For a city with such a storied musical legacy, San Antonio is often ignored by touring bands and regarded as the musical “black sheep” of Texas. Despite its vibrant arts scene scene, and its place as the seventh largest city in the U.S., San Antonio is conspicuously missing on most touring bands itineraries.
Fortunately that’s beginning to change.
The festival, now in its fourth year, has already hit its natural cap – Maverick Plaza’s capacity is 3,000 – which is as much a blessing as a curse. When compared to the tens of thousands of attendees who flock to mega-festivals like Austin City Limits or Fun Fun Fun Fest, the Maverick Festival is akin to a giant backyard show, said organizer Faith Radle.
Radle, who joined the festival in its second year and works as one of the managing partners of Do210, is aware that the smaller venue means the festival can’t book massive marquee headliners like Guns N’ Roses or Outkast. But the intimate, casual feel of the festival has led past headliners to agree: Maverick is one of the best and most memorable festivals they’ve ever played.
How could San Antonio ever disappoint as a music destination? After all, Robert Johnson recorded his first sessions at the Gunter Hotel in 1936. Musicians such as Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, Alejandro Escovedo and legendary experimental musician “Blue” Gene Tyranny were all born in San Antonio.
The former White Rabbit, a sometimes metal bar with an evil, twisted evil rabbit mural, received a welcome makeover and new ownership in 2015. The venue, reborn as the Paper Tiger and partially booked/managed by the venerable Transmission Events, has provided San Antonio with a credible, attractive place for touring indie mainstays such as Built to Spill, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and King Khan and the Shrines. The Maverick Music Festival is also attracting new and veteran talent.
This year’s Maverick lineup is a canny, eclectic mix that should provide highlights to virtually every attendee. Friday’s headliner – Public Enemy – is a bold, political choice that should be especially fiery, given the current social landscape. Other first-day highlights include underrated art rock duo The Drums, legendary Tex-Mex rocker Joe King Carrasco, and left-field instrumental beat producer Ras G.
Saturday’s lineup is filled with musical gems like new-wave Australian band The Church, while psychobilly king Reverent Horton Heat draws in the nostalgic crowds. The Flaming Lips, the well known kaleidoscopic psych impresarios, will close this year’s festival. Perhaps the most subtly exciting act on Saturday is Young Fathers, a conceptually ambitious, Scottish hip-hop/pop trio, whose 2014 album Dead won the prestigious Mercury Prize and whose live performances have earned them a zealous following.
The festival is also a peerless showcase for San Antonio’s often unheralded but vibrant local music scene with favorites such as Alyson Alonzo, Pochos Chidos, The Hawks (of Holy Rosary), The Lost Project, and Buttercup all making appearances.
It’s true that the Maverick Music Festival doesn’t have the same star power as the music festivals found in Dallas, Austin or Houston, but you’ll probably have a better time at this smaller fest with performers who are excited to play for fun, appreciative and un-jaded crowds.
Top Image: Festival attendees watch a performance at the La Villita Historic Arts Village as the Tower Life Building looms overhead. Photo by Scott Ball.