Cattle Country Reinvents Festival Camping In First Year

CHURCH STAMPEDE: Eric Church headlined the three-day Cattle Country, which took place April 12-14.
Photo by Brian Bradley

First-year music festivals are notoriously risky, requiring buy-in from artists and fans, savvy marketing efforts and, maybe most importantly, a successful concept.

Cattle Country Music Festival, topped by Eric Church, Whiskey Myers and Koe Wetzel, may have mostly figured it all out, having brought 13,000 people on April 12-14 to the relatively remote central Texas town of Gonzales.

“We built a really strong brand, we had a story to tell, we have a location that nobody saw until they walked in there, so there would be 13,000 people that are going to be talking about it,” says Bruce Kalmick, an artist manager and co-producer of Cattle Country, via his Why&How Ventures with partners Marcus Federman and Bryan Bulte.

A music festival in the middle of nowhere — or a couple hours from San Antonio — might not make sense on its own, but Cattle Country was always about more than just an empty field, borrowing imagery of Gonzales being the site of the first Texas Revolution battle and the birthplace of the phrase “Come And Get It.” A strong lineup didn’t hurt, either.

“I felt like that was enough of a brand identity for us,” said Kalmick, whose initial idea was to do a wine country-themed event in nearby Fredericksburg, known for wine production. “We’re settled on this 500 acres in between the Guadalupe River. It was absolutely gorgeous with manicured pecan trees between our stages. What you hope is that people walk in and they treat each other with kindness. Man, it happened in spades. It was incredible.”

The location led to camping opportunities, which, again, was part of the plan but may have gone better than expected.

“What I did know about the state of Texas is they sold 400% more RVs during COVID than they had previously,” said Kalmick, who is based in Austin and manages artists including genre-bending musician Breland, Whiskey Myers, Chase Rice and others. “They ran out of inventory in the state of Texas at one point, so I was hopeful that that was going to play a part, and it certainly did.”

Kalmick said about 75% of attendees camped, with nearly 1,000 RVs parking onsite — leading to a scene far different from the usual dirt plot full of teenagers sleeping in tents.
“We had powered spots and non-powered spots where people could have their own generators; it’s quite an endeavor to have 1,000 RVs hooked up to power,” said Kalmick. “We ran 37 miles of power cable out there. It’s like building a city. It was so worth it. From an environmental perspective, it was just a beautiful thing to see. I think we’ll expand upon that.”

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CATTLE CALL: Fans line up for the inaugural Cattle Country festival in Gonzales, Texas, a ghost town destination that attracted 1,000 RV campers for a unique music experience.
(Courtesy Cattle Country

VIP camping options included showers, private portable toilets and other luxuries keeping festivalgoers comfortable.

“We had very few general campers setting up in a non-VIP area,” Kalmick said. “The demo was interesting because it was certainly across the board, but we got an older, probably-higher-net-worth contingency than expected.”

Kalmick and his team’s background in artist management and festivals went a long way toward making a successful event, but even he maintains a strong policy with his own management clients to avoid new festivals due to the volatile nature of the business.

“Suddenly I’m representing a first-year festival to people that trust me, so it was an interesting thing to navigate,” Kalmick said. “I would say 95% of it was pretty smooth.”
Looking ahead, Kalmick said he’s confident in being able to curate a lineup that will do the trick, especially after the first year’s positive results.

“People just really loved it and enjoyed the environment and we’ll certainly double down on that,” Kalmick added. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think we’ll have two times as many people out there next year fairly easily.”