"Rebels & Roses" Festival -- An East Texas Woodstock
By STEWART SMITH
Three days. 20 bands. One massive music festival.
With a lineup including the likes of Stoney LaRue, Brandon Rhyder, Whiskey Myers, Bleu Edmondson, Kyle Park, Casey Donahew Band and Buckshot Bradley, it's clear the organizers of the inaugural "Rebels & Roses" festival want to give the audience quite a bang for their buck. The festival is the result of a partnership between Kiepersol Enterprises, Outlaw Music Productions and the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau, and if things go as planned, this inaugural event will be the first of many as the organizers clearly have their sights set on making this bigger every year. "The Woodstock of East Texas" was thrown out more than once during Wednesday's news conference, just to provide an idea.
Pierre de Wet, founder and owner of Kiepersol Enterprises, said he loves Tyler and the East Texas area and sees this festival as a way to bring more people into the places he calls home.
"Tyler cannot be great if everything around it is not wonderful," he said. "When Kim (Morris) and Jasen (Carter) came to me and said they wanted to do this festival, I said this is exactly what our community and our people needs. A happening that can make everyone realize we're just Texans. A happening where we don't have to drive hundreds of miles to see the best of Texas. A happening where we can be close to our kids and our youngsters and we can expose them to how we enjoyed music when we were young. This is the first time something like this has happened in East Texas."
It's not just about bringing people to Tyler's backyard, it's about helping the people in it as well. A portion of proceeds will go to benefit nonprofits such as Turn The Paige Foundation, Humane Society of East Texas and Mane Mission.
While the lineup will feature a Texas Country and Red Dirt Country stalwarts such as LaRue and Casey Donahew, it's also a showcase for some up-and-coming talent such as Cody Riley and Jason Ashley.
Country these days is full of songs about heartbreak, relationships, having a good time, etc. And while Ashley has a few of those on his set list, he said he tries to craft songs that connect on a somewhat deeper level.
"I try to impart those feelings to my audience in such a way that it leaves them empowered, that they want to be better than they already are," he said. "I got the crazy songs in there, too, but for the most part it's all about wanting to make people better human beings."
The desire to craft those sorts of songs comes from the pain of his own life experiences and he figures there's plenty of people out there who need to pick themselves up just as much as he has.
"I'd like to write happy songs, but I haven't been there yet. I'm workin' on it," he said. "I've been divorced, my mom's been gone a while. I've been through a lot of tumultuous relationships. I figure that if I can write a song that hits me in the gut in a way that I can impart that to another person and say, 'Hey, I've been here, too,' then that's how I write. I write from the gut."
Riley is one of the youngest artists in the lineup, but he's no less eager to entertain and connect with his audience and, perhaps most importantly to him, come across as true to himself.
"I want my fans to look at me as me. ... I want to write songs that reflect myself," he said. "I feel like that's what the Texas Country scene is built on."
Riley said his goal is to be known as one of the most down-to-earth, approachable musicians out there, but he's also eager to be able to share his faith. His faith in God is of the utmost importance to him and Riley wants to sing about it in a way that both communicates his values, but also makes for a good song.
"It's hard to write a cool religious song and get everybody to listen to it," Riley said. "Mike McClure has done and Cody Canada's done it, and I've always wanted to be able to write a good religious song that everybody will listen to and fits the crowd right."
Tickets to the event are available in multi-day or single day passes. Camping sites near the performance stage will be made available for those who want to stay as close to the action as possible.
For more information or to reserve tickets, visit www.rebelsandroses.com