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Under-appreciated live music Texas towns

February 23, 2017

By Kathy Edwards McFarland

I couldn’t hold back any longer – after scanning another lazy cobbled-together write-up of Denton and San Marcos (two of my favorite places) – I am standing tall to write the story these two cultural gems deserve.

I begin with my college town, San Marcos … I graduated from Texas State University


Texas State University’s Old Main.

(Southwest Texas State University, back in my day) … a quaint town with a river running through it, I find has grown bigger and better.


Located about 20 minutes south of Austin on Interstate 35, San Marcos has played host to cheathamsttens of  thousands of students, faculty and staff for decades. Because of its proximity to Austin, the Music Capital of Texas, and being on a major highway, San Marcos has developed into a savvy Texas music city with stalwart live music venues such as Cheatham Street Warehouse, 119 Cheatham St.

Taking notes from the Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University (San Marcos), I found many of Kent Finlay‘s friends in the music world help define Cheatham Street‘s allure, and Finlay‘s passion for all things Texas (honk-tonk) music.
Kent Finlay, Dreamer is the latest book in the John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music: Though not a household name for the general public, Kent Finlay (1938–2015) was one of the world’s best-known and best-loved promoters, mentors, and gurus of Texas music. In 1974, he founded the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos as a venue for live music and an incubator for young talent. In 1977, he drove to Nashville


Cheatham Street Warehouse has been a San Marcos Live Music institution since 1974

and took with him a young, unknown singer named George Strait. On that trip, Strait recorded a demo that laid the initial foundation of his sensational career. Finlay’s friends and fans also include such Texas music fixtures as Todd Snider, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jack Ingram, James McMurtry, Joe “King” Carrasco, Marcia Ball, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, Hayes Carll, Omar Dykes (Omar and the Howlers), Terri Hendrix, and Ray Benson (Asleep at the Wheel). These and many others have contributed first-person interviews to this volume, which pays tribute both to Finlay and to his unselfish love for Texas music and musicians. 

*Editor’s Note: Randy Rogers purchased Cheatham Street Warehouse from Kent Finlay’s family after his death in 2015.

San Marcos

Venues: Click on the link to view this week’s Live Music in San Marcos web page:

Festivals: Visit – to get the latest on San Marcos annual events. Below are some highlights –

  • February 3-4: Eddie Durham Jazz Celebration and Hill Country Jazz Festival
    From big bands and combos to individual instrumentalists, the Hill Country Jazz Festival will feature some of the best performers west of the Mississippi River. A very special portion of the festival will be a celebration of Eddie Durham. Durham, a Texas jazz legend and San Marcos native, was a renowned guitarist who pioneered the use of electric guitar in jazz music.
    Evans Auditorium – Texas State University,
  • April 7-9: Swing on the Square, San Marcos Downtown Square

    Dave Martin of Carolyn Martin Swing Band clowns for fans during Swing on the Square.

    The 25th annual Swing on the Square festival is a weekend full of live music and family fun. Swing on the Square takes place in historic downtown San Marcos and hosts live music on three stages. There will also be a BrewHop (craft beer tour), Hall of Fame Show, farmers’ and arts market, Cowboy Gospel show and street dancing.

  • Sept. 2-17: Mermaid Fest SMTX, Various San Marcos Venues
    Mermaid Fest SMTX is a celebration that highlights the mermaid as a symbol of guardianship for our river with mermaid themed activity throughout our city. Three primary events will make up the event schedule: The Mermaid Ball, The Downtown Mermaid Parade and culminate with The Mermaid Splash – a river, music, environmental awareness and arts festival.

Education:The Center for Texas Music History,, at TSU, offers a treasure trove of programs and projects such as Graduate and undergraduate courses on Texas and Southwestern music history, Texas Music Café: A weekly radio and television show featuring the diverse talents of Texas musicians, The Journal of Texas Music History, The Handbook of Texas Music and Texas Music History Online.


