MusicFest boogies back into town
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The music festival that bills itself as the largest group ski trip of its kind in the nation is on its way back to Steamboat Springs. The 35th annual MusicFest kicks off Sunday, Jan. 5, and runs through Friday, Jan. 10.
Often called the “Superbowl of Texas Red Dirt Music,” the festival features more than 200 hours of live shows by both musicians who’ve been legends for decades as well as rising talent.
Here’s a peek at who’s playing.
Singer-songwriter Aaron Watson, who’s known for doing things his own way, is set to make his MusicFest debut at the 2020 event. Check out Watson’s latest album, “Red Bandana” (2019).
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This year, Alabama-based musician Adam Hood marks his eighth time performing at MusicFest. Hood’s most recent release is “Somewhere In Between” (2018).
With seven years at MusicFest and seven studio albums under its belt, folk-infused, Southern rock and roll group American Aquarium is ready to tell its stories, question current events and spread hope. The group’s lineup features BJ Barham, Shane Boeker, Joey Bybee, Ben Hussey and Adam Kurtz.
In addition to being American Aquarium frontman, BJ Barham also performs solo.
Brent Cobb, who debuts at MusicFest this year, plays a blend of Southern rock and mainstream country that’s increasingly faster, upbeat and personal. Cobb’s most recent album is “Providence Canyon” (2018).
MusicFest is offering four free concerts on the Steamboat Stage in Gondola Square in addition to its sold-out concerts.
The concerts, which are open to the public, will feature:
• Kimberly Dunn and Jack Ingram: 12:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6
• Read Southall Band and Randall King: 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7
• Aaron Watson and Pat Green: 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8
• Bri Bigwell and Kevin Fowler: 12:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9
Four-time Texas Female Vocalist of the Year Bri Bagwell’s most recent release is “In My Defense” (2018). This year marks the singer-songwriter’s ninth year at MusicFest.
Bruce Robison has written hits for George Strait, Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks and has recorded with greats of the genre as a songwriter, singer, guitarist, harmonica player and producer. Robison was named the 2018 MusicFest tribute artist, and 2020 will be his 13th at the festival.
Singer-songwriter Casey Donahew releases his albums independently and has topped Texas music charts without the aid of a major record label. His most recent release is “15 Years, the Wild Ride” (2017); this year marks his 10th at MusicFest.
Charley Crockett honed his craft of blues music while he traveled the world by train hopping and hitch hiking and has been called the Best Blues Act in Dallas. This year will be Crockett’s second year at MusicFest.
In his second year at MusicFest, Chris Colston plays a gritty, rootsy, rock ‘n’ roll style with electrifying energy. His latest EP is “Gone.”
Chris Knight got his start in music by writing narrative character sketch songs about the people and places he’s gotten to know around his hometown of Slaughters, Kentucky, a coal-mining town. Knight’s most recent album is “Almost Daylight” (2019); this marks his ninth year at MusicFest.
Cleto Cordero, who’s also the frontman, songwriter and founder of Flatland Cavalry, marks his fourth year at MusicFest.
Cody Canada and the Departed
Cory Canada, Jeremy Plato and Eric Hansen mark their 10th year at MusicFest as a trio.
Cody Canada and the Music of Cross Canadian Ragweed Tribute
A legendary rocker, a musician’s musician and a teacher at The School of Rock in New Braunfels, Texas, Cory Canada is MusicFest’s Official Tribute Artist of 2020.
West Virginia-based singer-songwriter Coley McCabe returns to MusicFest for the seventh time.
Central Texas band Copper Chief is excited to make its MusicFest debut.
Accompanied by Austin guitarist John Carroll, Cory Borrow marks his 11th year at MusicFest, celebrating his latest release of “Whiskey and Pride.”
Courtney Patton specializes in emotional, acoustic storytelling. Her latest release is “What It’s Like to Fly Alone” (2018).
Dale Brisby Social Media Sensation
Self-proclaimed lone wolf musician Dale Brisby marks his second year at MusicFest.
Dalton Domino’s latest release, “Songs from the Exile” (2019), is a blend of soul-baring, sordid honesty and groovy melodies. This marks his fifth MusicFest appearance.
In his 14 years performing at MusicFest, self-taught fiddler Doug Moreland has played music ranging from western swing to cowboy poetry and beyond.
Singer-songwriter Drew Womack’s most recent album is “Here’s Some Stuff I Wrote” (2017). In his fifth MusicFest, he’ll perform solo as well as with the Sum Brothers.
Flatland Cavalry features Cleto Cordero, Jason Albers, Jonathan Saenz, Wesley Hall and Reid Dillon; the quintet’s most recent album is “Homeland Insecurity” (2019).
Giovannie & The Hired Guns
Giovannie & the Hired Guns are ready to make their MusicFest debut, eager to share their sound blending country, southern rock and alternative.
