As we prepare to embark on our fourth journey down to the magical island hamlet known as Key West, it is with perhaps greater excitement than in any of the previous three. This fact has nothing to do with the lineup, the change in date or any logistical matters. It is simply a pent-up Covid response that we’re finally getting to do something normal and fun. Kyle Carter and the gang set the bar high with their first three forays into hosting a festival. And they have continued to be leaders throughout the pandemic. Optimistically putting their necks on the line when others would have caved. Carter and his crew trusted their guts as much as the science and have found a way to host the preeminent destination festival in roots music in a year when nobody else thought they could.
As detailed in our previous sojourns regarding Mile 0 and Key West, here are some basic tips:
-don’t rent anything unless you really want to. You can walk everywhere. You don’t want to pay to park anything. Not even a scooter.
-load up at the CVS/Walgreens when you arrive. It will save you on necessities. Be they Advil, cold beer or Gatorade.
-Pace yourself. This is probably the most important tip we can convey. Music starts at brunch and goes to sunrise in some form or fashion. You will miss something that is cool. It’s just going to happen. Make a schedule (use the Mile 0 app–it is your friend!). Make a plan. Stick to it as best you can, while always understanding that some of the best adventures are unplanned.
-Mix some waters in.
-Try out some new artists. When your favorites are at capacity, someone is down the block playing amazing songs you’ve never heard. Go find them.
-Pizza slices and hot dogs are life at 3am.
-Eat at Blue Heaven at least once.
-Try Matthessen’s. Best dessert on the island.
-Go to Better Than Sex just for the bits.
-Try a Frida’s burger to say you have.
-Do Hemingway House even if you’ve been before. 6-toed cats.
-Sunset Pier has the best pina coladas/views.
-Southernmost has the most islandy feel of any venue
-This year’s event is later in the year. We’ve been used to Key West winter. Now we get late spring. That means daily rain, humidity and higher temps. Dress accordingly.
-That being said, it’s also a good reminder that you aren’t heading down to the local dancehall or club. Each year we’ve seen a few unfortunate souls sweating it out in starched jeans and the like. While cool, this isn’t the place for that.
-Be nice. Don’t kill the vibe. The only fight that we’ve ever seen down here was when Saddle Tramp got in that little dust up on Duval in year 1.
-Explore the island. There’s music all day long. But there is also plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of the coolest locale in the lower 48.
NEW ACTS Last year, as we predicted, it was the Topo Chico Cowboys who were the runaway new favorite act to arrive. Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy took their thoughtful, comedic, stories and songs to fresh audiences and left with sold out merch and a wave of new fans. The most buzzed about artist this year is Morgan Wade, and with good reason. Morgan’s “Wilder Days” has been featured on our The Drop playlist for a while now and is performing well overall. There’s a strong desire for everyone from Texas and Oklahoma to get a firsthand view of this artist on the rise. Lucinda Williams is a legend and her Car Wheels on a Gravel Road album is a touchstone in all of Americana music. Her live shows have always been known for a rock bent and her weathered, lived in vocals lend credence to the weary lyrics she belts out.
Shovels & Rope are a unique live experience as the husband and wife team of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent deliver impeccable jams full of soaring melodies and bygone lyrics. Folk rock can sometimes be derided, but not in the hands of these two phenomenal musicians.
RETURNING ACTS Damn the rain indeed. Randy Rogers Band hit the stage at the 2020 festival in the middle of a tropical storm so bad that it would make Lt. Dan blush. They got 3 songs in before the entire festival ran for cover. It’s a safe bet that they will bring their A game to make up for getting a rainout last year.
After taking the island by storm last year and hanging dollars on the wall everywhere they went, the two best friends that comprise the aforementioned Topo Chico Cowboys (Drew Kennedy/Josh Grider) are now on the top of many people’s app schedules…and for good reason. There are few artists better in an acoustic environment than these two. Part comedy, part song, all good.
Shane Smith and the Saints were reaching the upper echelons of Texas and beyond pre-Covid. The few concerts they have performed over the past 12 months have shown that they are still in fine form. Go check these guys out if you’ve never seen them, and go see them twice if you already have.
Jamie Lin Wilson gets much deserved attention on the island during Mile 0, but might we suggest you seek her best friend Courtney Patton out with equal fervor. Courtney’s bodacious personality is only equaled by her singing talents. That means when you see her perform, it is the best of both worlds.
Mike and the Moonpies rise has mirrored that of the festival. At year 1, they were hardscrabble, newcomers a decade in the making. Each year they have risen a rung up the schedule to headliner status. On the heels of some of the best studio albums the scene has seen the past few years comes a blazing, honky-tonk live show that places you at the Broken Spoke in Austin, TX even though you are standing amid the palm trees of the Keys. This list of suggestions to plug into your app schedule is far from exhaustive. There are just far too many great acts involved. The Stones rock of William Clark Green, the polished heartland country rock of Wade Bowen, the legendary Texas Music of Pat Green and Jack Ingram, the ‘Bama soul of Adam Hood, the queen of beer pressure Bri Bagwell, the Red Dirt rock god Cody Canada, the witty poetry of Hayes Carll and on and on. You really can’t go wrong at Mile 0. Any direction you turn, any place you look, you’ll find music, magic and mercurial spirits of both kinds.
Mile 0 Fest is a special place, time and event. We should cherish it even more so after the past 12 months. Nobody is taking this thing for granted and we have a lot of pent-up musical hell-raising to let loose. Be smart. Be wild. Don’t do anything Hunter S. Thompson and Jerry Jeff wouldn’t have done. Mile 0 2018 Review Mile 0 2019 Review Mile 0 2020 Review