Hearsay: Wednesday February 13, 2003
Pickin’ and Not Grinnin’

The adjective most apt to describe last week’s “Pick Your Campsite” party for Larry Joe Taylor’s annual hoedown, coming in April? “Clusterfuck.” HearSay and hundreds of others braved Saturday’s freezing temperatures and swirling winds to reserve campsites for Taylor’s Texas Music Festival (April 23-26), which is moving from Meridian to Stephenville. Some people stormed off, huffing and puffing and vowing to skip this year’s event in protest. Needless to say, they didn’t get sites.

On Monday, festival directors were still fielding angry calls. “I know there are people who are upset,” said Clint Wiley, a festival director. “I feel bad, and I’m sorry they didn’t get the sites they wanted.”

Stephenville looks like a much better place for a festival the enormous size of Larry Joe’s. In Meridian, only 50 campsites offered electricity, and they had been scooped up years ago by lucky souls who would’ve died before giving up their juice. No one else ever got a chance at these campsites because the people who “owned” these prime pieces of real-o-state renewed their contracts every year. Other folks with RVs got by on noisy generators; at an event known for late-night acoustic-guitar picking around campfires, that sucked. Last year, HearSay drank whiskey until sunup with festival regulars Frank and Janie, and wrote a song called “My Generator” (to the tune of “My Generation”). Sample line: “People try to put us down, because of our obnoxious sound.”

The switch to Stephenville meant twice as many electric campsites and many more non-electric sites. The challenge was coming up with a fair reservation process. Festival directors devised a system that required people to drive to Stephenville, reach blindly into a box, and select a numbered ticket. Folks with the lowest tickets chose first.

After the first 13 people picked their campsites all 100 electric sites were gone, along with the most desirable non-electric sites.

Festival directors allowed unlimited numbers of sites to be reserved by those first few ticket holders because, according to festival folk, these kind-hearted pickers were reserving campsites for friends and others. (And don’t think those happy campers will be selling their plots of land to the highest bidders — Texas-music fans are saints!) The most anyone chose, he said, was about 20. And sites still remain. “We were still calling out numbers, and people had left with sites still there,” Wiley said. “If you really wanted a site, you had to stick it out.”

HearSay’s two cents: Communication from festival directors would’ve eased the tension — basically, those waiting never knew what the hell was going on, and speculations quickly turned to rumors. But disgruntled patrons will get over their hissy fits and attend in April. If not, who cares? The festival, now in its 15th year, was enjoyable way back when people attended with no expectations other than to hear good music and to find any old spot to pitch a tent.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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