Singer-songwriter Grant Gilbert blends classic rock, blues, Southern rock and country to create his energetic sound. This year will be Gilbert’s MusicFest debut.
Jack Ingram, alongside band members Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou and Pete Coatney, marks 17 years playing at MusicFest.
Jade Marie Patek
Jade Marie Patek blends country, blues and Americana in her most recent release, “Fly Bird” (2018).
Jamie Lin Wilson
Jamie Lin Wilson performs both solo and with The Trishas, an all-female singer-songwriter band founded at MusicFest. Her most recent release is “Jumping Over Rocks” (2018).
Jason Eady grew up listening to the blues, soul, R&B and swamp rock around Mississippi and was playing guitar in local bars by the time he was 14. Eady’s most recent album is “I Travel On” (2018); 2020 marks his 12th year at MusicFest.
Jeff Crosby & the Refugees
In his first year at MusicFest, Jeff Crosby explores the genre of Americana.
Austin-based singer-songwriter John Baumann marks his fifth year at MusicFest with the promise of a surprise new collaboration band at this year’s festival.
Oklahoman songsmith, guitarist and pianist John Fullbright holds a Grammy nomination for Americana Album of the Year and ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Award for lyric writing. He’s also performed at the Songwriter Series at the Chief Theater in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Johnny Rodriguez makes his MusicFest debut in 2020. His most recent release is “Amo a Jehora” (2012).
Jonathan Tyler marks his ninth MusicFest appearance with performances including a Bob Seger tribute.
Josh Abbott’s latest album is “Until My Voice Goes Out” (2017), incorporating strings and a horn section to his classic instrumentation of upbeat country.
With nine consecutive No. 1 hit singles in Texas, MusicFest debut artist Josh Ward is a musician not to miss.
Kaitlin Butts marks her fourth year at MusicFest with banter and songs of love, fun and heartbreak. Check out her latest album, “Same Hell, Different Devil” (2015).
Alt-country and Americana singer songwriter Kelly Willis celebrates her 10th year at MusicFest with her latest album, “Beautiful Lie” (2019).
Kevin Fowler’s seven studio album titles are all about good times and honky tonk stomping: “Barstool Stories” (2019), “How Country Are Ya?” (2014), “Loose, Loud and Crazy” (2004) and “Beer, Bait and Ammo” (2000), among others. This year marks Fowler’s 14th year at MusicFest.
Known for his pure, soulful voice, longtime Uncle Lucius frontman Kevin Galloway is focusing on his solo music career, which began with his debut solo album, “The Change” (2018).
Kimberly Dunn has released several hits, including her most recent album of “New Smoke Show” (2018), produced by Chad Carlson, who also works with Taylor Swift. Dunn is also the founder of the Dunn Good foundation, which supports causes ranging from breast cancer research to hurricane relief efforts.
Kody West started playing music only five years ago and is already celebrating his third year as a MusicFest performer. The Texas country-slash-bluegrass musician’s most recent album is “Green” (2017).
Koe Wetzel plays a mix of ’90s punk rock meets East Texas country. His most recent release is “Herold Saul High” (2019).
MusicFest 2020 debut artist Kolby Cooper’s music can be heard in the two-volume album, “The Good Ones Never Last” (2018 and 2019).
Singer-songwriter Kyle Hutton has explored hope, regret, redemption, addiction, faith and doubt over his five years at MusicFest. Hear Hutton in his most recent release, “Longest Days, Shortest Years” (2015).
Kyle Park’s sixth studio album, “Don’t Forget Where You Come From” (2018), explores neo-traditional country sound in honest lyrics. This year marks a full decade of Park’s playing at MusicFest. Also find Park playing with The Texas Trio.
Former rodeo champion and MusicFest debut artist Kylie Frey may be best known for her singles “Ain’t Enough Beer” (2018) and “Too Bad,” featuring Randy Rogers (2017).
Lorrie Morgan makes her MusicFest debut in 2020. Her music explores who she is and femininity. Her latest release is “Letting Go Slow” (2016).
Find Matt Hillyer’s music on his debut solo album, “If These Old Bones Could Talk” (2014). This year marks his sixth MusicFest appearance.
Twelve-year MusicFest performer blends country, blues, western swing and roots-rock and roll to create his sound. His most recent release is “Native Stranger” (2014).
Max and Heather Stalling
This Dallas-based singer-songwriter duo’s blend of rhythm guitar, fiddle and vocals have made them a not-to-miss act at the 11 most recent MusicFests.
Micky & The Motorcars
Micky & The Motorcars, a staple of MusicFest for the past 16 years, features Micky Braun, Gary Braun, Josh Owen, Joe Fladger and Bobby Paugh.
