's reminiscent of the 70's country rock blues from Texas and the West Coast
We really enjoyed all of the musicians but we've got to give special recognition to the following who were outstanding and we hated to see their set end
Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy - great voice, good stories, outstanding lyrics, great band with a very entertaining multiple instrumentalist Johnny Waken and his handlebar mustache
- The Carrie Elkin Band - wow, what a unique, lovely,and fierce yet fragile voice and she sings with passion, humor, enthusiasm, and a bubbly personality]
- Joe Ely - an extremely enjoyable set - he's got a voice smooth as velvet with songs that tell a great story
- Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros - don't miss an opportunity to listen to this talented "Texas Hill Country super-group" with five excellent singers and four super songwriters from the heart of the Lone Star State
But the special award goes to Willow City from Fredericksburg - four siblings singing a mix of Gospel, Bluegrass, and Folk with passion, lots of energy, great picking, and good songs. Walt Wilkins followed Willow City and said after hearing a couple of their songs: "their voices are unblemished by the savages of time and we've really got to sing to compete with that!" Can't wait to see them again!
This is our sixth Fischer Festival and we've loved every one of them and can't wait to get back again next November. Don't miss this event and get your tickets early because it always sells out. Make sure you bring some type of cushion for your fanny - you'll be sitting in metal folding chairs for several hours each day.
Fisher Fest Camping and Lodging
Several of the folks who attend Fisher Fest dry camp in an open field across the street from the venue. Camping is free and you'll see everything from a mattress in the back of a pickup to a variety of tents plus motor homes costing more than $300,000. There is a camping section for: RVs with generators; travel trailers; and tent camping under the trees. If you're not camping Fischer has limited lodging (a B&B) but nearby Wimberley is loaded with a variety of outstanding lodging options from tree-houses to safari tents to upscale log cabins to hotels.
Part of what makes the camping experience fun are fellow campers who are friendly and love to sit around the campfire or the campsite picking and playing to about when the sun comes up! And anyone is welcome to join in and sing, pick, or just have a cold beer and listen to excellent music. The smell of bacon and BBQ is always present.
Food & Fans at Fischer Fest
Fisher Fest Fans are a huge part of what makes Fisher Fest one of the best Texas Music Festivals. The fans of Fisher Fest are older (50 or so), mature (including some old hippies), music lovers, friendly and outgoing, and they love their music. When the bands start playing you can hear a pin drop in the Hall! Everyone has a smile on their face and the majority of veteran Fisher Fest fans would love to get to know you and share a story or two or a hug! Great people.
The next best thing to the music and the fans was the cold beer from Infamous Brewing Company in Austin - and it was only $2 a glass! Not many places where you can get a lot of beer for $20!
To soak up the beer and keep the tummies full, there were three food trucks and a local coffee house selling cookies (two for a $1 and they were delicious!) and espresso. Bushwood BBQ out of San Antonio was there selling BBQ - brisket, sausage, pulled pork, stuffed baked potato, and more. Their little sister food trailer, Wheelie Gourmet serves juicy and delicious gyros made with lamb, beef, or chicken.. I had the Atlas 7 made with secret Moroccan spiced beef, spices, and Feta Cheese - scrumptious!
Dancing Glass Bistro out of Bulverde, Texas was serving up some breakfast items, coffee/cappuccino/espresso, a variety of crepes, smoothies, shaved ice, flavored lemonade and some sweet and savory crepes. We really enjoyed the Puerto Rican - a tasty large crepe stuffed with lettuce, tomato, pulled pork, melted cheddar cheese, onion, avocado dressing, plus lime wedges, cilantro, and pico de gallo - wow! Outstanding. I really wanted to go back and try one of the "sweet crepes" like the S'more with dark chocolate, melted marshmallows and graham cracker crumbles on a sweet crepe topped with powdered sugar but there was no more room in the tummy.
Our sincere thanks go out to the sponsors, the "Staph" of volunteers, and the President of the Bored and Mayor of Fischer, Roscoe Hubbard. They all contribute to making this one of the best festivals in Texas and painless and joyful for all who attend. See you next year.