Outlaws & Legends embarks on second decade of outdoor music in Abilene
It’ll be like New Year’s Day at the Back Porch in Texas this weekend.
You know, with the old and with the new.
It’s the first time since its first try at its 10th anniversary was hit by COVID-19 that the pandemic won’t be that dark cloud in the sky above the Outlaws & Legends music festival. Almost at the last minute, the pandemic canceled the 2020 show when crowd sizes were reduced to less than 10, and organizers a year ago were still wary of public health.
Still, the 2021 event set a record by surpassing 15,300 spectators each day for an attendance of more than 31,000 over two days. It was the first major music festival in Texas to be organized in the wake of the health crisis.
Some general admission tickets were still on sale this week but in limited numbers.
Powell said the event met its attendance goal. He previously said he didn’t want the event to get much bigger, setting around 15,000 people as a cap. That’s enough room for a large crowd, RV and general parking, and managing the event to run smoothly and safely, he said.
“It’s exactly how we wanted it to happen,” Powell said of the steady growth over the years. “The community and ticket buyers have encouraged us.
“That’s what we want to handle. We didn’t want it to be Woodstock, every man for himself. We wanted to do it with class.”
Continued:Back on the Porch: Outlaws & Legends will truly celebrate 10 years of festival music
So, done with the old one.
What’s new? Many.
So, what’s up, Mark?
There are new artists on the lineup and, by tradition, new releases on the Back Porch.
The biggest change concert-goers coming to hear like Robert Earl Keen, the duo of Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin, and event founder and host Mark Powell will see is the “sunbridge.”
It’s a metal walkway – 200 feet long and 10 feet wide – that arcs in front of the main stage, from side to side at the tree line. It will provide another vantage point for customers who pay ($2,000) for a “suite” on the catwalk, which is painted chocolate brown to match the other ironwork on the site.
Powell is proud of his “solar,” which his wife, Meredith, named. She didn’t like his idea of calling it “the big brown alley.”
It’s an idea that germinated in mid-January during discussions with dance floor sponsor Taylor Electric. It was completed last week and has just been painted. It will be a great way to display sponsorship signs and Edison-style lighting, Powell said, but not obscure viewing for others downstairs.
Another novelty is the removal of the grass in front of the stage, the pouring of concrete and the addition of a limestone top to the low wall that borders the stage.
The upshot is that the location in northwest Abilene near Disability Resources Inc. that became the Outlaws’ permanent home for the third event in the series looks revamped, but not at the expense of the loss of its local charm.
There was room for a few more motorhomes, so capacity was increased to 480. All but a few spaces were gone, and they were due to move in from Thursday.
Speaking of Thursday, a pre-event sound check by Powell and his band turned into a sponsored event that will include Zane Williams and The Wilder Blue. It is now a “Sound Check Party”.
And one more thing. When the music ends at 11 p.m. outside, it’s only just started inside.
Post-show jam sessions turned into events at the metal teepee, southwest of the main stage. Kevin Fowler, who has taken up residence at Outlaws, will be there on Friday. Whitey Morgan and Kendall Marvel, who opened for Chris Stapleton, will be there on Saturday.
The 11th music event begins Friday with Hayden Haddock on stage at 2 p.m. Kershaw and Tippin, who performed at the Taylor County Coliseum in their heyday in the 1990s, headlined that night.
Saturday’s musical slate begins with Shane Terrell & the Stumblers at 11 a.m., followed by the debut of Ariel Hutchins’ Outlaws of Cross Plains at 11:45 a.m.
Avid Robert Earl fan
Saturday, after Powell’s early-night concert, is Keen’s farewell to the Abilene show.
The longtime Texas-based popular entertainer announced his retirement and hinted to Powell that he would like to perform at Outlaws before going off the hook for good.
His hits include “The Road Goes on Forever”, “Corpus Christi Bay”, “Amarillo Highway”, “Levelland”, and “Feelin’ Good Again”.
Last year, when describing the sound of Kevin Costner’s band, Powell said it was “a kind of folky, roots-style country…in the vein of Robert Earl.”
