River Jam is a Cut Above

River Jam, born of Greenfest, has been a tradition dating back 20 years.  It has evolved from a one-off let’s get together at George’s Bar in Waco and toast Pat Green and get to meet these people in real life that we only know behind a screen into a full fledged three day event.  Its evolution has mirrored that of the Galleywinter community and the Texas Music scene at large.  Underground, word of mouth has expanded into well known commodities.

The format and location may have changed over the years, but the heart remains the same.  Whether we were at Stubb’s, Rolling Oaks, The Phoenix, Cheatham Street, River Road Ice House or Billy’s Ice, the River Jam vibe has never changed. River Jam is a place to meet up with your fellow music loving compadres, jam out to music you love, discover some new artists and songs, mingle with some of your favorite artists, musicians and songwriters…all while taking part in the best Texas summer traditions: floating the river, frozen margs, $1 Lone Stars, greasy cheeseburgers and enchiladas and the camaraderie of knowing you’re part of a movement.

It was 2009 when we decided to expand beyond the one day event.  We packed Momo’s in Austin for a Saturday triple bill featuring Adam Hood, Matt Powell and Kristen Kelly.  We enlisted Drew Kennedy to find us a place to host a Sunday float and concert.  Enter Terry Gillespie and his famed Lone Star Float House.  Since that July Sunday in 2009, Terry has been a trusted friend and partner of our River Jam shenanigans.  We moved the Saturday of River Jam to New Braunfels in 2010 and had a series of shows that featured matinees at the old Lone Star Music Record Store.  Josh Weathers performed there two years in a row to a jammed crowd enjoying free Shiner Beer samples.  It was truly a moment in time.

Starting in 2015, we extended the official fun to 3 days. By including the most hallowed of songwriter stages at Cheatham Street, we were able to provide fans with each type of show.  A revered listening room, a rowdy bar and a patio house concert party vibe.  Over 100 artists have performed at the event in the last 20 years in various capacities.  Three standouts that come back year after year and embody the spirit and groove of the entire weekend are Adam Hood, Josh Grider and Jade Marie Patek.

Hood has played in every conceivable format.  Full band, trio, acoustic, Southern Brothers with Jason Eady. He’s played Austin, San Antonio, New Braunfels and this year San Marcos.  He’s played on the Floathouse porch, the RRIH outside stage, the RRIH inside stage, Stubb’s hallowed old stage, and just about every other place we’ve ever thrown up a PA.  The same goes for Josh Grider.  He’s played most of those same stages in almost as many formats.  His gracious smile, warm energy and good times attitude have pushed the event forward.  Jade Patek was a discovery of ours back in 2015.  That was her first year to play the event and at the time she was part of a duo act.  Year after year she returned and was better each year.  We had folks that began coming to the event just to see her.  In 2021, she crushed the event alongside Bonnie Bishop by highlighting their songwriter retreat participants.  A truly magical moment. This year, she’s joining Hood at Cheatham Street in a full band role.  We are stoked for these three acts to jam once more…and for all the other acts new and returning.

What makes River Jam special is the people.  The person you only know through Instagram singing alongside you.  The artist you’ve only listened to from afar sitting next to you enjoying someone else sing a song. The moments are grand too.  Jason Eady performing literally in the Guadalupe River.  Randy Rogers getting a hotel afterparty shut down due to noise. Hayes Carll playing a couple then quietly leaving.  Coby Wier singing “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance?” with Matt Hillyer.  John Dempsy and Mike Stanley singing “Fallin’ Rain” while a torrential downpour almost electrocuted them and blew away the Floathouse.  Jackie Darlene covering Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” long before Morgan Wallen had even heard the song.  Kylie Rae Harris making one of her last public performances, singing Sheryl Crow with her daughter.  I could go on, but you get the point.

There are festivals that are bigger, fancier, more strictly organized and more expensive.  The theme for River Jam is loose.  The set times are loose and the vibe remains loose for 72 hours.  I hope you’ll be joining us for one or all this year.  It is sure to be special.

River Jam Friday – Adam Hood/Jade Marie Patek at Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, TX. 
TICKETS:  River Jam Night 1 – Adam Hood Tickets

River Jam Saturday – Shaker Hymns/Sun Valley station at Billy’s Ice in New Braunfels, TX.
TICKETS:  River Jam Night 2 – Shaker Hymns/SVS Tickets

River Jam Sunday – 18 amazing songwriters at Lone Star Float House in New Braunfels, TX
FREE–please bring cash to tip the a

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief