Blues on the Green returns: Free for fans, good for bands

Though it was a bit delayed, the heat has returned to Austin, and with it, another summer tradition — KGSR’s Blues on the Green concert series in Zilker Park.

The event, now in its 23rd season, happens every other week on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Concert goers, usually around 7,000 or so, flock to Zilker with blankets, chairs, kids, dogs (leashed) and sometimes a bocce game or other unexpected recreational activities.

The series begins Wednesday with popular Austin rock band Alpha Rev, who released a new album, “Bloom,” earlier this year. Accompanying them will be folk band Wild Child, who won this year’s Austin Music Award for best indie and best folk band. Two weeks later (June 12), it’s the Wheeler Brothers and the Whiskey Sisters; wildly popular Austin funk and soul outfit Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears follows (June 26). Bob Schneider and Max Frost (July 10) and the Gourds and Shakey Graves (July 24) also appear in coming months.

KGSR DJ Andy Langer, who has been booking Blues on the Green for four years, says that he looks to book Austin or regional acts that have a growing fan base, but who might also benefit from playing in front of a large crowd. “Ultimately the music should reflect what we do as a station and what people would want to see and motivate them to come out in the heat on a Wednesday night,” he says.

The event began at the Arboretum in the early ’90s before moving to Zilker Park and increasing crowds. “This is an opportunity to see bands at a reasonable hour, that you know about, that you’ve seen before or you’ve wanted to see,” Langer says.

For the second year, the final installment of the series, which happens Aug. 7, will double as an Austin City Limits Music Festival preview featuring White Denim (who recently recorded music with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco producing), dark rock/soul group My Jerusalem and one other act to be announced.

“It’s easy for some of the Austin bands to get lost when they’re playing ACL (Fest),” Langer says. “In most cases they’re playing early and against somebody that you might want to go see, and there’s sort of an instinct to take those bands for granted because you can always go see them,” Langer says.

The opportunity to share Austin’s music with a larger audience, Langer says, is his favorite part of the event. “They end up playing to the largest crowd of their career, they get to have that moment, and that’s what’s cool,” he says. “They get to look out and feel what playing to 10,000 people feels like.”

For the people in the audience, he adds, it’s also appealing because it’s free. “It appeals to the city’s unusually high interest in live music; it’s part of our culture,” he says. “There’s the ability to picnic, and there’s a way to do it that you spend absolutely nothing.”

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