After nearly 20 years of attending and reveling in the April tradition that is Larry Joe Taylor’s Texas Music Fest, I was excited to take in my first Rhymes and Vines on the occasion of its eleventh happening. For ten years I’d heard tales of how it was superior to the April fest for music lovers. Whereas April is one hell of a good time and full of music, somewhere along the way the party became more important than the music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s what you’re looking for. But, for those of us who dig the music…LJT and family have come up with a perfect solution. A laid-back, music mecca that has all the appeal of the April festival without any of the drawbacks. I hesitated to even write how awesome my experience was for fear of shining a light on this hidden gem of music.
Using a tiny fraction of the grounds that are used in April (folks even plugged their RV’s into the big stage), Melody Mountain Ranch transforms from a Woodstock level min-city into a quaint music-loving small town that is on par with Luckenbach. Everything you dig about April is there. Friendly neighbors, T-Bird’s Bar, music in all forms (acoustic, full band, campfire), food trucks, wine, craft brew, byob, and pleasant weather dosed with showers.
The most striking thing about Rhymes and Vines was the laid back vibe. On SnapChat, I referred to it as Key West in a field. Nobody is in a hurry (in a good way). People look out for one another. It reminded me most of the Meridian LJT years. It was Mayberry. Folks left their campers unlocked, their coolers unattended and their chairs in place in front of the stage without a care in the world. In fact, when I first arrived and met my group at the stage a young lady in the group next to us offered to scoot their set-up over so I could squeeze in with my group. That rarely happens in April anymore. We left our wagon loaded Yeti at the stage unattended for hours and came back to it in the same spot with nothing missing from it. And we weren’t the only ones. That’s what everyone was doing. Because we were all there for the greater purpose: music. Onstage, Roger Creager even remarked in the midst of a highly entertaining set that he was “feeling the music tonight more than I usually do.” It showed.
I can sum up the experience best with this anecdote: even the beer showers during “Love” were polite.
The communal vibe bled over into the musicians themselves. Many of them remarked to me how cool they thought this event is. And that while they love playing the April one because of what it is, it is this version of LJT that is the most appealing to them. The crowd definitely trended older than April, but even the rowdy college kids that were there came for the right reasons and had a damn good time. It was a special time, and while my retirement from April LJT is still up in the air…I know one thing; I won’t be retiring from Rhymes and Vines anytime soon.