It’s not easy to find good festivals in the US, and it’s even more difficult if you’re looking for Stoner Rock festivals. Sweden has them, Greece has them, the Netherlands has them, Portugal has them—the list goes on and on outside of the US.
I also live in the Midwest, so events like Psycho Las Vegas or Desertfest New York seem slightly out of reach, and Lollapalooza can hardly even be considered a Rock festival at this point. But Ripplefest Texas has caught my eye the last few years, bringing some of my absolute favorite bands together for one hell of a line up.
As I have gotten to know people in the Stoner Rock community over the last couple years, I knew I had to make my way down there. It appeared there was no better place to finally see this community I love in action. I now consider many people that I have met online via Instagram or the podcast friends of mine, but, until Ripplefest 2023, I have really only met a small handful of people in person.
I had a few goals for the weekend in mind as I flew from Chicago to Austin, TX:
- Don’t get drunk and embarrass myself
- Meet some people in person that I had only met online until now
- Get some podcasting done so I can count this as a work trip (See video above)
- Meet Nick Oliveri
Let’s see how I did…
Thursday night kicked things off with the “pre-party” at Sagebrush, a great little venue in South Austin. Plenty of room for a good crowd indoors, and additional space outside for a couple vendors, a food truck, and seating. It was great to feel the excitement in the air. I met the guys in Warlung in person, Ryan Garney (Lick of My Spoon Productions/ High Desert Queen), Restless Spirit, and many more, and I was honestly relieved by how cool everyone was.
The highlight of the night was absolutely seeing High Desert Queen perform live. I’ve seen the calm podcast side of Ryan for a couple years, and I admired his ambition to bring bands to town and put together Ripplefest, but I never expected the energy he put off on stage during their set.
The festival officially began on Friday afternoon at the Far Out Lounge, a large outdoor venue with two stages, a small indoor bar, vendors, a food truck and plenty of personality. One suggestion for next year… a Bloody Mary bar each day. I know, I know, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday but, Thursday took a lot out of me and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Again, I was blown away by how cool everyone was. Online, I have always preached about how supportive of a community this is, but seeing it in person was really something. The bands, the fans, headliners, local support, it didn’t matter. Everyone was there to support the scene and each other. And while we’re on the subject, Nick Oliveri was all of that and more. Not only did I meet the legend himself (check #4 off the list), but we had a great conversation about the scene, he shared some hilarious stories, and, above all, every time I looked into the crowd of ANY band, he was right there in the front enjoying the music. They might say, “Never meet your heroes,” but Nick Oliveri exceeded every single expectation I had.
There were so many great bands on Friday from beginning to end, but the highlight for me personally was Unida. For those that don’t know, Unida has gotten back together without John Garcia, although it sounds like they have his blessing and support, and they are moving forward with Mark Sunshine on vocals. This was already something I was really looking forward to, but they blew my mind. They sounded amazing, put on a great show, and Mark lived up to his predecessor and then some… and it’s only 8 o’clock!?
Even after that, Nick Oliveri played an acoustic set, Sasquatch ripped the place apart, Hippie Death Cult melted everyone’s brains, and Brant Bjork was every bit as cool as I could have hoped. It’s hard to imagine a better line up than what I saw on Friday, and we’re only halfway done!
Ok, Saturday is here and I am feeling it… my body hurts, I’m a little hungover, I haven’t drank enough water, I’ve had tacos for 3 of the last 4 meals, I’m carrying this laptop and mic around on my back for some reason, and I’m starting to realize I’m not in my 20s anymore.
Also, do Texans hate shade? I’m sure they are used to the heat (over 100 degrees this day, btw), but it’s like they go out of their way to eliminate shade. I saw what used to be a tree in the middle of the two stages and someone apparently came along and thought, “Shade? Not at MY venue, no thank you! These stoners need to fry!”
Saturday had a few last-minute lineup changes, but it provided another killer afternoon with Red Beard Wall, Mr. Plow, Sorcia, (Big) Pig, Thunder Horse, and more. Mondo Generator was definitely a highlight for me. They ripped through a fierce performance of Kyuss’ “Green Machine” to kick things off and never let up after that. The rest of the evening included The Atomic Bitchwax, Fatso Jetson, Acid King, Wo-Fat, King Buffalo, and Rubber Snake Charmers.
It was a real treat to see so many legends of the Desert scene together; Nick, Brant, Mario and more all made this a truly monumental festival. However, as I talked to people throughout the weekend, Acid King seemed to come up for most people as the band they were most excited to see, so I had to check out their set. Lori is a legend in her own right and I was honored to have a few words with her prior to her performance. To be honest, their bass player Bryce Shelton stole the show. One of the most entertaining and effortlessly cool performers I witnessed all weekend.
Ok, it’s Sunday and my body has all but completely shut down. I try to get back to normal by eating more tacos and drinking Red Bull and vodkas, but the results are questionable. The after-party is back at the Sagebrush and we get a little more Psychedelic with bands like The Absurd, Dead Feathers, Royal Sons, Spirit Mother, The Well, and Tia Carrera. Spirit Mother was the highlight for me. Two violins, and they were able to blend beautiful with fierce throughout their set.
Final Thoughts on Ripplefest 2023
Pros: Located in Austin, Texas, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be for this festival. Texas is a powerhouse when it comes to Stoner Rock and Doom bands, and just music in general. This lineup is incredible. The venue is great. The people were absolutely amazing. This community continues to impress me, and I’m humbled to be some small part of it.
Cons: A large gathering of Stoner Rock enthusiasts means one thing, if nothing else… Stoners. But that’s not the “con”, the con is we could have used a few more food options throughout the four days. Rotisserie chicken on a baguette was surprisingly tasty at 9 pm, but I could have used some Texas BBQ, a burger, nachos, etc. Something my simple mind on weed and Lonestar could fully appreciate. Technically the festival is two days, with a pre-party and an after-party, but four days was damn-near too much for me. It’s hard to complain about too much of a good thing, but I could have done three days and been just as happy.
Huge shout-out to Ryan Garney of Lick of My Spoon Productions for making this event happen and helping me be a part of it. Ripplefest Texas 2024 is already shaping up to be a great festival once again. Check out the first announcement below. Maybe I’ll see you there! (Also, in case you were wondering, yes, I probably got drunk and embarrassed myself.)