Blues on the Green Invites Fans to Zilker Park for Free Summertime Shows
Thanks to the contributions of musicians like Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan, the event has grown significantly over the last 30 years
By Mary Lancaster
Photos by Erika Rich
Blankets spread all across the grass, a lively crowd of excited music lovers dancing and singing to the band, and multiple amazing local artists that will rock your socks off. Get ready for this unique Austin experience, because it’s back.
Summer in Austin doesn’t quite seem official until it’s kicked off at Blues on the Green in Zilker Park. This widely popular live music event, 30 years running, began at the Arboretum as a means to attract customers to their shops during the weekdays when sales were slow. Myra Spector, a local musician, attended the show for many years at the Arboretum.
“It was like a big picnic, a big party. It was very relaxed, a great way to enjoy an early evening out. People brought their kids — it was an all-inclusive show.” She recalls that many of the regular acts from the Continental Club or Saxon Pub would be a part of the lineup, putting on a spectacular show. “They weren’t just small acts, either. They had big names like Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan.”
The event became so popular that it quickly outgrew the intimate space at the Arboretum and moved to Waterloo Park. It eventually made its home in Zilker Park to accommodate the now expected 50,000 attendees. The experience features food and drink vendors as well as sponsor booths, giving it that authentic Austin festival feel, without all of the cost and hassle of a ticketed event. This is attractive to music lovers of all demographics, keeping the attendance growing each year. It has now expanded to a total of four shows, two in June and two in July. Only one time in its tenure has the show been canceled. Like so many other large events, Blues on the Green took a hiatus in 2020, and part of 2021.
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The event is strictly Austin-based talent and free to the public. According to Andy Langer, ACL Radio, “This is a true community event. Generations of attendees who have been to every show are now bringing their kids and grandkids.” This year features an eclectic mix of bands of varying genres. “It started as a blues based event but has evolved to include funk, soul, alternative and singer/songwriter acts to reflect the diversity of the city,” says Langer. With talent that includes bands such as Sir Woman, Zach Person, Grupo Fantasma, Gina Chavez and Money Chicha, there is a little something for all musical tastes. “We include Austin acts that are already doing well on their own and help them gain more exposure with this free show. The idea is that the attendees will then purchase tickets for the paid shows around town, growing the artist’s fan base.”
With troubadours such as Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan helping to establish this one-of-a-kind event, it’s no wonder the Austin community has taken such a following to Blues on the Green. They continue to shine on the stage from time to time, carrying on the torch that was lit so many years ago, and ushering in new talent that will forge the way for generations to come.
What better way to have the Austin experience than to listen to live music at an outdoor venue? Previous attendees suggest arriving a bit early to pick your spot, bringing a blanket to sit on, sunscreen and hydration (although there are food/drink vendors onsite). If at all possible, ride a bike or take public transportation to avoid high volumes of traffic or fighting for a parking space. But most of all, go to have a good time. Relax, take in the fun atmosphere and enjoy the amazing talent that Austin has to offer.