Deep in the Heart of MR Fest

By Hannah Wisterman
Live Reporter

At the Hitch, it is impossible to ignore that we are in Texas. Saturday afternoon lunches from half a dozen different cultures, the capricious and rather unforgiving early summer heat, and the undoubtedly southwestern twang of each guitar and croon…this is the San Marcos experience for many. Christian Sparks, the Hitch’s first performance of the day, even did Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson tributes to a receptive and impressed crowd. Sparks himself is a testament to the power of live music, especially, in my opinion, in Texas: just a guy and his guitar can still rock the proverbial house.

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Christian Sparks of Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits. Photo by Asia Daggs.

It helps that the Hitch is among the most relaxed venues at MR Fest. Tank tops and shorts seem to be the unofficial dress code; I catch bands shaking hands and talking about what gigs they want to hit up next between sets. Since folk and indie seem to be native music for many San Martians, everyone seems to be in the groove of things—no one looks uncomfortable or disdainful, just relaxed and appreciative, with foot-tapping and head nods abound.

Take, for example, Tyson Watson, a Texas State student. Watson came to MR Fest to support The Cover Letter, and happened to catch Ooni’s set as well. “It’s like the ACL of the suburbs,” Watson joked, referring to the wide variety of artists who all receive coverage and exposure at MR Fest. And a wide variety it is. Though each band at the Hitch seems to have some undeniable central Texas flavor, there’s not a chance you could mistake one for the other. Sparks’ one-man acoustic set contrasts Ooni’s ‘60s indie-pop sound which contrasts The Cover Letter’s big-folk-band jams, but each feels right at home.

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Gianni Sarmiento of Ooni in his poncho. Photo by Asia Daggs.

The bands themselves seem pretty at home too. For example, Ooni frontman Gianni Sarmiento’s outfit choice took the sweltering heat into account. I asked him about his signature poncho, and he explained, “I think it gives cohesion and I like the idea of ponchos but this isn’t a real poncho so it doesn’t get too hot.” See what I mean? These artists have it down.

Overall, the Hitch and its performers put on a wonderful show. I can’t emphasize how much I felt the soul of Texas show up to play at this venue, and not just in the music. Every band was friendly and personable (I’m wearing Ooni singer and keyboardist Savannah Shanks’ sunscreen right now), and the perfect pairing of music and food seems so Austin it hurts. It was an excellent way to spend the day, and an excellent way to represent what the San Marcos live music scene can be.

Featured image by Asia Daggs.

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