Picture this: You’re standing on soft green grass, swaying gently to the jaunty sounds of live alt-country music. As the light begins to turn buttery and warm, your friend hands you a tequila-spiked Topo Chico and you look around at the crowd, at everyone’s faces aglow with gratitude for the moment. No, you’re not hallucinating—you’re at the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love.
Hosted since 2005 by El Cosmico, Trans-Pecos is a multi-day, multimedia festival of sensory delights, held underneath the vast Chihuahuan Desert sky. COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s festival, leaving fans more excited than ever for a return to the mix of live music performances and artistic workshops held at hotelier Liz Lambert’s bohemian-chic village of teepees, yurts, and vintage trailers in Marfa.
“There’s so much to look forward to this year,” Lambert says. “We’ve added an extra day to make room for everything.”
This year’s headliners include Sleater-Kinney, Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, and Paul Cauthen, alongside additional acts like Meshell Ndegeocello, Caroline Rose, Ben Kweller, Jade Bird, and Rickie Lee Jones. Plus, the El Cosmico Family Band will make its customary appearance, and it’s always anyone’s guess who’ll show up on stage (cough, St. Vincent, cough). Late-night dance parties featuring THEBROSFRESH, Tina and the B-Sides, and Camilo Lara round out the bill.
As always, the festival will also offer a host of eclectic daytime workshops you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Think a sound bath session with Austin singer-songwriter-producer Walker Lukens, a mezcal experience workshop, a turmeric dye workshop, and a class that immerses kids and teens into the flora, fauna, and indigenous history of Far West Texas. For the true self-care nerds among us, there’s even a pop-up desert spa, “El Cosmetico,” that offers on-site massage, body treatment, and reiki, as well as a hydration station and tattoo shop. The vendor area will feature all manner of handmade leather goods, silver jewelry, and vintage clothing and accessories. And for the first time in the festival’s fifteen-year history, attendees can play cowboy by riding a mechanical bull.
Tradition runs deep at El Cosmico. Though some elements of the festival may change, you can be sure of two things at Trans-Pecos: Saturday baseball and a Sunday hangover-killing breakfast for a good cause.
“The sandlot baseball game between The Texas Playboys of Austin and Los Yonke Gallos of Marfa should not be missed, and the festival wraps up with a Breakfast Revival benefitting Marfa Public Radio,” Lambert advises.
Venturing into Marfa to explore the town is also a must-do. The music doesn’t start until 5 p.m. each day, leaving time to peruse the town’s galleries and attractions, including the Chinati Foundation, a 340-acre former military base that houses artworks by Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, and others.
This year, the team at El Cosmico is working to ensure everyone’s safety. Though the festival is always intimate, capacity has been limited, and attendees will be required to be fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-10 within 72 hours of entering the gates. Rapid testing will also be readily available over the course of the festival.
The ticket price ($500 for the four days) includes camping this year, but those who prefer to glamp currently have options in the form of Shelter Co. Tents and Safari Tents (the teepees and trailers tend to sell out quickly). And, there’s no shortage of food and drink options, including wine from Scribe Winery, coffee and breakfast from Creature Coffee and Cloudy, and meals and beverages from various food trucks throughout the day, starting at noon.
Don your denim jacket, cowboy hat, and dancing boots—and we’ll see you in the desert.
The 15th Annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love will take place in Marfa from Wednesday to Sunday (Sept. 22-26).