Speakers buzzed in downtown Austin, but Dripping Springs had nothing but acoustic poetry. On Saturday afternoon, dozens of relaxed revelers piled into a charter bus and headed for the hills. Israel Nash opened up his ranch for the afternoon, and we immediately joined the family.
Now in its fourth year, From The Hills With Love is the ultimate anti-SXSW party. You won’t come across any electric scooters, crinkled business cards, or unwanted mixtapes here. As we kicked the gravel from under our boots, we were met only with earthy Americana melodies.
Several vendors set up booths and distributed tiny glasses of mixed drinks. As Carson McHone spun her golden voice through the trees, we leisurely waited for our next sip. Friend circles merged and melted with others until the entire property felt like one homogenous group.
Jonathan Tyler and his band brought some classic country goodness to the stage during their late afternoon set. The audience easily sunk into their subtle blues and dexterous guitar picking. After floating his breezy vocals, Tyler invited Nikki Lane to the stage. The couple crooned their dreamy voices in the song, “To Love Is To Fly.” Then, highway queen Nikki Lane belted her raucous love song, “Jackpot,” which she wrote about Tyler.
The duo quickly jetted off the stage and ventured to their next gig. Meanwhile, festivalgoers searched for the perfect place to set up their pallet. One woman, leaning over a cooler full of cheese and crackers, motioned toward a couple on her right. This patch of dirt, she insisted, was the ideal “butt spot.” She wasn’t wrong – the couple wedged their way in between her and sat comfortably along the hill.
After everyone settled in, E.B The Younger took to the stage. The band sprinkled their set with wit and charisma, playing songs off their latest album To Each His Own. Later, Georgia rocker T. Hardy Morris slammed on the gas pedal. His songs straddle the line between psychedelic and wild, and you’re never really sure which twist and turn his sound will take next. By the end of his brief set, listeners were both head-banging and silently grooving.
Former Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey was the perfect precursor to Israel Nash’s intoxicating headlining set. As he rang his dreamy folk songs into the microphone, you could almost see his ranch in rural North Carolina. Finally, the festival’s host plugged in. The sun cast a violet glow behind Israel Nash as he hypnotized us with “Rolling On,” “Rain Plans,” and “Lucky Ones.”
It took us a few moments to return to reality after his mesmerizing performance. We piled back on the charter bus and headed back toward Austin’s congested city lights, already dreaming about our next hill country escape.