Just around two short hours southwest of Austin, nestled in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, lays the small town of Kerrville. Kerrville has always held a special place in my heart because it’s home to the Quiet Valley Ranch. Containing 50 acres of land including primitive campgrounds, 92 RV hookups, permanent outhouses, showers with hot water, and electricity, QVR has been home to the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Kerrville Folk and Wine Festival, and various private events for many years. Three years ago, Head for the Hills chose the Quiet Valley Ranch as its home, and what’s followed in years since is pure magic.
Head for the Hills stands out as one of the more intimate festivals in Texas. With about 1,500 people in attendance, many festivalgoers shared a similar sense of community and family that is sometimes lost at a larger fest. A typical music festival hosts anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000 people daily. While this is fun in its own right, this usually results in long lines, disgusting bathrooms, and crowded dance areas. At Head for the Hills guests really doesn’t encounter theses problems very often. At a larger festival you can basically forget about separating from your friends, as you won’t be able to find them until reuniting at your own campsite. At Head for the Hills not only can you wander off to re-fill your drink without fear of losing your friends, but if you do lose them, you will more than likely find a new group right around the corner.
This fest is unique in that unlike many other festivals, the stages are held within the campgrounds. There is no waiting in line at the gate to get into the main stage area, and therefore there is a much more organic vibe. It’s as if you’re hanging out on your buddy’s property with 1,500 of your closest friends, there just happens to be awesome stages built throughout the property, and you just happen to know a bunch of extremely talented musicians. The “us and them” vibe that sometimes stands between festival curators, artists, and the fans at larger festivals isn’t there because everyone is just enjoying each other’s company.
The campgrounds are set up on a first come first serve basis in terms of placement. Festivalgoers can bring their car inside for a $20 deposit to unload their things and park in the adjacent parking lot for free. If you want to keep your car inside the festival (which I opted to do), you just forfeit the $20 and camping is paid for. This year the festival encouraged theme camps to set up shop, which made for an even cooler campground experience. Campers brought out everything from domes to art installations to art projects and galleries. It really was a treat to walk around and see the amazing setups people created independently of the festival.
The main stage was held at what is normally called Threadgill Theater, which is a lovely covered stage with wonderful acoustics, plenty of sitting and standing room, and theater style seating so there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Lining the edges of the stage area were live painters, complementing the music with their art. They also had a daytime folk stage in the middle of the campgrounds, easily accessible for everyone during the day. The Dome stage housed electronic acts during the early afternoon, then took a pause from about 8 to 12. It would start back up after the main stage closed down to rock the festival into the wee hours of the morning.
The food offerings at Head for the Hills were fairly limited, but so on point! Options included pizza, made to order in a real brick oven with choices like margarita pesto and meat options. Also available were nachos with pulled pork, fish tacos, and basically all manor of random nomz. In the mornings one could order delicious breakfast tacos (a Texas staple), or life-giving smoothies. One smoothie included blueberries, and homemade cashew milk among other things, which was absolutely delicious.
Thursday night on the main stage you could find Texas favorites Spank, Holding Space, and the Nadis Warriors playing to an excited crowd. Friday night ended up jam packed with amazing music due to a scheduling mix up which had Ott playing a night early (he was originally scheduled to play Saturday). Ott played an amazing set of his psychedelic dubtronica to basically the entire festival, who were lucky enough to hear by word of mouth that he was playing early (only at H4TH!) The Motet, based out of Colorado, followed Ott with their energetic mix of funk, afrobeat and jazz. They had the whole house dancing and got everybody really pumped. The Desert Dwellers closed out the main stage with their amazing fusion of world electronic music, ending the night on an inspirational and almost spiritual note.
Saturday night I was blown away by a couple bands I had never heard before. Transcontinental Trip (who I was familiar with) started the night off right, followed by String Cheese Incident cover band Cream Cheese Accident. A super-group of talented individuals from the central Texas area, Cream Cheese Accident had the crowd dancing almost as if String Cheese were actually there, while at the same time adding their own flare to the songs. After they finished a band who just happened to be named Head for the Hills took the stage and blew everyone away. With a mix of bluegrass, jazz, hip-hop, and funk, these guys are truly masters of their craft. Every single person I spoke with regarding Head for the Hills was completely mesmerized by their original sound. Dopapod closed out the main stage for the weekend. After they finished the Dome stage kept it going well into the night with talented electronic producers DRRTYWULVZ, Mugsy, and Fractala.
Head for the Hills really seems to bring out the best in people. Everyone walks around with a permanent smile, and laughter fills the air at all hours. It’s one of those places where you feel like there are no strangers, that everyone is family. The music and the Ranch’s history attracted a certain kind of music-lover, people who seem more concerned with watching some great music and making connections than getting too wild (for the most part). Since the festival is so chill, it’s a family friendly environment and it’s not uncommon to see little ones playing to the side of main stage, or up at the Kidsville pavilion.
Sunrise at Chapel Hill:
Some of the most profound experiences that take place at Head for the Hills are sunrises at Chapel Hill. Perched atop the highest point at the Quiet Valley Ranch, Chapel Hill is basically set up like an outdoor chapel, complete with permanent benches, little pavilion, and a little stage where a band can easily be set up. Each morning after a long night of campfires, songs, and merriment, those that have made it until sunrise begin to assemble at Chapel Hill. It’s usually an almost somber affair as everyone whispers, or sits silently in a meditative state.
Many times at Chapel Hill there will be an acoustic musician playing solo singer-songwriter ballads, but this year we were treated to something extra special. The morning that stands out the most was Saturday morning, when The Deer brought their full set up and played as the sun rose. Grace Park’s strong yet angelic voice perfectly complemented the atmosphere, and the morning was pure magic. Friends hugged friends, some cried, and everyone reflected on how truly blessed we are to live in a world where such amazing mornings exist. Other sunrise acts included Attic Ted who also brought the sun up in style.
In conclusion, Head for the Hills is an amazing experience, and really reminds the seasoned festivalgoer why they began going to festivals in the first place. The energy was that of peace, healing, love and friendship and the music was comprised of amazingly talented musicians. There were so many opportunities for growth from workshops to bonding campfires, and every attendee seemed to walk away with a glow about them. If you are in the central Texas area in March, do yourself a favor and check out Head for the Hills.
Written by FestPop Head of Communication
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