Maverick Music Festival: San Antonio’s Giant Backyard Show

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Festival attendees watch a performance at the La Villita Historic Arts Village as the Tower Life Building looms overhead during Maverick Music Festival 2015.

Festival attendees watch a performance at the La Villita Historic Arts Village as the Tower Life Building looms overhead. Photo by Scott Ball.

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 Maverick Music Festival, April 8-9 in Maverick Plaza at La Villita, provides San Antonio with a varied, expertly curated music festival – the kind and quality that Austin touts in abundance.

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 SahmFlaco 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.

Portugal the Man perform at the La Villita Historic Arts Village during Maverick Music Festival 2015.

Portugal the Man perform at the La Villita Historic Arts Village during Maverick Music Festival 2015.

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.  

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Maverick Music Festival: A Successful San Antonio Original

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9 thoughts on “Maverick Music Festival: San Antonio’s Giant Backyard Show

  1. Please quit calling San Antonio the 7th largest city in the US when trying to impress people. It fails, because everyone knows that Atlanta is not the 39th largest city, Boston is not the 24th largest city, etc. It just makes us look lame-brained. Population within city limits means NOTHING except in terms of the operation of the government of the city. In terms of how big the place is, the metropolitan population is the key. Therefore, Atlanta is the 9th largest “city” in the US, Boston is the 10th largest “city” in the US, and San Antonio is the 25th largest “city” in the US (recently passed by Orlando). To be the 25th largest “city” in the US is still impressive and saying so does not cause the cognitive dissonance that calling us the 7th largest city in the country does. (San Antonio’s bragging is starting to remind me of how Dallas kept trying to call itself a world-class city back in the 60s and 70s and everyone in the world knew they weren’t!)

    • This rant that San Antonio is not the 7th largest city is so juvenile. City proper rankings have been ranked by the U.S. government since 1790 and I doubt this will ever change. San Antonio is in fact the 7th largest city proper and it is a legitimate ranking that does not claim it is the 7th most dense city or the 7th largest metro just that it is 7th most populated city limits. All major metro areas that happen to be among the top 20 largest city propers do tout their rank from time to time and San Antonio is not the only one. A lot of people know the definition of what a metro is versus what a city is. If anyone is losing sleep over it they can look it up on Google and find out all the different classifications there are on how communities are measured and ranked for size. Nonetheless San Antonio is a major metropolitain area of almost 2.5 million people that is growing at a very fast rate which ranks it amongst the largest urban areas in this country. Orlando’s metro is barely ahead by a minuscule amount but its urbanized area is smaller by several hundred thousand. By the way the festival is held in the heart of the 7th largest U.S. city, a metro area fast approaching the top 20 largest metros and the 240th largest urban area in the world. Not too shabby!

  2. Is there a set list or performance list for the shows on Friday and Saturday? Typically, this information has been published for previous festivals, but has yet to be released for this year’s festival.

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