Carolyn Wonderland, Guy Forsyth, Jitterbug Vipers, Alan Munde, Dana Louise and the Glorious Birds, Amy Sue Berlin, Jacob Jaeger and a cast of hundreds gathered at the Starlight Theatre in Terlingua, Texas, for Slim Fest 2018.
What’s a “Slim Fest?”
Let’s start with Slim.
Here’s a link to Slim’s Wikipedia page where you can get the dry facts. (click here)
David Michael (Slim) Richie was the most dangerous guitar player in Texas. He lived with his sweetie, Francie Meaux Jeaux, in a creative house in Rolling Oaks, outside of Wimberley, Tx.
A little over 20 years ago, I was “invited” to Slim’s birthday party. By invited, I mean that a buddy of mine who knew Slim from the Kerrville Folk Festival told me that the party was happening and how to get there. I had met Slim at KFF, but only superficially. I crashed the party.
Arriving at Slim and Francie’s house (which took some dedication. At this point I lived in deep East Texas and this trip involved gas and motel expenses that had me scraping the bottom of my jeans pockets) there were interesting people crowded into the house and in picking circles in the yard, and music (and smoke) in the air.
The house was in the country, almost hidden in the trees deep in Rolling Oaks.
Later, after I moved to Wimberley, it was just a 12 mile (or so) hop.
I’m a competent musician and in most jam sessions I feel comfortable playing. My philosophy on jamming is that if I can make the song better by adding to it, I’ll play. If I don’t think I can add anything to the mix, I keep my ax in the case.
I kept my ax in the case.
Jam sessions at Slim’s were so far above my head that I could best contribute by listening. Banjo, mandolin, guitar, accordion, bass, and fiddle players who I had previously only heard on recordings were there, along with some jazz and bluegrass jedi masters I’d never heard of, and they were playing for themselves and each other- and “play” is the operative word. They were seducing their instruments in a joyful freedom and heterodyning off each other, inspiring themselves and each other, in a way that you seldom hear in a professional environment. And smiling.
As the sun went down, glasses were filled and emptied and the air was fragrantly sweet. The music seemed to morph and rez into a swirling cloud of extended chords, the melodies took on flavors of Coltrane by way of Django and Tony Rice, and I won’t say things got serious… but the gods were playing, all bets were off, and if you couldn’t hang you’d best get out of the way.
Like I mentioned earlier- my guitar stayed in its case.
There was another level to this game- younger musicians got a view through the window and saw what real musicians could do, and some of them metaphorically picked up a rock, bashed the window, and crawled right through.
Slim was generous with his time, and if you were interested in learning, he was a patient and inspiring teacher. To follow Slim required dedication. I remember an evening at the Bisset’s house in Wimberley where Slim explained to me how you could play any chord with just 3 notes, and none of those notes were necessarily in the triad of the chord. Then, you could use the progression based on the extended notes to create melodies and improvise.
I chose not to put in the time and effort.
Luckily, the Texas music world is populated now by people who did put in the time and effort. The Austin music scene is much richer that it would have been without Slim’s influence. Dozens of musicians in several dozen bands (you need to play in at least 4 bands to be able to survive in Austin these days) continue to musically preach Slim’s gospel.
From Threadgill’s outdoor stage to the campfires – and main stage – of the Kerrville Folk Festival, and all points in between, you can hear echoes and reflections of Slim’s music, and the world is a better place because of that.
Slim Fest is a celebration of Slim’s life, and his influence on Texas music and musicians. For the last two years, it’s been hosted by the Starlight Theatre in the Terlingua Ghost Town.
Francie has kept the Jitterbug Vipers moving forward, and you can hear Slim in the distance when Greg Harkins plays guitar. You can also hear Slim in the other bands- most of the musicians at Slimfest “studied” with Slim.
And a lot of them were in grade school when I went to Slim’s birthday party over 20 years ago… Slim is going to be influencing and shaping Texas music for a long time.
Slim also influences the vibe and community at Slimfest. The more experienced musicians are generous with the younger and/or newer pickers. Jam sessions break out spontaneously. The “green room” back stage was a gathering of old and new friends sharing stories of the road, remembering old times, planning future adventures, and lots of hugs.
I figured I could best contribute to the music by taking pictures of the musicians-
There were lots of photographers at Slimfest – you can get a feel for it on Facecrack HERE.
Slim Fest is a production of Jeffro Greasewood and Sha’s Far Out Booking. To get info on next year’s celebration, follow them HERE
Get your tickets early because the Starlight Theatre has limited seating and Slimfest sells out fast.
Here’s how it looked to me:
(you’re welcome to use these photos for any “non-commercial” purpose as long as you include a credit to the photographer: © Pat O’Bryan. Posters, ads for gigs, profile pics, etc. are fine. To use photos for books, CD covers, etc. contact me at koanwrangler (at) Gmail (dot) com for permission.)