Mile 0: Worth Every Mile Getting There
by: Cody Starr
We started the week bringing you Brad’s thoughts on Mile 0 Fest and we’ll end the week with mine. As usual, they’ll be some media to add pictures to words.
Let’s start by rehashing a tweet sent the moment the festival closed on Saturday night.
All the artists and fans we’ve spoken to unanimously agreed that @Mile0Fest was a smashing success. The sunshine, a town of flip-flops and bicycles, the nightlife, the ocean, and now the music we love. Start saving your pocket change for 2019 Tweeps. — Texas Music Blog (@texmusicblog1) February 11, 2018
Almost a week removed from Mile 0, the sentiment still holds. This thing had a lot going for it, so let’s start with the festival itself:
The lineup was superb, especially for a first-year festival. While there were 50+ artists that participated, only about half of those saw the big stage. The rest did gigs at a handful of bars that partnered with the festival. Not quite as copious as LJT or Steamboat, but still very ample and high quality. In fact, they probably hit a sweet spot with the number of artists. You get too many names playing in different places at the same time and you have to make difficult choices on who to see and who to skip and that can leave a bad taste in your mouth. The event scheduling was so well done that you could see pretty much catch everyone at some point. During the early afternoon, you picked from any number of shows going on Duval Street and from 3pm up until 11 you hit the main acts up at the amphitheater.
The venue was great, sizable but not overwhelmingly big, with room for both lawn loungers and stage swooners. Sound quality was good. It was busy but not insane and you could get around easily. While the festival had an island attitude, it didn’t run on island time as all the acts were on/off stage at their assigned times. It made planning the day a lot easier.
Hitches and glitches were small and mostly undetectable. The biggest issue encountered surrounding this festival was securing lodging, which took us 4 four attempts to nail down. Two of the places found were double booked thanks to some AirBnB website issues while the third place shut down because of hurricane damage. Despite having nothing to do with the festival, the folks putting on Mile 0 Fest helped us locate new accommodations, going so far as setting up a conference call with the key organizers who were familiar with the town. After some searching, we landed at The Authors’ Guesthouse, a cool little B&B in old town. Barbey, our septuagenarian host and former “Queen of The Conch Republic”, graciously peppered us with island history, stories, and most importantly…coupons for free key lime pie and cocktails at various establishments across the island.
As for the attendees, the demographics definitely skewed towards the 35 and up crowd; mostly established professionals looking to get away and cut loose. Didn’t see massive quantums of vomiting or fights, no obnoxious people, just good folks loving good music. That’s the way it should be.
Now for the other half; after all, festivals are a holistic experience and without the backdrop, they’d all be the same. Imagine LJT without campfire jams or Steamboat without the mountains. Here are your Key West perks:
The weather. While our peeps in Dallas were dealing with 30-degree temperatures and sleet, Key West hovered in low 80’s. Factoring in the humidity, it was quite warm from mid-morning up until late afternoon before the sea breeze kicked in and quickly cooled things off. From 5 o’clock on, it was phenomenal. Scoreboard – Key West.
Duval street. Think Bourbon Street without seeing and smelling trash and vomit. It’s lined with bars, restaurants, and eateries of all types. For every garden variety crap T-shirt and souvenir shop, there was nicer boutique shops and funky art galleries.
The rest of the island. Key West is more than a one-trick pony. Lot’s of historical sites, museums, beaches, dining, and every type of water sport – fishing, diving, jet skiing, boating, you name it. My wife and I tacked on an extra day to squeeze in some snorkeling and sunset sailing in the 76-degree turquoise waters.
I’m dealing with it in Key West. pic.twitter.com/DnvwM8vDnk — Texas Music Blog (@texmusicblog1) February 11, 2018
Wild chickens are everywhere and a car is more trouble than it’s worth. You can bike anywhere on the island in 10 minutes or if you aren’t into that, spend $10 on an Uber and get there in about the same amount of time. Walking is more than doable and the people watching sport can be fully enjoyed here. On the first day of the festival, I saw a guy get kicked out of a bar before 1 pm. That’s impressive.
The attitude. Packing for Key West is easy – shorts, your best beach bum shirt, and comfortable walking shoes/flip-flops. Nobody cares what you wear or don’t wear and if you’re into the clothing optional thing, Key West can accommodate you.
Mile 0 Music Highlights
We started Mile 0 by catching a Cody Canada and Mike McClure acoustic gig at the San Carlos Theater on Duval. Chip and Ray’s on-stage chemistry was fully engaged, swapping stories and jokes in between songs. Cody’s sons, Dierks and Willie, each did a number and we even heard “Carney Man” which Cody had once vowed to never play again. Overall, both seem to be in good places in life with McClure’s The Great Divide getting back together and Canada finally at peace with what went down with Cross Canadian Ragweed. I got to talk at length with both of them and we’ll post those chats in the coming weeks.
The main stage lineups definitely ramped up as the week progressed. Jason Eady, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Stoney LaRue and Wade Bowen all did their parts to kick it off on Wednesday in good form. Wade played most of his popular stuff while mixing a few of the new songs off his new record “Solid Ground”, which happened to drop during the festival. It was a huge week for Bowen.
Thursday’s lunchtime trifecta of Jamie Lin Wilson, Tina and Walt Wilkins doing an acoustic gig at the Smokin’ Tuna was a songwriter’s dream. The legendary husband-wife duo next to an artist at the top of her game in Jamie Lin. It was church on Thursday. Kylie Rae Harris, Kaitlin Butts, and Jason Eady all looked on, mostly in wonder but with a dash of terror mixed in for KRH who had to follow up that act with her own set.
