Michael Hearne’s Award-Winning Big Barn Dance is Coming to Bryan, Texas

by Haven Lindsey on February 16, 2024 in Entertainment, Music,

It started with a casual conversation about an award-winning music festival that happens in Taos, New Mexico, every September. That conversation, which took place between Michael Hearne and a representative of Destination Bryan, culminated in what is about to take place in Bryan, Texas, May 3-4.

Singer-songwriter Michael Hearne, who grew up outside of Dallas, has a connection to the small mountain town of Taos, New Mexico. 2024 will be the 22nd year his Big Barn Dance will be held in Taos and, for the first time ever, Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance will also take place in Bryan. “We had looked for places over the years to have a second event,” said Hearne from his Texas home, “and when we met the people from Bryan, we realized that this could work really well.”

Michael Hearne and Shake Russell have played together for years and fans know and love their music. Photo Dave Hensley

In Taos, the Big Barn Dance is a three-day event that has brought individuals, families and artists together to bond over their shared love of music. “It’s a love fest,” explained Hearne of the event that many see as an annual family reunion. The event was recognized in 2023 with the national Ameripolitan Best Festival Award.

The fans are a big part of the Big Barn Dance success. Photo Dave Hensley

The Big Barn Dance may indeed be big, but it is decidedly intentional. Rather than a loud, boisterous music festival, Hearne’s Big Barn Dance creates a listening room environment where singer-songwriters play their songs on stage and often share the stories about how certain songs came to be. Chairs are provided for the audience (although some prefer to bring their own and sit on the sidelines). The event is designed for those who appreciate the subtleties of the music, the musicians and their talents. The listening room environment, however, doesn’t stick around for the Grand Finale. Just like in Taos, for the final evening in Bryan, the chairs will be removed making room for a large dance floor. This is when the two steppers move from their small dance floor on the side of the tent and take to the floor in all their grandeur of leather boots, cowboy hats and twirling skirts. There is nothing quite like the magic that happens on the final evening.

Texas-based The Wilder Blue plays at the 2023 Big Barn Dance in Taos. Photo Dave Hensley

Hearne understood that a Big Barn Dance in Texas would need to offer similar foundations of success that have proven to work in Taos. Accommodations for musicians and fans must be readily available, a park area large enough to accommodate the stage which is covered in a large, Texas-sized canvas tent, with room for hundreds of chairs, a dance floor, the sound booth, along with vendor and green space. The small town of Bryan with its deep Texas roots and historic downtown has all the ingredients Hearne was looking for.

Andrea Magee and Ben Jones of Beat Root Revival are fan favorites every time they play. Photo Dave Hensley

Located in the heart of the Texas Triangle, Bryan is less than a three-hour drive for Texans who live in the state’s largest metropolitan areas. Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance will take place in Travis Bryan Midtown Park over two days, Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4. The line-up is nothing short of spectacular and includes Asleep at the Wheel, Beat Root Revival, Hayes Carl, the Rifters, Rick Trevino and Michael Hearne, the Bill Hearne Trio and Shake Russell. As if this weren’t enough, there will also be a bonus Songwriters Series with a special line-up on Sunday, May 5.

“We are excited for this event in Bryan. It’s going to be a similar setup to what we do in Taos but will have more Texas flavor,” said Sarah Hearne Naftis, Event Director with High Desert Entertainment, the organization responsible for presenting the Big Barn Dance. Naftis explained that the Songwriter Series will take place in two theaters in downtown Bryan. “From 3 to 7 p.m., we’ll have artists playing at the Palace Theater and the Grand Stafford Theater. Anyone with a Big Barn Dance wristband will be able to get in free.” Naftis also explained that fans will be able to easily walk from one theater to the other to see their favorite artists.

There’s nothing quite like Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance on the final evening. Photo Dave Hensley

With no plans to stop hosting the Big Barn Dance in Taos, Naftis commented about the inaugural event in Texas, “we are looking forward to this being an annual event in Bryan,” she said. In addition to a number of lodging options for fans, including the Stella Hotel, visitors will also have the added caveat of enjoying Bryan’s First Friday celebration on May 3 which features a variety of food, vendors, and crafts.

Tickets are on sale now and the full musical line-up can be seen by visiting the Big Barn Dance Bryan website.


Cover Photo Dave Hensley

Haven Lindsey resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven’s second book, The Blue Dog and The White Horse ‘The Best of Friends’ will be published by Brandylane Publishing in 2024.