National and local artists play in Waco venues

Jon Foreman and his band held their concert at Common Grounds on August 27. 2015. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo | Lariat Photographer

By Rebecca Fedorko Lariat Reporter

Waco is a city of culture, art and music, with a live music scene that is worth participating in.

When it comes to featuring live music, Waco benefits from its position between music capital Austin to the south and metropolitan Dallas to the north. Not only can large bands stop by as they travel between the metropolises, but Waco itself produces a number of its own artists that are worth going out to hear.

Beyond the most common music venues, like Common Grounds and Waco Hall, there are a handful of places out in the city that offer consistent live music and a diverse mixture of musicians and genres. Even better, most of these venues do not charge admission.

The first place to look for free, local live music is the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday morning. Every week an artist or group of artists performs at the front of the market. Kelly Doolittle, who has worked at the market since April of last year, described the different line-ups as eclectic.

“We get country singers, jazz people, rock people,” said Doolittle. “It’s mostly acoustic, usually covers of popular 80s songs but occasionally people who do their own stuff.”

Anyone can sign up to play at the market on a given Saturday, but the focus is on diversity. The same artists are not usually allowed to play multiple times in a short period, which means there is a steady stream of new artists cycling through each week.

Another place to find live music with no cover—venue-speak for free admission—is the Valley Mills Winery.

Every Saturday from 8-11 p.m., the winery offers a unique selection of live music. The venue tends to host classic genres and styles, aiming for a leisurely atmosphere instead of a wild one.

“It’s jazz, Sinatra-style, a lot of kind of folk indie,” said Kandi Bagnasco, the owner of the establishment. “You’re not going to come and get rap. You know, it’s a winery.”

Some local artists that they feature are The Union Revival, a husband and wife American folk duo, and a jazz quartet called The Dave Wild Trio.

Occasionally the venue will feature bands from out of town, but Bagnasco tries to keep their selections local. It’s not unlikely to find friends or acquaintances performing from their stage.

“We really try to host a lot of different, original music, sometimes we get bands from Austin,” Bagnasco said.

Bagnasco also expressed enthusiasm about student performers.

“We love to hire Baylor kids,” Bagnasco said.

Cricket’s Grill and Draft House on Mary Avenue has hosted a variety of artists, from the country stylings of Chris Low Band to the Wisconsin-grown rock band Full Flavor. William Huneke, a local singer-songwriter, has also played there many times.

For an even more diverse selection of music there is Ace’s bar. There one can find live performances by bands like The Voodoo & Moonshine Band, a blues rock and roll group from Harker Heights, and Redneck Rockstars, a country rock band out of Arizona.

The Melody Ranch hosts almost exclusively live country music, such as Kevin Fowler and Jeremy Phifer, and there are also occasional concerts at the Hippodrome.

There is a rich music scene in the city of Waco, when one knows where to look. The number of homegrown artists is greater than one might expect to find in a city so small but that just proves that Waco has more to offer than first meets the eye.