Sounds Over Salado music festival launches between Waco, Austin

Sounds Over Salado is a new music festival occuring in Waco on April 23 and 24. Photo courtesy of Peter Wood

By Erianne Lewis | Arts and Life Editor

Sounds Over Salado, a first-time music festival, will be held Saturday and Sunday, with 11 acts scheduled to perform over the two-night event. The acts include artists such as White Denim, The Stone Foxes, Neal Francis and more.

Originally, Stephen Clarke, owner and operator of Radio Milk who’s producing the event, planned to host the festival before the pandemic hit two years ago but had to cancel it.

“It was supposed to be a one-night show and I kind of had two years to think about it and I thought, ‘Let’s go a little bit bigger,’” Clarke said.

Clarke has a special connection to the town of Salado, as his family has been in that area since the 1800s.

“I’ve been going to Salado since I was a baby and I just love that town,” Clarke said. “It’s just kind of got a magical feel. The people are great, the businesses are special and a lot of artists live there.”

When Clarke formed a friendship with the owners of Barrow Brewing Company, he knew the space was something great. Combining the brewing company’s area and his passion for music, Clarke said that was when he came up with the idea to create a music festival.

“I just really want to kind of showcase [Salado] and I thought, ‘What a better way to do it than to put on a rock ‘n’ roll festival,’” Clarke said. “April is spring and people are excited for getting back outdoors, and I think it’s just a beautiful time to be out there and get moving.”

Clarke said he initially pitched the idea to the lead guitarist of White Denim, James Petralli, for his band to be a sort of cornerstone for the festival.

“Since we are studio partners and I’m a band leader, he asked for a couple of projects that I have to get involved with it,” Petralli said.

Petralli quickly saw the vision after visiting Salado, Clarke explained.

“He totally got what I was trying to do,” Clarke said. “Having them commit was a huge deal; they are just such a great rock band. [After that] I just started piecing together some bands that I know and that I’ve worked with before and different recommendations. Having White Denim on board and the people that they knew and the people we’ve been working with at the studio as well, I just wanted to put a good solid core group of rock bands together.”

Clarke said this process has not been without challenges.

“I think the most difficult part has easily been trying to get people to understand where Salado is and what Salado is about. Just the location, it’s a no-brainer to me. It’s such a beautiful town,” Clarke said. “It’s 45 minutes from Austin and 45 minutes from Waco and you’ve got such a big population there with Fort Hood, Belton, Harker Heights and so on.”

Clarke said the most rewarding part of the experience has been getting it off the ground.

“Seeing this idea I was throwing around three years ago, and here we are, it’s happening. It’s been cool to have this whole thing come together,” Clarke said.

Clarke said the most enjoyable part of the experience for him has been working with everyone that is helping to put on the festival and seeing the music industry revamp after the pandemic.

“I think it was one of the most hard-hit industries because of COVID-19, and to see everybody getting excited about music again, to see these bands and the management and fans starting to come back out wanting to join music again, has been really special. Definitely a breath of fresh air after COVID-19,” Clarke said.

To Petralli, music is much more than just an art form, which is why he enjoys performing.

“Music, for me, is a way I work through my past, my connection to other people, my spiritual life,” Petralli said. “It’s kind of my primary outlet and I hope that it’s like my purest kind of state. I think that just getting to share something that’s raw and real, like it’s much more than small talk. Just getting to share a deeper part of myself that I’ve been dedicated to for 25 years now.”

Petralli said if he could give any advice to new musicians it would be to have patience with yourself and others.

“Try to be true and don’t try to please other people,” Petralli said. “Everyone is given a voice and a set of experiences to draw from, and I think that music and the culture at large benefits from being honest. Try to do that and just be really patient. If you don’t get where you are, just know that you are doing something really important by being yourself.”