Speaking of Jamie Lin Wilson, she’s without a doubt the biggest female act in our scene right now and you could easily argue to extend that title to most popular singer-songwriter overall. I’ll again reference a tweet made during the festival that pretty much sums up her week.
@jamielinwilson is freaking everywhere, she does her own gigs then teleports to every other show to sing on their set. She has superpowers. Next she’s going to launch a guitar into space and kick Elon’s ass. pic.twitter.com/hSuVeNIZIK — Texas Music Blog (@texmusicblog1) February 10, 2018
Her “Jamie Lin Jamboree” shows that occurred at the local Duval establishments were big hits, with various artists jumping on stage to jam. She even made some new fans who mistakenly thought her last name was “Jamboree”.
Thursday upped the intensity as Kevin Russell and the rest of the Shinyribs clan brought their swamp rock grooves to the big stage. Watching a Shinyribs show is like trying to catch a knuckleball, you have to stay on your toes because you have no idea where it’s going. This particular adventure ended with a Russell led conga line which included a giant inflatable duck and one William Clark Green.
Following up we got one of the biggest treats of the festival, the “Unleashed” show featuring Jack Ingram, Charlie Robison, and Bruce Robison. All icons in their own right, it’s hard to imagine how the greatness of their set snuck up on me the way it did. It was fantastic to watch these “old dogs” elevate the night and energize the crowd with their classic tunes.
Thursday ended with Pat Green, our gateway drug into this scene. He played all the hits while channeling his best Kevin Russell, lots of twirling and hand gestures. People ate it up, including some of the younger artists who idolized Pat growing up and were out in the crowd losing it like everyone else. William Clark Green got so excited he derailed Pat’s set by running onstage too early to sing “Wrapped” which he’s covered on the upcoming Pat Green tribute album.
For me, the coolest part of Pat’s show was when he played Galleywinter, our namesake. It was the first time I had heard the song since joining the Galleywinter team just over a year ago and I got goosebumps. This site has been rolling for almost 20 years and although my stint here as a writer covers a fraction of that, I felt proud to be a part of something that’s been a staple in this scene for so long.
Friday’s line up was monster, starting with Dalton Domino who happily embraced the island spirit.
@MrDaltonDomino going full Buffett at @Mile0Fest pic.twitter.com/Zvovujydc7 — Texas Music Blog (@texmusicblog1) February 9, 2018
Mike and The Moonpies continued to awaken people to their old school honky-tonk jams. We’ve been on The Moonpie train and think “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose” will likely make our Best of 2018 list in a year that’s gonna be packed with great new records. For those in the crowd who hadn’t heard of them, whipping out some Rusty Wier made them quick friends.
The Departed followed, then Jason Boland and The Stragglers. Both announced their new records coming out this year and I’m sure we’ll be covering them.
The penultimate act of the night was the Old 97’s. A little bit country and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, these guys can still bring it after 25 years.
Finally, there was Turnpike. What’s there to say about Turnpike that hasn’t been already said? They are bad ass and consummate professionals. Ryan Engleman’s son crashed the stage and gave everyone a chuckle.
Saturday closed out strong. It was my first and likely only time I’ll see Uncle Lucius since the band is soon calling it quits. The Great Divide’s new stuff is rock solid, in particular, “Spacebrain” and John Moreland’s take on “You Wreck Me” was one of many kickass homages to Tom Petty.
Shooter Jennings brought a different vibe compared to everyone else, it was like a bunch of bikers temporarily invaded the crowd and it got visibly rowdier. Nothing scary but definitely rougher.
It all ended with Cody Jinks and the more I hear him the bigger fan I become. Again, a Twitter thought to summarize:
I know this is high praise but @CodyJinksMusic could have been part of The Highwaymen, just wasn’t born at the right time. That said, wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him in a @SturgillSimpson @JasonIsbell @ChrisStapleton modern day reboot. Gentlemen I hope it happens. — Texas Music Blog (@texmusicblog1) February 11, 2018
Jinks’ final song to wrap it up: “Hippies and Cowboys” which seemed fitting for a hippie town that was invaded by a bunch of Texans and Okies.
By the time this hits the web, you’ll know Jamie Lin Wilson flew straight out of Key West and into the studio to record her next record. She didn’t need a plane, she just strapped on her cape.
The Great Divide is officially back together and slated to put out a new record this spring. Again, keep your eyes peeled for that McClure interview.
Many of the artists went full Cory Morrow and played the big stage barefoot. It ended up costing Pat Green, who probably broke his toe when he stubbed it on a piece of stage equipment. He fought through it with beer and eventually limped off stage.
PG has traded songwriting for painting and sculpting. He told us all about his new art venture, Galleywinter Galleries. Set to open soon in Fort Worth, it’ll feature all of his work plus work from other local artists.
Many lamented that Brandon Jenkins, who is about to undergo major surgery to replace a genetically defective heart valve, had to back out of Mile 0. It was cool to see the artists rally around their brother.
There were several items auctioned to raise money for charities like The Red Dirt Relief Fund. People dropping 5-6K on signed guitars isn’t something you are going to get from a broke college crowd.
Ran into Stoney one morning biking along Higgs Beach. Unlike his stage appearance, he was in full uniform this time – jeans, bandana and tight shirt so you could spot him a half mile away.
I’ll second Brad’s comment on Frita’s Cuban burgers, you need to check out that hole in the wall when you are in KW.
We tried as many key lime pies as we could. Kermit’s was the worst, the best was a toss up between Blue Heaven’s meringue monster and Matthesen’s.
Our secret to getting into Blue Heaven without a dinner wait… get there at 5:30pm
My cholesterol went up 50 points just listening to hostess Elizabeth Cook’s intoxicated southern drawl. It was like eating a stick of butter and chasing it with a mess of biscuits.