May in Austin gives us something to sing about. With ample opportunities to explore the sounds of the city, we’ve put together our top 10 picks for music festivals and events you won’t want to miss. Music lovers, mark your calendars for the ultimate spring bucket list.
Lone Star Jam
Saturday, May 2 through Sunday, May 3; gates open at noon
For those with a Texas state of mind, head down to the eighth annual Lone Star Jam. Presented by 415 Productions and Texas Performing Arts, the event brings together a Texas country music lineup on the LBJ Library Lawn. Saturday's performers include Wade Bowen, Jack Ingram and the Eli Young Band. Sunday’s lineup includes Kevin Fowler and Whiskey Meyers, with headliners Turnpike Troubadours and Randy Rogers Band.
Any Austin festival worth its salt includes an outstanding roster of food options, and Lone Star Jam is no exception. Blue Ribbon Barbecue, Crêpe Crazy and Kebabalicious are just some of the crowd favorites featured at this year’s fest. Benefiting Young Texans Against Cancer, tickets range from $40 single day passes to $275 VIP tickets, which grant a front-row experience and private bar with complimentary soda and water and discounted beer prices.
iHeart Radio Country Festival
Saturday, May 2, 7 pm
The leading names in country music are coming to Austin for one night, all under one roof. The festival, hosted by Bobby Bones at the Frank Erwin Center, will feature Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, The Band Perry, Sam Hunt and Tyler Farr.
The 2015 Academy of Country Music Award winners Little Big Town, who won Vocal Group of the Year, and Dierks Bentley, who won Video of the Year for Drunk on a Plane, will also perform. Tickets range from $20 to $375.
Sunday, May 3, 1 pm
Support our local farmers at the second annual Farmgrass Fest, a family-friendly bluegrass bonanza held at Simmons Family Farms in Niederwald, Texas. The music acts include The Lost Pines (whose frontwoman Talia Bryce is also the founder of Farmgrass); dance-inducing Whiskey Shivers; and The Gravy Brothers, a band that returns to the traditional elements of bluegrass.
There will also delicious food from Flats, Thongsuck’s Thai and Itsa Pizza Truck, and plenty of activities for the kiddos, including hula hooping and face painting. Tickets are $20 and kids under 12 years get in free. All proceeds go towards an emergency medical fund to support Austin-area farmers.
Cinco de Mayo Block Party
Tuesday, May 5, 5 to 9 pm
Have plans for Cinco de Mayo? If La Condesa’s Cinco de Mayo Block Party isn’t on your list, you may want to reconsider. This free event is held on West Second Street between Guadalupe and San Antonio streets. Enjoy south of the border bites from La Condesa; concoctions from Casadores Tequila, Dos Equis and Tecate; and a live music lineup that will have you in fiesta mode in no time. Acts include Austin Music Awards’ Musician of the Year Gina Chavez, the ever-entertaining Celsius, Selena cover band Bidi Bidi Banda and reggae/blues/salsa group Cilantro Boombox.
In addition to the Cinco de Mayo-inspired food, libations and music, this neighborhood block party is perfect for the entire family with plenty of activities and shops to explore along West Second.
Unplugged at the Grove
Thursdays, 8 pm
Having been around for over two decades, KGSR’s Unplugged at the Grove is essentially a rite of passage in order to call yourself a true Austinite. It is the longest-running free concert series in the city and features some of the best musicians in Austin. The event (which runs through September) offers $3.50 Ziegenbock drafts and $6 cans of Infinite Monkey Theorem Wine, as well as food offerings, all under the beautiful pecan canopy at Shady Grove. The too-good-to-be-true weather in May — not too hot, not too cold — is the ideal time to attend an Unplugged event.
The schedule for May is: Carolyn Wonderland, May 7; Alpha Rev, May 14; Alejandro Escovedo, May 21; Charlie Mars, May 28.
Friday, May 8 through Sunday, May 10
Get lifted at Levitation, the new moniker of Austin Psych Fest. Held on the banks of the Colorado River at Carson Creek Ranch, the festival brings together the best and biggest names in psych rock. This year’s lineup includes the 50-year anniversary reunion of The 13th Floor Elevators, spacey rock band The Flaming Lips, Australian psych rockers Tame Impala, The Jesus and Mary Chain performing Psychocandy, The Black Angels (who originally curated the lineup for the fest) and many more.
Camping is available (and encouraged) on the grounds of Carson Creek Ranch, as getting in and out of the festival by car can be a total nightmare. Camping pricing is $75 per person, and only weekend pass holders are allowed to camp. Single day tickets are $65 for general admission, and weekend passes are going for $165.
Austin Piano Festival
Friday, May 8 through Sunday, May 17
This celebration of all things piano is one of the lesser-known festivals in Austin, but it provides a unique opportunity for classical music aficionados to experience some of the best classical pianists around today. Take this occasion to further your horizons of the artistic world of classical music.
Highlights of the festival include the Nancy Weems Piano Recital held May 9; the Debussy in Sound and Image event with pianists Chirstopher Guzman, Kris Pineda, Gregory Allen, John Botes and Michael Schneider on May 15; and a two piano chamber recital on May 16, all held at the Jessen Auditorium at the University of Texas at Austin. There’s also an opening night gala that is part recital, part soiree, and a closing night gala that will feature the 2015 Solo Piano Competition winners from 7th through 12th grade.
Pachanga Latino Music Festival
Saturday, May 16
The Pachanga Latino Music Festival is a family-friendly music and cultural experience with a focus on the Latino community. Celebrating Latino-created music and art and its impact on American culture, Pachanga Fest, whose motto is “the sound is brown,” has a lineup that spans rock, alternative, mariachi, cumbia, salsa, electronic, hip-hop, funk and indie rock. Artists include Kinky, Ximena Sariñana, Motel, Mala Rodriguez, Enjambre, Ceci Bastida and Palenke Soultribe and more.
Expect an incredible food lineup as well, including Mellizoz Tacos, Tom’s Tabooley, Mom & Pops, Gironi’s and Tapas Bravas. General admission to Pachanga Fest, held at Fiesta Gardens, is $39, and you can also purchase a VIP ticket (aka Very Important Taco), which grants you a five-taco tasting package from Tacodeli, Fresa’s, Fork and Taco, El Chile and Rosarito. Taco-bout delicious!
Kerrville Folk Festival
Thursday, May 21 through Sunday, June 7
There’s a little something for everyone at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Since 1972, the festival has housed 18 days and nights of music in Kerrville, Texas. Not only does the event include the best of Texas folk, bluegrass, blues, funk, soul, country and more, but the days are packed with activity as well.
Music highlights for this year’s festival include MilkDrive on Thursday, May 21; Elizabeth McQueen on Friday, May 22; Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell on Saturday, May 23; Soul Track Mind on Saturday, June 6; and Ruthie Foster on Sunday, June 7. Bring a tent, a guitar or even your RV, and let the Kerrville Folk Festival take you away from the stress and monotony of every day life.
Blues on the Green
Amazing local artists grace the Blues on the Green stage throughout the summer, but it’s really more like background music to one giant lawn party with all of your Austin friends. It seems as though anyone and everyone heads down to Zilker Park for this tradition, blanket and a brew in tow. Parking can be an issue, so if it’s possible, hop on a bus or bicycle. Stay tuned for the Blues on the Green lineup announcement, coming in early May.