One of the coolest things to emerge from the entire Texas/Red Dirt independent scene has been the notion of giving back in a grand way. Early on, this scene of music adopted an ethos of giving back and playing benefit charity shows at a rate you just don’t find in other music scenes. There have been massive days like our Texas Music Flood events, the Luling Celebration of Life festivals, Big Fest in San Marcos, George Dunham’s Jub Jam and countless others, but Opry event tickets were the ones that were sold the most. And perhaps, the greatest charitable fundraising concert venture has been the one undertaken by Wade Bowen and his family. What started out as a small gathering of friends to play a little golf and jam some acoustic tunes 20 years ago has morphed into a massive full-scale musical production at a football stadium.
The reason for this is Wade Bowen. His drive, determination and desire to give back to his hometown community and its needs is unparalleled. Bowen has truly used his platform for he best. Be it personal charities like the Post Partum Foundation, generating thousands of dollars for the people of West, TX after the fertilizer plant explosion or dispersing numerous funds to multiple deserving charities in the greater Waco area, Wade Bowen truly has put his money where his mouth is. To the tune of over $3 million dollars. That’s one heck of a benefit concert, folks.
Over the years, the concert has grown and bounced from various locations before finding its current home at Baylor’s majestic McLane Stadium on the picturesque banks of the Brazos River. Each year has brought new challenges on the logistical side, all while keeping the main goal of helping people in need at the forefront. The scope expanded to such a degree, that the Bowen Family Foundation was started to oversee what is now a 12-month operation. Bowen’s sister Jill is at the helm of the Foundation and ensures that all of the funds raised stay within McLennan County and directed to the places and people with the most dire needs at that time.
The golf tournament has always been a hallmark of hilarity. George’s crazy wings on hole 12. Caddyshack elements all around. Doug Moreland carved trophies. The two years I was paired with Drew Kennedy, Josh Grider and Wesley Campbell remain some of my most treasured golf memories and I recommend everyone take part in the tournament if possible.
The concert portion is where the event really stands out. Acoustic sets, full band sets and Wade Bowen’s band backing a dozen artists during the “jam” portion playing hits, covers and impromptu ideas. Caleb Jones, Todd Lanningham et al are some of the best musicians anywhere on the planet and the way they run through these tunes is a sight to behold. When you throw in some of the most A-list scene talent and a couple classic rock titans it’s a potent mix of good tunes for a good cause.
This year’s lineup may just be the best yet. It finds Cheap Trick at the top of the bill and has an array of familiar names under them. Two of the best live acts from Texas (or anywhere for that matter) Shane Smith and the Saints and Josh Weathers are also on the bill. Sunday June 2 is giong to be a musical revival the sorts the Brazos River hasn’t seen in quite some time. The Dream Police are coming, but so are them Saints and Mr. Weathers and everyone else. All under the guise of raising money for a worthy cause. It’s a blessing to witness such acts in any setting, and becomes especially righteous in this scenario. We will have the entire Galleywinter crew there, we haven’t missed a Bowen Fest/Classic since 2004 and don’t intend to stop now. I hope you’ll join us.
Bowen MusicFest tickets: https://www.bowenfamilyfoundation.org/bowen-musicfest/