Every September, Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance takes place in Taos, New Mexico. The three-day music festival attracts some of the best Americana, Country, Folk, and Bluegrass musicians in the country and fans travel from all over the nation to what has become, for many, an annual voyage. The outdoor event is held in Kit Carson Park, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Taos with shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. The festival welcomes musicians and fans, many of whom travel to Taos every year for the festival.
In February, the Big Barn Dance, which is now in its 21st year, won Best Festival at the Ameripolitan Awards in Memphis, TN. The award has already resulted in more attention and notoriety. “The response has been great,” commented Michael Hearne about receiving the award alongside his daughter and Event Director, Sarah Hearne Naftis. “We heard from a group of 20 to 30 people in Sweden after winning the award and they’re coming to Taos. I guess that means we’ve gone international now!”
The music festival offers something for everyone. In addition to local accommodations, there is limited RV camping available and music fans can purchase tickets for one or all three days. Each day is broken up into two sessions, with day and evening sets. With food trucks, wine and beer tents, shops, two dance floors, and ample room under the large tent to find shade, it is easy to spend the entire day listening and dancing to music. On the final evening, the chairs are removed from the big tent to reveal one of the largest dance floors in northern New Mexico. The final evening attracts dancers of all levels including some of the best in the southwest.
A Festival of Friends
Leslie Cash Jobe and her husband, Dino, have been attending the Big Barn Dance for years. The couple hosts Rawhide Trail House Concerts from their Austin-area home and enjoys listening to new singer-songwriters as well as the perennial favorites. “Once a year, in early September, we pack our bags and head to our happy place,” commented Leslie. “The weather in Austin is usually sweltering and we are ready for a change in scenery. Each time we arrive we are greeted by familiar faces of people we love and share the love of music with. The Big Barn Dance is not only a festival of music, it is a festival of friends.”
This year the “festival of friends” will take place September 7-9 and tickets, which will likely sell out, are on sale now. However, for the locals in Taos and many astute fans, the Big Barn Dance officially kicks off with the free and open-to-the-public Art Stroll the evening before. On September 6, local art galleries in Taos open their spaces for the musicians to play in a casual and ‘up close and personal’ environment. This year’s Art Stroll lineup includes Pat Byrne, originally from Ireland, who has made a big impression on the Austin music scene in a short amount of time. Alice Howe and her partner, Freebo, the iconic rock and blues bassist who toured with Bonnie Raitt for decades, and has played with everyone from Neil Young, and Ringo Starr to the legendary Spinal Tap will play the Art Stroll along with at least four other bands. According to Michael Hearne, “This year’s Art Stroll is going to be the best one yet.”
All three evenings, a headliner takes the stage. “This year the stars aligned for us,” said Naftis as she described the excitement about Grammy-winning, Austin-based band, Asleep at the Wheel. The popular group has had more than 21 singles on the Billboard Country charts. When they take the stage on the final evening it will be their first time performing at the Big Barn Dance. “We’re also very excited to welcome Suzy Bogguss as one of our headliners this year,” continued Naftis. Bogguss has enjoyed a successful career with six Top 10 hits and multiple awards including the Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist award.
This year’s line-up includes a sampling of musicians who have played the Big Barn Dance before and who will be playing for the first time. The Wilder Blue, Rosie Flores, and Bri Bagwell are all scheduled to play for the first time in Taos.
Back by popular demand are Balsam Range, Mountain Heart, and Beat Root Revival who never fail to put on a lively show. Michael Martin Murphey will return this year along with the heart of the Big Barn Dance: Shake Russel, Bill Hearne, the Rifters, and Michael Hearne and his band, South by Southwest.
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 Tales of Friendship’ will be published by Brandylane Publishing in 2024.