Midnight River Choir
This quartet was formed when a boat full of strangers on a late-night float trip down the Guadalupe River began singing harmonies. The group features Eric Middleton, Justin Nelson, Mitchell Pyeatt and Bob Driver III, and this year, the group celebrates its 11th appearance at MusicFest.
Mike & The Moonpies
Mike Harmeier, Preston Rhone, Catlin Rutherford, Kyle Ponder, Zach Moulton, Omar Oyoque and Colton King form Mike & the Moonpies, which marks its fifth year at MusicFest.
Songwriter, guitarist and producer Mike McClure marks his sixth year at MusicFest. His most recent release is “Camelot Falling” (2018).
Austin-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum is marking four years at MusicFest. His most recent album is “Probably Wong” (2017).
Returning to MusicFest for the first time since 2004, Pat Green has three Grammy nominations and has sold out the Houston Astrodome. Hear his latest music on “Trip Through Your Wires” (2019).
Throughout his music career, Paul Thorn has explored rock ‘n’ roll and gospel. His most recent album is “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” (2018).
Singer-songwriter Randall King writes neo-traditional country music inspired by his family’s deep roots in the West Texas plains. His most recent album is self-titled (2018).
Named with his band to Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Top 10 Must-See Artists,” Randy Rogers has been recording for two decades. This year marks his 16th year at MusicFest.
Ray Johnston returns to MusicFest for his second year in 2020. Check out his most recent album, “#GoesGoodWith” (2016).
Read Southall Band
Oklahoman Read Southall aims to deliver a crowd-pleasing rock ‘n’ roll experience at every show, proved true in his two previous years at MusicFest. Find his latest music in Southall’s album “Borrowed Time” (2017).
Reckless Kelly, featuring Willy Braun, Cody Braun, Jay Nazz, David Abeyta and Joe Miller, is excited to return to MusicFest for the 17th year. Hear the group’s latest album, “Sunset Motel” (2016).
Self-taught guitarist and singer Robynn Shayne’s most recent release is “Coffee Days and Whiskey Nights” (2018). This year will be her second year performing at MusicFest.
With 22 years of performing at MusicFest, adventure-lover and musician Roger Creager is one of the festival’s most consistent musicians. Alongside Creager are band members Stormy Cooper, Lyndon Hughes, Rick Redfern, Allen Huff and Aleph Yonker.
Shane Smith & The Saints
Shane Smith & The Saints is known for its four-part harmonies in its blend of folk, rock, country and Americana. The group features Shane Smith, Bennett Brown, Dustin Schaefer, Chase Satterwhite and Zach Stover.
With 18 years of MusicFest performances under his belt, Stoney LaRue is a festival favorite. His latest album is “Us Time” (2015).
Sum Brothers features Drew Womack, Tim Womack, Tres Womack, Luke Adair and Josh Droegemeuller. Hear their latest music in the album “Brownwood” (2019).
The Band of Heathens
This year, Austin-based The Band of Heathens marks its sixth year at MusicFest. Hear their most recent music in “A Message From the People Revisited” (2018).
The Cole Trains
Arizona-based group The Cole Trains features Patrick James, Shane Britt, TJ Taylor and Tad Jacobson. The Americana-country group is excited for its MusicFest debut.
The Texas Trio
The Texas Trio, composed of Kyle Park, John Michael Whitby and Jason Roberts, plays a blend of western swing and traditional country.
Country Music Association of Texas Songwriter of the Year Thom Shepard is known for his acoustic shows and his lyrics, with more than 100 songs of his recorded by other artists. This year marks Shepherd’s sixth year at MusicFest.
Austin-based Tres Womack performs with Sum Brothers, the Alt-Country band the Chubby Knuckle Choir and as a solo artist. This year is Womack’s sixth year performing at the festival.
Wade Bowen has toured for more than a decade, released nine studio albums and has been a staple at MusicFest for 18 years. Hear his latest music in “Solid Ground” (2018).
Berklee College of Music-trained classical violinist Warren Hood has played with the Austin Symphony, played with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and has ventured into performing as a soloist. MusicFest 2020 will be Hood’s third time playing at the festival.
Will Hoge blends soulful Americana with heartland rock ‘n’ roll and is perhaps best known for co-writing, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which received 2012 Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and Grammy nominations for Best Country Song.
This year, 23-year-old William Beckmann makes his MusicFest debut. Hear his debut traditional country-Americana album, “Outskirts of Town,” written about small-town life in Del Rio, Texas (2018).
William Clark Green
William Clark Green is celebrating seven years of performing at MusicFest. His most recent release is “Hebert Island” (2018).
Amarillo, Texas-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Zac Wilkerson blends roots rock with soul, country and folk. Hear his latest music in “Dustbowl Soul” (2016).
For more information, visit themusicfest.com.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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