It’s roughly 3pm, though you’re not entirely sure because your cell phone battery died hours ago and you made the decision to leave it somewhere in the backseat of your car after unpacking the tent, cooler and camp chairs. Cell phones aren’t needed here. A gentle breeze whispers through the cypress and your feet dangle over the side of your hammock in the dappled sun.
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The river’s edge below you trickles and bubbles, interrupted only by the sound of children shrieking and splashing in the shallows on the far shore. There’s a bikini-clad trio bobbing haphazardly in their colorful donut-, octopus- and unicorn-shaped tubes; caught from the mid-river current by a rustic rope harness slung around river boulders. They laugh in unison, an Austin Eastcider in one hand while the other trails in the cool river current. The numbing of your Lone Star beer in one hand reminds you to take a chilly sip. Somewhere up on the hill, behind you, there’s an indie rock band starting soundcheck. Faint wisps of barbecue-y smoke waft down from the kitchen, where Team Little Chef HTX is whipping up something surely magnificent for your evening feast. 

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Now in it’s fifth year, River Revival 2019 is not just another music festival. It’s a mash-up of handpicked Texan music, the tried-and-true summer tradition of floating down the river, a camp out, a cookout, and a family retreat. It’s a 750-strong community of folks collecting on the Guadalupe River at KL Ranch Camp just outside of New Braunfels, TX for good music and a low-key river weekend. And 2019 was sold-out – testament to its’ untold secret status within the Texas music fest scene.

Bringing in culinary talent courtesy of Little Kitchen HTX, and vendors and artists such as @Babeswith_braids, Black Swan Yoga on the lawn, mind-bending interactive art by @1nput0utput and of course amazing drinks, cocktails, micheladas, mimosas and anything else you could dream up from sponsors Austin Eastciders, Lone Star, Dulce Vida, Waterloo and TLC Vodka. It is the remedy to the stresses of everyday adulting and it’s also the perfect place to escape; to celebrate just how wonderfully diverse and talented our musicians are, here at home, in the middle of Texas. The best part? Your ticket was all-inclusive: camping, floating, music, food and drinks (yes, an open-bar for those 21+) was all included in the price of your ticket. If that’s not an incredible deal, I don’t know what is.​

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The lineup featured a veritable rainbow of Texan talent; from soulful, sultry Madeline Edwards, the powerhouse vocals of Walk Talk to the upbeat and contagious energy of Sweet Crude, Shinyribs or Golden Dawn Arkestra. We got outrageous with Pinata Protest, danced into the wee hours of the morning with Pearl Earl and celebrated Sunday morning like no other with a Gospel Brunch on the lawn. Our chefs kept bellies happy with River Scramble brunches, BBQ feasts, taco night, Mediterranean dinners, and even some late night treats. There was yoga in the morning, Micheladas by noon, a river float parade (or just a good old-fashioned soak in the river “rapids”), more than enough time to relax in your hammock with a cold beer, and then an evening of dancing, entertainment (no mouse traps were harmed in the making), hula-hoops, fire-dancing and many a bare-foot-picnic-blanket-chill-zone. 

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Reflecting back on the weekend, giving you a succinct list of festival highlights is next to impossible. From the incredible music, family feel and the beautiful river and campgrounds; there was hardly a moment that was less than perfect. Our central campground area was set up communally; some chose to bring everything and the kitchen sink along with their oversized RV, while many others (ourselves included) chose primitive camping along the river’s edge. It was clean, friendly and safe; nothing of the chaotic, dusty, dirty, drunken college-kid large-fest campgrounds I saw at bigger festivals this summer. KL Ranch Camp is absolutely immaculate and with a (relatively) small number of attendees, the entire venue truly felt like one giant, friendly, family camp out. Where my neighbor invites me over to try his secretly-sourced local craft beer just after we split queso and chips and argue over who’s going to grill for whom that lunchtime. Some brought their kids, who kept themselves busy on the river – playing just how kids should play, sans technology and screens. And at the end of a long, wonderful day of music, food, floating and friends, absolutely nothing can compare to that pleasantly tired, sun-toasted haze that takes over just as you climb into your tent. Where you drift off to sleep with the sound of the river bubbling nearby and the stars twinkling overhead.

​Reflecting back on the weekend, giving you a succinct list of festival highlights is next to impossible. From the incredible music, family feel and the beautiful river and campgrounds; there was hardly a moment that was less than perfect. Our central campground area was set up communally; some chose to bring everything and the kitchen sink along with their oversized RV, while many others (ourselves included) chose primitive camping along the river’s edge. It was clean, friendly and safe; nothing of the chaotic, dusty, dirty, drunken college-kid large-fest campgrounds I saw at bigger festivals this summer. KL Ranch Camp is absolutely immaculate and with a (relatively) small number of attendees, the entire venue truly felt like one giant, friendly, family camp out. Where my neighbor invites me over to try his secretly-sourced local craft beer just after we split queso and chips and argue over who’s going to grill for whom that lunchtime. Some brought their kids, who kept themselves busy on the river – playing just how kids should play, sans technology and screens. And at the end of a long, wonderful day of music, food, floating and friends, absolutely nothing can compare to that pleasantly tired, sun-toasted haze that takes over just as you climb into your tent. Where you drift off to sleep with the sound of the river bubbling nearby and the stars twinkling overhead.

I feel like I found a new family that weekend; a very big, mostly barefoot, sometimes silly, and definitely relaxed extended family. I am so grateful for the festival’s founders, the inimitable and ambitious Shaun Brennan and his team at Splice Records. And to the sponsors, volunteers, donors, artists and those who just brought an ice chest, a picnic blanket and vast quantities of welcoming friendliness (if that can be quantified; it was copious). I almost didn’t want to tell people about River Revival once I got back home, lest they find out about it and ruin the secret. So save me a ticket next year, Team RR; I’ll be back. And to the rest of you… don’t tell anyone else, but be sure to stay tuned for 2020 tickets and meet me on the Guadalupe river. I’m looking forward to River Revival 2020 already.

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