Stir it up on the water

Riverfront festival brings reggae greats to the Hill Country for 3 days of music

Riverfront festival brings reggae greats to the Hill Country

Roddy Tree Ranch
The bucolic setting of Roddy Tree Ranch will come to life when 17 Texas bands join The Wailers for a weekend reggae-rock-jazz jam fest. Roddy Tree Ranch/Facebook

Here in the United States, reggae is widely loved for its good vibes and chill attitude. We sometimes overlook that at its heart, reggae is protest music. As Austin slides back into Stage 5 after a brief and welcome respite, we could use some socially conscious but uplifting musical mingling. Thankfully, where many would least expect it, Reggae on the Guadalupe is sweeping Texans away for three days of spacious, outdoor tunes.

Friday, August 20 through Sunday, August 22, reggae pioneering band The Wailers will join 17 other Texas acts at Roddy Tree Ranch in Ingram, Texas, for the eighth-annual event. The lineup spans reggae, ska, soul, blues, Americana, jazz, and more, for an eclectic melange based on solid rhythms and exchanged traditions. The festival is going on its eighth year and is now bigger than ever, with vendors, art installations, fire and belly dancers, a drum circle, and the entire ranch to explore.

“We’re out in the Hill Country; obviously it’s a rural area. There’s a lot of country cowboys and ... we were surprised at how many people showed up for it [in previous years],” says executive director and concert promoter James “Jake” Keith, whose family owns and operates the ranch. “Historically, I’ve noticed that a lot of theme nights work.”

A “theme night” is a good way to describe the adherence to reggae in the lineup, more of a variety show than a die-hard genre showcase. Bringing The Wailers to Ingram is an exciting idea to Keith, who grew up inspired by the music his dad was listening to, from the Beatles to ZZ Top to Bob Marley. The band is staying on the ranch, where they’re offering meet-and-greet tickets, and Keith guarantees to show them a good time.

“At first it was just jam sessions and a few bands I put together,” says Jake Keith’s father, Keith Asbury, in a press release. “We realized people like an array of genres, a wide variety of musical styles, not just country. That’s our motivation now: to put on the best show possible.”

Keith grew up singing with his father, who has played in bands for 50 years and had so many musicians over to jam and hang that over time, the bed-and-breakfast-style ranch became a de facto music venue. Now Keith’s own rock band, Nautical Nation, is on the lineup for Reggae on the Guadalupe. The entire operation is run by the two family members, with help from Keith’s assistant, Kirsten Cavazos, and director of personnel Deen Howell.

The bands will play at the brand new Starry Nights Amphitheater, built by the father-son team into a hillside and following the natural topography of the land. Asbury had previously built half the structures on the property, and enlisted his son’s help during the pandemic shutdown as gigs slowed down and the two found themselves ready to tackle the bigger project that had always been sidelined.

The structure is flanked by rock formations that drop off into a pond and a tunnel that connects it to the river bordering the property. Attendees can camp along the 800-foot riverfront, where they can swim, play volleyball, and watch bats fly out from the tunnel at dusk. There’s plenty to explore in the nearby towns of Kerrville and Fredericksburg, but the music and nature at the ranch could keep you busy for the whole weekend.

Weekend tickets ($65) are for sale at lazydaysandstarrynights.com, along with links for all the other events going on at the amphitheater on different nights. The ticket selection allows add-ons for camping ($20) and a Wailers meet-and-greet with goodies ($200).