Festival of Texas Fiddling recap

The Festival of Texas Fiddling was a great event-- incredible music all day, a great dance to cap it off, and a whole lot of fun overall. The picture at the top is of all of the day’s fiddlers at the plenary session, where each gave an example of their style. This is looking over the shoulders of Los Trineros at Brian Marshall playing with his sons and Mark Rubin on guitar. Directly behind Brian is Ed Poullard. To the left are Sean Orr and Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer. 

The festival was a success because of the hard work of everyone here at Texas Folklife, and also the many volunteers from Texas Dance Hall Preservation and the dedicated staff at Twin Sisters Dance Hall. Hard to say the best moment of the whole day, but there is no doubt that Los Trineros delivered an incredible set. Especially for people who have never heard this style, it was a revelation! How fantastic that son huasteco is establishing itself in Texas, where it is sure to flourish and develop in interesting ways alongside other Texas musics.

Of course, the fact that people showed up from all over was key. I met people from all across Texas as well as some from Louisiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma. And let’s not forget Virginia!  It was a really enthusiastic group of people there and a lot of dedicated musicians and dancers.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during the festival since Texas Folklife was documenting it thoroughly already and we can post some of those pictures, but this one of Mark Rubin with the jaranista from Los Trineros is pretty hard to top!



On Friday night, kicking the whole weekend off, was the Fiddle Flashback at the Texas Folklife office. There was not only a lively old time jam for a few hours (with Howard Rains, Tricia Spencer, Mark Rubin, fiddler Derek Larimer, me, and a bunch of old time players from Austin), but also a gypsy/Klezmer jam that lasted until 2 a.m. when a bunch of fiddlers and an accordionist wandered in. This was a pretty magical moment, the convergence of all these musicians and styles. I hope we can get some audio and some images of it up soon.

At the festival, it was really encouraging to see so many people show up for the fiddle workshops in particular. The central intent of the festival was to highlight and showcase the often overlooked regional and ethnic styles of Texas fiddling. If enough people start to play old time Texas tunes like the squirrelly Duck Wooten tunes taught by Howard Rains and Tricia Spencer then it will mark a really significant moment. There is no reason at all that the old time Texas tradition should not be as widely known and widely revered as the old time music of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia which was once obscure and today  is played all over the world.

The same goes for the Texas Polish music of Brian Marshall. This is a great style and body of tunes that are fun to play and really should be adopted by more fiddlers. One trick I learned from him is that he uses a viola bow for even greater volume and force and longer bow strokes (viola bows are just a tad longer).  It is hard to imagine a better setting for relaying Brian’s great tunes and powerful style than the festival. Except that the better setting might have been the post-festival late night bonfire with Brian, Ed Poullard, and old time fiddler Derek Larimer, and me on banjo and bajo sexto, as well as Cristina, Lala Garza, and other people who spent the day at the festival. We jammed on Creole, Texas Polish, and old time tunes until 3 a.m. That was an incredible time, especially as we found some tunes which have migrated back and forth between these styles (particularly schottisches and some kinds of breakdowns), and just generally has a perfect way to cap a perfect day overall.

 As Texas Folklife gets a chance to catch its collective breath, I am sure at least some of the visuals and audio of the festival will make its way online. The whole day was filmed and it was recorded, providing a fantastic collection of performances we don’t want to have locked away.  Ideally some of the videos will be posted online and there could be a CD of the best of the festival coming out in the future.  In the meantime, you can go buy the just-released cd of the archival Texas Folklife recordings!