This weekend, REK is in person.
Keen performed the 2014 show and was last in Abilene in August 2018 for the West Texas Rehabilitation Center Summer Dinner Show.
field of dreams
Powell is ready to move forward after two years of working on the pandemic.
For the 10th anniversary show, Powell landed Willie Nelson, but canceled his appearance before the event itself was cancelled. Nelson was still not performing publicly in 2021.
In his place last year, Powell brought in actor Costner, who fronts the band Modern West. The current ‘Yellowstone’ TV star electrified the Friday night crowd. Footage from his movies and TV shows played on the top screen, igniting the crowd.
Powell said Costner, who told him playing Outlaws was a to-do list item, was equally thrilled with the reception.
“He was like, ‘Man, that was a shot in the arm,'” Powell said, adding that he’s only met two artists with real star power: George Strait and Costner.
keep it unique
While perhaps many in attendance were unfamiliar with Modern West or even aware that Costner could sing and play guitar, his looks fit Powell’s goal of making Outlaws & Legends unique by bringing “new” acts. .
“But they better be good,” he said.
He thinks he struck gold when he booked Leon Russell, not your traditional country artist, for the fourth festival. It was the same year Keen played here. Powell recalls Keen offering to refund his fee if Powell did not follow up Russell’s superb performance.
It was a memorable evening for music fans. Russell died two years later.
This year, Powell brings in the Reverend Horton Heat, which plays in the heat of the day on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. And the recent cold weather will warm into the upper 80s on Saturday.
The Reverend, also known as James C. Heath, is referred to as the godfather of psychobilly. Psychobilly is defined as a mixture of rock with elements of punk rock, rockabilly and other genres.
Not your typical country music act. Like the Kentucky headhunters.
Continued:Back in Abilene: Kentucky headhunters stuck with southern education
But Outlaws doesn’t want to be your typical country music festival.
Powell has another goal – to keep it fresh. It has had artists, such as Texas favorites Ray Wylie Hubbard and Gary P. Nunn, play there multiple times. Fowler is back this year, but not on the main stage.
Powell wants to avoid duplicating Billy Bob’s Texas touring roster. Kershaw, Tippin, the Headhunters and Jack Ingram haven’t been like this in a while.
Early Friday night cast member Brent Cobb is a relative newcomer, recommended to him by Leanne Womack when she performed at The Fest in 2017.
“This year I got who I wanted,” Powell said of the 20 numbers he reserved.
Stick to it
Powell has enjoyed adding to the Back Porch over the years, but admits it was a scary commitment during the pandemic.
The upgrade investment was substantial and once you’re there, he said, you’re there.
But after missing out in 2020, it was “Let’s roll” last March.
He said fans stuck with the festival, “grateful,” Powell said, to go back outside and hear live music.
Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
How to be an outlaw (or a legend)
What: Outlaws and Legends Music Festival
Or: Back Porch of Texas, 3350 N. Clack St. Venue is located on the west side of US Highway 277, south of Disability Resources Inc.
When: Doors open at 1 p.m. Friday for general admission and VIPs. The music ends at 11 p.m. Doors open at 11 a.m. Saturday for general admission and VIPs. Music ends at 11 p.m.
List of artists:
2 p.m. – Hayden Haddock
3:15 p.m. – Chad Cooke Band
4:30 p.m. – Steelwood
6:00 p.m. – Kentucky Headhunters
7:30 p.m. – Brent Cobb
9:30 p.m. – Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin
11 a.m. – Shane Terrell and the Stumblers
11:45 – Ariel Hutchins
12:45 p.m. – Dallas Moore
2 p.m. – Micky & the Motorcars
3:15 p.m. – Reverend Horton Heat
4:30 p.m. – Band of pagans
6 p.m. – Jack Ingram
7:30 p.m. – Mark Powell
9:30 p.m. – Robert Earl Keen
Tickets: Some general admission tickets are available at outlawsandlegends.com. The cost in advance is $85 plus shipping. The price will be higher at the door, if tickets are available.