There’s no excuse for Denton flying under the Live Music Radar for so long, but never mind … here’s the latest on this beautiful North Texas city:


Denton Courthouse Square

  • 35 Denton – the music festival that has rocked Denton’s foundation for eight years, with a week-long schedule of workshops, live-band outdoor concerts and standing-room-only bar-stage gigs. This year, 35 Denton is taking a break. What?
    But wait, there’s more on the calendar –
  • Denton Arts & Jazz Festival, this year scheduled for April 28-30, is the granddaddy of Denton Live Music festivals. Headlining Friday night is Jack DeJohnette Trio (Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison), and 2017dentonjazz_headliners600Saturday, Aaron Neville, sings his sweet New Orleans ballads, and Sunday evening, closing the Festival – Brave Combo (founder Carl Finch, Danny O’Brien, Alan Emert, Little Jack Melody and Robert Hokamp), with their Nuclear Polka stylings. The Denton Quakertown Park, on 32 acres in the heart of downtown, provides the perfect setting for the 2-½ day event that is free to the public. More than 3,000 musicians, artists and performers attract over 225,000 attendees annually to enjoy the culturally diverse music and art.

The best in Denton Live Music runs the gamut from house shows and Denton Courthouse on the Square concerts and jams, to Andy’s Bar, located in an historic building on the Courthouse Square, and (est we forget) the go-to music venue Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial.

A true Texas Music icon in itself, Dan’s Silverleaf (formerly Dan’s Bar) has offered a


Dan’s Silverleaf

refreshingly super-mellow atmosphere, star studded rock, jazz, blues and country acts from around the state and the world, and a sound system equation to be envied by even the most popular clubs in the DFW area. This club is a completely unique experience and destined to become a legendary venue in the annals of Texas music. –

Venues: View for details.

Festivals: View for complete listings.
Guaranteed, if there is an event in Denton, you will hear live music …

  • March 24 & 25
    Inaugural Denton Folk Music Festival, sponsored by the Denton Songwriters Guild.
  • April 19-23
    Thin Line Fest – A documentary film, multi-genre music, and competitive photo festival held in Denton, TX. Each year, international documentaries of many interests are shown, national multi-genre live music acts and regional photographers come to Denton to exhibit their talents.
  • April 28-30
    Denton Arts & Jazz Festival (see above)
  • Sept. 22-24
    Denton Blues Fest, presented by the Denton Black Chamber of Commerce.

  • Sept. TBA
    Oaktopia – a Music and Art Festival, with performances and exhibits in multiple venues around Denton. Norah Jones headlined the 2016 festival.


The University of North Texas offers a stunning array of choruses, vocal and instrument orchestras and bands, ensembles performing Baroque, Chamber, Symphonic, and Jazz. Performances are scheduled throughout the school year and during special times in the summer – visit for details.


One O’Clock Lab Band with guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

world-renowned vibraphonist Stefon Harris

  • The Jazz Repertory Ensemble is a learning and performing group dedicated to the collection, study, preservation, and recreation of classic music from the entire history of jazz. With over 500 compositions in its library, ranging from small combo charts to big band works, the ensemble exposes students and audiences to the rich tradition and inspiring work of many legendary performers and writers.
  • The University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra is an 80-member ensemble currently under the direction of Maestro David Itkin. Membership is drawn from the finest musicians attending the UNT College of Music. The orchestra was established in 1938 and has played concerts regularly for over 70 years. During this time the orchestra has had only seven regular conductors.
  • The One O’Clock Lab Band is a large jazz ensemble, which includes five saxes, five trumpets, five trombones, guitar, piano, bass, drums and percussion players. The director of the One O’Clock Lab Band is Alan Baylock.

Texas Woman’s University Music Department offers live music performances by a


TWU Clarinet Ensemble.

variety of bands, orchestras and ensembles, such as the Texas Woman’s University Chamber Orchestra, performing both chamber music and orchestral literature, The TWU Jazz Ensemble and Pioneer Jazz Combo, and the Wind Symphony, performing a diverse and challenging repertoire at concerts both on and off campus.  Visit for details.

My fervent wish is that you, dear Readers, take the little information I have presented here, then Go. Do. Discover more of these two Live Music destinations and write your own stories.

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