Photos by Austin-based photographer Trent Lesikar
Now in its third year, Ballroom Marfa and Mexican Summer’s “Marfa Myths” festival has clearly grown into something far beyond your average indie rock show.
The festival, which started as simply “Mexican Summer Festival” in 2014, has evolved from its humble one-day origin into a multi-day meeting of creative minds ripe with experimental film screenings, underground musicians and an aesthetic that generally seems to favor an immersive, cultivated artistic experience over the feel of your typical booze-and-sweat-filled indie show.
That said, this year’s fest – held March 10 – 13 – was still a pretty killer party.
Saturday night’s main show at the Capri was the weekend’s big event, and really, it’s only big event. The fest is consciously designed to avoid being, well, a “fest” in the traditional sense, with various curated and casual happenings spread across town through the weekend.
Taking the stage at the Capri were Quilt, Connan Mockasin’s Wet Dream (a sort of indie supergroup sporadically formed for the weekend with surprise guests Ariel Pink and MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden), No Age, Sheer Mag and others.
But those handful of side-events through the weekend perhaps best reflected Marfa Myths’ anti-fest feel.
William Basinski’s ambient sound performance at the Chinati Foundation, the surprise live film score from Grouper’s Liz Harris and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Dungen’s instrumental live score to an incredibly psychedelic animated film from 1926 – apparently the first of its kind – lent the festival the contemplative auroa that sets it apart from giants like South by Southwest.
I have to admit though, the latter film did seem like an odd choice for an assumedly progressive-minded crowd – an antiquated fairy tale about a prince who kidnaps his forced-bride-to-be and then is depicted as a hero after rescuing her from another creepy male who also steals her. I’ll just assume the wild applause at the end of the film was aimed mostly at the band’s virtuosic musicianship and the otherworldly visuals; mine was at least.
It’ll be interesting to see where this festival goes from here, and how (or whether) it grows. Ballroom and Mexican Summer have clearly developed a reliable framework for making something like this work in kind of hard-to-get-to place, and hundreds of people are apparently willing to make the journey for it (about 600 in 2015, I’m told.)
At the same time, some of the same bands that played last year’s fest played this year, and who knows if the masses will keep trucking it way out to West Texas for a similar lineup? It’s a safe bet that Marfa’s service-industry economy hopes they will, and for my part, I hope they will too. How often do you put on a band’s new record for the first time (Heron Oblivion), and then find out they’re playing your little West Texas home that very night?