Bustling streets, crowded bars, live rock music till midnight — these are not the sounds you'd expect to come from a town of 2,000 residents. But every year, the small West Texas desert town of Marfa hosts the Trans-Pecos Festival — a four-day event that draws musicians from around the country and fans from all over the world.
The festival started in 2006 at the luxury campground, "El Cosmico." Liz Lambert — the founder of "El Cosmico" — said the music fest was originally just people singing and playing around a bonfire. Eight years later, the festival has expanded days and the number of bands and added a proper performance stage.
Lambert says musicians gravitate to Marfa because "It's a great place where there's not a lot of clutter and noise and not a lot of distractions. So it gives a real sense of community." El Cosmico sits just at the edge of town. It's a quiet getaway from an already tiny and low-key community.
One tourist from Austin said the stress-free environment is what makes this festival stand out: "I just feel like it's just really cool because everyone here is so chill and friendlier than any festival that I've ever been to."
Trans-Pecos not only attracts music fans, but musicians as well. Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, did a surprise performance at the annual Marfa v. Austin baseball game during this year's festival, which took place Sept. 25-27.
Marfa Public Radio's Kate Yoland talked with some of the musicians to get their take on Trans-Pecos and the artsy Texas town:
Mother Falcon (Austin):
It was raining when we got here and as soon as we took the stage, the clouds parted and the sun came out. It's really amazing to play outside at a festival with hundreds of people and being able to hear a pin drop — that doesn't happen outside. You would never hear that at a festival anywhere else. But here in Marfa — last night when Bill Callahan was playing, it was a transcendental experience.
John McCauley of Deer Tick (Atlanta):
I am in Marfa for some reason at the festival called Trans-Pecos. We heard a lot of great things about this fest and it kind of just feels like a little gathering of friends.
Ben Kweller (Austin):
I think what sets Trans-Pecos apart from other festivals is that it really just feels like a big party that you're having with friends, instead of just being stuck in a huge field with lame vendors and you can't find people. I have two boys — an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old — and my 8-year-old [said], "I love it here because I feel like I can just, like, walk around and I'm safe, you know? And I feel protected." And it kind of has that feel to it. It's kind of enclosed and it's very utopic.