Kerrville vs. Life as we know it

I’ve lived in Austin for 10 years (Am I lucky or what!?!?!), and all of that time I have heard people tell me that I should be going to Kerrville. From what I understood, Kerrville was a place for hippies to go and hang out and hear good music. Lots and lots of hippies. And real good music.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Kerrville, here is what wikipedia says of Kerrville:  Since 1972, the Kerrville Folk Festival has been known internationally as a mecca for singer songwriters of various musical styles. For 18 straight days and nights each May and June, over 30,000 guests come from around the world to experience the magic of what they simply call “Kerrville”. More than just a folk music festival, the event is intended to promote emerging artists as well as recognized, seasoned talent, the likes of which have included musicians such as Peter, Paul and & Mary, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Michelle Shocked, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, and Nanci Griffith.

My hippy days are mostly gone, as are my camping days. But this weekend, a friend of mine – a long time Kerrville attendee – and I went and camped. And it was an experience I will never forget for many reasons.

The bad news: no sleep – music plays from campsites, all the time, everywhere around (and some of the campsites look like 5 room houses that folks picked up and carried on flatbeds from their real houses – these are intricate spaces with huge outdoor kitchen/cooking areas); no washing – water systems suck so no shower, and a drizzle from an old, old sink to ‘wash’ in; and yucky portopotties used by 30,000 people who haven’t washed. So outside of other pervasive hippy smells wafts the odor of portopotties.

Here is the good news: besides unbelievably brilliant folks music and wonderous sounds of every musical genre coming from lots of guitars and an occasional bass, there is a sense of coming home. Indeed, when you enter the grounds, there is a huge sign that says, WELCOME HOME and the person that greets you says the same.

Welcome Home. I was shocked at the easy friendliness everyone shared. Smiling, treating each other – regardless of age, gender, economic situation (no way to tell who was who anyway), sexual preferences, race – as if each person mattered. I felt loved. I know it sounds corny, but everyone was serving each other with kindness and respect. Everyone belonged, everyone was a part of everything else.

Whether people were sharing food with each other, or making room for each other to sit, or letting another person go first, there was absolutely no competition, great respect and serving, and gentle caring about others. Anyone could drop into anyone else’s campsite and become part of the family and conversation. Anyone could drop in any site and eat whatever was available. It was quite shocking, really. And it made me think about why the rest of my life wasn’t like this.

Why, indeed. Why can’t we all – all, all, all – treat each other as if we mattered, as if we had something to say that made a difference, that needed to be cared for, just because.

Why do I have to go to an enclave with 30,000 of the ‘great unwashed (There was no choice. Really)’ in a very very hot part of southern Texas, to find the ONE place that provided this level of nurture and support and care.

I’d like Kerrville to become my life. But with showers and real toilets. The sleep I can do without.


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