“A Family Dream”: Michael Hearne’s 20th Big Barn Dance Festival ‘22
By Bill Nevins, Contributing Writer
Eliza Gilkyson loves Michael Hearne’s Taos Big Barn Dance Festival. Her latest album Songs From the River Wind celebrates the beauty of northern New Mexico and she’s played on Austin City Limits and on stages worldwide: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXnpykgIUc4
In an email from her home near Taos, the singer/songwriter tells ECN, “There is a real pipeline between Austin and Taos, and the Barn Dance is probably the most beloved. The backstage hang is crazy, so many musicians catching up and visiting and rehearsing and making too much noise. We are constantly being told to "pipe down", as well we should because the whole scene onstage is like the good dream you keep hoping you’ll have but often feels out of reach, especially these days when touring is so difficult and risky. This is family the same connection is there with the audience as well.”
That “family dream” which Eliza cherishes is Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance Festival, which happens Thursday to Saturday September 8, 9, 10 in Taos’s Kit Carson Park.
The Big Barn Dance started out in the 1990s as Saturday night two-steppin’ parties at Casa de Caballos Ranch in Des Montes, up the road from Taos. Michael Hearne’s band South X Southwest played and folks would dance ‘til the wee hours. The summer barn dances became a beloved local tradition. Then, as word spread and the crowds grew in size, the Big Barn Dance moved to the Old Blinking Light Restaurant, KTAOS Solar Center and the Taos Ski Valley.
Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance Music Festival, now in its 20th year, has been long- settled into its home in a huge tent “under sun and stars” in Taos’s Kit Carson Park, where Michael personally hosts a three-day “Americana” country, folk and bluegrass music extravaganza, featuring many of his friends, who just happen to be some of the finest songwriters and bands in the world. Each year, the festival hosts hours of “happy- listening”, spontaneous dancing and friendly chatting and concludes with the near-magical Big Barn Dance as chairs are cleared away so that countless pairs of boots can “skoot” joyously around the spacious, tented dance floor.
A long-time fan-favorite at this and recent Big Barn Dance Festivals is the stunning Austin duo Beat Root Revival, who, as The Austin Statesman reports, met in England via shared musical interests, became a romantic couple, moved to Austin, broke up amicably, but stayed friends and have kept performing and recording together professionally (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Czh56irpGgo), releasing the acclaimed album Up in 2019 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZfcupUo_xw ) and preparing a new album for release soon. While guitarist/singer Ben Jones leans towards the “cowboy-beat-poet” tradition of Doug Sahm, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, his harmonizing partner Andrea Magee – who sings and plays both flute and the ancient Irish skin-drum called the bodhran–is steeped in her Celtic music roots. She also plays with an Irish-trad group and recently released a video of her original song “Belfast Girl”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B7HmgqXVTw . Inevitably, when Beat Root Revival plays, the Big Barn Dance crowd rises to its collective feet, cheering and stomping along for joy! Ben Jones via email tells ECN, “We’ve played the Barn Dance since 2018, so this will be our 5th. It’s our favorite show of the year, such a wonderful community of artists and patrons.
We’ll be releasing our latest live album, Live at Arlyn Studios at the Big Barn Dance this year.” BeatRootRevival.com
This year’s performer line-up is especially stellar. Among the stars who will perform “under New Mexico skies” are Eliza Gilkyson, Rodney Crowell, Hayes Carll, Robbie Fulks, Bob Livingston and the Lost Gonzo Band, Gary P. Nunn, Beat Root Revival, Shake Russell, Don Richmond and The Rifters, Balsam Range, Chuck Cannon, Courtney Patton, Jason Eady, The Quebe Sisters, Mountain Heart, Mike and the Moonpies, Red River Songwriters, The Texas Trio, and Seth James. And, of course, Michael Hearne and South X Southwest, as well as Michael’s universally-beloved uncle, Bill Hearne, the preeminent maestro of true Western Song.
Food and drinks (alcoholic- and non-) will be for sale on the festival grounds, and well-behaved leashed dogs are welcome outside the tent seating area. Tickets are available for the entire weekend and for each individual day and for the barn dance. Full details on schedules, ticket prices, special hotel- rates, FAQs and other information are at BigBarnDance
Come on out to Taos and Enjoy the Big Barn Dance Festival! Lineup: BigBarnDance.com/2022-artist-lineup