Right before I arrived in Austin almost a year ago (!), my friends who lived here had just returned from a festival out in West Texas, called Viva Big Bend and they wouldn’t shut up about it. So when they all said they were caravaning out to do it again this year I couldn’t wait to join. Viva is a small festival that temporarily takes over the small towns of Alpine and Marfa for live music and general camaraderie.
I’d never been to West Texas before, but thankfully a few of my friends grew up in Alpine so we had excellent guides. (And a lovely place to stay – thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fuentez!) We did a ton, and the vibe is sort of hard to describe, but here are a selection of the nearly 200 pictures that I took on the trip (there are more on Facebook if we are friends/you are interested.)
From the drive out, this was right after Sal informed us we were “officially in West Texas”
Our first stop was the spring fed pool at Balmorhea, which was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the water was ridiculously cool and clear.
Photo Credit: Miró Cassetta
The drive from Balmorhea to Alpine was through the mountains, that were unlike any landscape I had ever seen before. They reminded me almost of the cliffs near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, but stuck in the middle of a desert. It was surreal and gorgeous.
Our first night in town we headed over to Padre’s in Marfa, where my friends worked out some unresolved shuffleboard tension from last year, and we watched the excellent Sarah Jaffe bring the house down.
After that we headed back to the legendary Railroad Blues in Alpine, where Austin based Shinyribs, introduced us to the song of the trip:
As far as we know he doesn’t receive any money from Donut Taco Palace for this (though he should – that’s a catchy jingle.)
The next day Victoria, Stephanie and I attempted to go to the Chinati Foundation’s tour of the amazing sculpture and art around Marfa, but we didn’t quite make it in time, but we did get to look at some of Donald Judd’s 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, which are pretty impressive.
We then wandered around downtown Marfa for a bit and found our way into the Paisano Hotel, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson lived when they were filming Giant.
They were selling this at the gift shop…I’ll let you Google what it’s supposed to mean.
That afternoon we made our way to the Big Bend Brewing Company for a delicious tasting at the country’s most remote brewery (you can buy their beer in Austin now and you should it’s really good!)
Photo Credit: Nice lady who saw us struggling with Ralph’s selfie stick
That night we went back to Marfa to have a drink in this tipi (which is one of the things I had been hearing about since last year, that totally lived up to the hype).
Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez
Then we drove to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Party. Which was awesome, but I have no pictures of because it was dark and you can’t really take pictures of stars with an iPhone 4, but if you’re ever out there it’s worth checking out.
Saturday morning we drove out to Big Bend itself and once again I was completely blown away by the landscape. And I somehow managed to not get sunburned, which is a feat for me, considering I’m paler than a ghost and the sun was unlike anything I had ever felt before, but the beauty was worth it.
Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez
Busting out crow on the side of the Basin
Chilling (literally) in the shade at the bottom of the Santa Elana Canyon (we’re looking across the river to Mexico)
After a long ride back, some storm clouds and bumps in the road, we ended our last night with two great Austin bands that got us dancing. First I attempted to learn how to cumbia to Grupo Fantasma:
And then we headed back to the Blues for Soul Track Mind‘s packed set:
FYI: They are my new favorite band
It was an amazing, action packed trip but I still feel like there was stuff I didn’t do. (The tour in Marfa for one.) And I definitely plan on returning for Viva 2016.