Holiday Music – Terlingua

There was some amazing music in Terlingua over the holidays:

Butch and Rory Hancock, Jimmie Dale and Colin Gilmore, Gurf Morlix, The Mastersons, Bonnie Whitmore, Jacob Jaeger, Kristopher and Ann Wade, The Jitterbug Vipers, Will Taylor (Strings Attached), Chet O’Keefe…

And some locals also played- The Whitmores, The Fabulous Vortexans (with Chase Peeler on Sax!), Jim Keaveny and band.

From a consumer’s point of view, it was a delicious smorgasbord of wonderful noises.

I play guitar and keys in the Fabulous Vortexans Blues/Jam Band and our show at the Starlight Theatre was packed. It is so much fun to play for a room full of dancing, happy people. That band at that venue on that night is becoming a tradition, and it’s one I treasure and hope to continue for years. I’ve come to expect New Year’s Eve to be packed.

However; I was surprised that the Townes Van Zant tribute (1/1/16) at the Starlight was so packed that there was nowhere to stand or sit. There were so many people listening to the music… and ordering drinks and food… and talking… and the waitresses zoomed by like smart bombs loaded with burgers and beer, gracefully bouncing off of people who drifted and rebounded like the rocks in an old asteroids video game looking for a safe place to stand…

I gave up after about an hour.  Too crowded.

The next night, there was an amazing show at La Kiva.  Many of the same performers were there. According to the sound guy, you  couldn’t have squeezed one more person in the room. In Terlingua on January 2nd.

I stayed home, put some Miles Davis on the stereo, poured a glass of wine…  and pondered the question:  “What, exactly, is Terlingua Music?”

Very few of the musicians who thrilled us over the holidays actually live in Terlingua.

Humans have a strange relationship with boundaries. You don’t find the enlightened guru in the midst of the crowd, you find them at the top of the desolate mountain. There’s something magical about the place where the sea meets the sand. And the boundaries between years are where we stop and look back and forwards. Resolutions are made. Changes are planned and changes are noted.

There was a time, before my time, when the Starlight Theater was an open cavern where local musicians would put on free music shows for their friends. Some locals mourn the moment when the roof went up and the Starlight became a commercial concern.

Now, there can be a 2-hour waiting list to get a table in the Starlight. And, strangely, the people on the stage and the vast majority of the people listening are from Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Berlin, Amsterdam… not Terlingua.

Some local musicians didn’t play at all over the holidays, and a few have stopped trying to book gigs at the local venues. From the club’s point of view, if you can book a hot act from Austin for the same money why would you book a local act?

*EDIT* Jeffro Greasewood commented on Facebook about that last sentence. Since he books the Boathouse and is in the trenches on the subject, his comments are relevant.

Yep, Terlingua has been found. I don’t think it’s the incredible music scene that brings folks here, as it’s just something to do while here, rather the incredible environment that surrounds us. So blame the creator.

As for the music, I also don’t agree with your statement “From the club’s point of view, if you can book a hot act from Austin for the same money why would you book a local act?”
I can’t speak for the other 4 establishments in the area that feature live music, but know I don’t feel this way at all.
First most, I book folks who I feel will be well received by our patrons. Secondly, I book the above mentioned (local or touring) who contact me about wanting to perform. Lastly, I don’t book folks who are confrontational.
If there are local musicians in the area that have given up on trying to perform, I blame them for not trying to book gigs. Our calendar is open to both locals and touring acts. I fill dates with those who contact me. Over the past couple of months there have only been a handful of local musicians that have contacted me about booking a gig, you being one of them. They all were booked immediately.

I like songs.


We’ve gained something, and we’re losing something. And, I’m being remarkably presumptuous by including myself in that collective pronoun, “we.” Although I bought my property here 9 years ago, I’ve only really lived here 3 years.

I- and this blog- are part of the change. Talking with the entertainment manager at the Starlight about the changes he said, “I blame the Internet.”



Butch and Rory Hancock
Butch and Rory Hancock
Jalapeno Schwartz
Jalapeno Schwartz
Kristopher Wade
Kristopher Wade
Jacob Jaeger
Jacob Jaeger
Chet O'Keefe
Chet O’Keefe
Jim Keaveny Band
Jim Keaveny Band
Will Taylor, Jeff Haislip, Mark Utter
Will Taylor, Jeff Haislip, Mark Utter
Will Taylor
Will Taylor
Will, Chet, Jeff
Will, Chet, Jeff
Will, Chet, Jeff
Will, Chet, Jeff
Rory - eye
Rory – eye

3 Replies to “Holiday Music – Terlingua”

  1. “Humans have a strange relationship with boundaries.” Reminds me of a great novel I just finished; Mockingbird by Walter Tevis.
    “Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods”

  2. “And, strangely, the people on the stage and the vast majority of the people listening are from Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Berlin, Amsterdam… not Terlingua”…

    Why do you think that is? Because of Terlingua? Or because there is a National Park here which draws tourists. Terlingua benefits from those tourist dollars.

    Had you been here in the 90’s Mister Obryan, you would have seen people from Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Berlin…
    You would have seen bands from Austin and other places, you would have also seen local musicians, like Laird, and Dr Paranoia and the Flying Jade Helms, Charles Maxwell, Doug Davis, Mike and Crystal, etc.

    So, once again, you seem to rail on tourists, and this “town” relies on tourist income to survive. Without them, there would not be a reason for the many venues for music here, there would only be a roofless old movie theater. Most of us that have been here for 20 years or longer remember the old days. Terlingua is not what it was, nor will it ever be.

    I am sure every single business in south county welcomes tourists, and crowded restaurants, for without them and their money, not much would be going on here.

    “I’ve only really lived here 3 years”.
    Interesting, only three? What does that say? Change is coming, change has happened, change in Terlingua began in the mid 70’s, and continues. We will see a change of tune when gas prices once again rise, tourists come in lesser numbers, and things will again be tougher on those that depend on tourist dollars.

    1. and, in a stunning display of righteous indignation, you completely missed the point.

      i’m not saying it’s good or bad. i am saying that the music scene has changed dramatically in the last 3 years.

      i am not interested in the tourists or their money in this blog post. i’m interested in the character and content of “terlingua music” and exploring what that means.

      chill the fuck out.

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