Kick up your heels at the Big Barn Dance Music Festival

The 16th annual Americana music event will make Kit Carson Park come alive for three days

By Dena Miller
Posted 9/7/18

"How do you say 'Acoustic Southwestern Americana Musical Guitar Genius' in just two words? Michael Hearne, that's how," said his biography in answering its own question. Honestly, …

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Kick up your heels at the Big Barn Dance Music Festival

The 16th annual Americana music event will make Kit Carson Park come alive for three days


"How do you say 'Acoustic Southwestern Americana Musical Guitar Genius' in just two words? Michael Hearne, that's how," said his biography in answering its own question.

Honestly, though, everyone who's familiar with the finest in Americana singing and songwriting already knows the answer and is gearing up this weekend for Hearne's showcase of extraordinary talents and the best dance party of the year.

Boasting over 30 performances, the 16th annual Michael Hearne Big Barn Dance will make Kit Carson Park come alive for three days, beginning Thursday (Sept. 6) at noon, and continuing through Saturday (Sept. 8).

"We have a lineup that's better than ever before," said Sarah Hearne, daughter of the legendary musician. "People came early into town and you can feel the excitement that's in the air."

When the doors open Thursday, you will be treated to South by Southwest with Jimmy Stadler, Jed Zimmerman, Tish Hinojosa, Richard Leigh, Zac Wilkerson, Eliza Gilkyson and Mary Gauthier, Chuck Cannon, Jason Eady and Courtney Patton, Hayes Carll, and Bill Kirchen.

Friday's schedule (Sept. 8), again with doors opening at noon, includes Tom Faulkner, Albert and Gage, Jack Tempchin, Keith Sykes, Bob Livingston, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines, Shake Russell and Michael Hearne, John Fullbright, Michael Martin Murphey, and Walt Wilkins and The Mystiqueros.

Saturday (Sept. 9) gets an early start with doors open at 11:30 a.m. because there are only so many hours in the day to not only enjoy great music but also to get the two-stepping going.

Kicking off the day, some notable performances await you from The Renfrees, Beat Root Revival, Chris Arellano, hONEy hoUSe, the Bill Hearne Trio, Warren Hood, The Rifters, and Chris Hillman and Herb Peterson.

And at 7 p,m., prepare to give your dancing boots a workout as the chairs are cleared away. Mike and the Moonpies, Gary P. Nunn, and South by Southwest with Special Guests headline the region's best barn dance. Their highly anticipated finale features two dance floors and a night of pure, exuberant energy.

Hearne noted, "There's so many favorites coming together this year. Each of them bring their own followings, and they travel to Taos from, literally, all over the country. And we have such renowned songsmiths as Michael Martin Murphey, Richard Leigh ('I'll Get Over You,' 'Cold Day in July"') and Jack Tempchin ('Peaceful Easy Feeling,' 'Already Gone.')"

Classic rock legends Chris Hillman of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, joins Herb Pedersen, whose early years had him crossing paths with Jerry Garcia, David Nelson and Earl Scruggs.

"With this pool of talent, it's difficult to single out just a few because each act is special," Hearne continued. "Gary P. Nunn will be returning to perform at Saturday night's big dance, and fans will be thrilled by the return of past favorites, including John Fullbright, Warren Hood, Walt Wilkins & The Mystiqueros and many more."

While many of the performers have regularly joined in on the Barn Dance stage, "some notable newcomers include Hayes Carll, Keith Sykes, Jason Eady and Courtney Patton, Beat Root Revival and Zac Wilkerson. The appearance of Eliza Gilkyson and Mary Gauthier is a special treat for Taos," he said.

Saturday features two special events as well. Free dance lessons will be given at the dance tent from 10-11 a.m., in case you need to dust off your moves or learn a few new ones. Also beginning at 10 a.m., a four-hourlong songwriting workshop will take place with Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The fee for the workshop is $35 for barn dance ticket holders; for all others, tickets are $50 and can be purchased at the door.

As always, multiple food, craft, art vendors and full bar services will be available throughout the weekend. However, promoters want visitors to keep in mind that the bar is cash-only, and no on-site ATM will be available.

"I'd like to think this is a defining event for Taos," Michael Hearne said. "It's becoming like a family reunion with all of our followers, who are great people, and for the musicians, too," noting that everyone wants to come a day early, leave a day late, and just enjoy all the galleries, art and tasty food for which Taos is famous.

Hearne's affection for Taos lives on beyond Festival week. It's present in his extensive songwriting catalogue that captures the mood and feel of Taos with an extraordinary breadth of lyrical storytelling and harmony.

Hearne has been playing guitar since his early childhood, and his path in life quickly became apparent. Since then, his website notes, "Anyone who has ever grooved to one of Hearne's impeccable guitar leads or kicked up their heels to one of the many two stepping tunes played by him or with his band, South by Southwest, has also probably been caught singing along at some point in the night, note for note, with that beautifully distinctive voice that can never be mistaken for anyone else."

"The other musicians that will be performing are all excellent, too, and all excellent songwriters. That's really the core of the festival: the songwriting. You many not recognize some of their names, but you will definitely know their songs because they've been widely recorded by other singers and bands, and you're hearing them on the radio," Hearne said.

"And the dancing is a big draw. Northern New Mexico has by far the finest waltzers and two-steppers I've seen--and I've been all over."

Susan Dilger, host of the "Americana: Southwest and Beyond" show on local radio station KNCE-FM 93.5, credits her love of Americana music to her attendance at the first Big Barn Dance Music Festival in 2003.

"Being right in the heart of the music with like-minded music lovers and being able to talk to the artists just brings the experience to a whole new level. It is so well-loved that artists and music lovers want to come back year after year. In fact, it's gotten to be like 'old home weekend,' greeting friends who've come in from all parts of the country for the event," she said.

"It's also unique in that Kit Carson Park, while able to accommodate many more attendees than the first barn dances, still has an intimate feel," Dilger continued.

The intimacy of the Barn Dance's experience is at the heart of the weekend and has long been cherished by Michael Hearne. His daughter explained the importance of its preservation. "Of course the dance is great fun, but my dad wants everyone to have the listening experience, as well," relishing the roots-oriented poetry set to music.

Sarah Hearne noted that tickets -- three-day passes at $138 each, and individual daily admissions at $60 each -- are extremely limited as of press time as are VIP packages. Visit for more information and up-to-date availability.

However, "The Saturday night barn dance is a standing room event (and) if you can only make it to that, you'll still have a memorable evening." The dance tickets are $25 and are also available at


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