Fans of live music and Waco spring nights can sample both this weekend in two concert series, one long-established and the other a newcomer, kicking off their 2023 seasons.
Brazos Nights, the older of the two, will return in full to Indian Spring Park on Friday night, with long-established Texas country/pop/Western swing band Asleep at the Wheel capping a varied musical program, punctuated by a first-time aerial drone show between acts.
Saturday night features the launch of the Levitt AMP Waco Music Series at Bridge Street Plaza, the first of 10 Saturday night dates for the new concert series and one showcasing local musical, artistic and other talent each week. First up is Taushey Sias and the Waco Community Choir.
Brazos Nights, the city’s free concert series held monthly April through June with a Fourth of July finale at McLane Stadium’s Touchdown Alley, returns to Indian Spring Park for the first time in four years. City parks director Jonathan Cook noted that pandemic disruptions canceled the 2020 season and, coupled with Suspension Bridge restoration work last year, moved the music series to Heritage Square.
Moving Brazos Nights back to its longtime location made Austin’s Asleep at the Wheel, which has played several Brazos Nights shows over the years, an appropriate selection for the occasion, Cook said. The iconic band plays a broad range of overlapping styles, including Western swing, country, pop, blues and jazz, earning nine Grammy Awards in the process. Leader Ray Benson started the band more than 50 years ago and knows Waco well, most recently playing a Christmas show last year at the Waco Hippodrome. The band’s notoriously revolving lineup, now numbering more than 100 former players, also has featured several Waco musicians over the years.
Also bringing the music on Friday is veteran Waco mariachi band Mariachi Azteca, which will open the evening, and Austin soul/pop singer and guitarist Jackie Venson. The 33-year-old Austin native, who’s released four studio albums, recently won national attention for playing guitar with Alanis Morissette at the CMT Music Awards.
The drones will make their Waco debut between Venson and Asleep at the Wheel at approximately 8:30 p.m. with 150 drones outfitted with lights taking flight to make illuminated patterns in the sky.
The show will take place several hundred feet above the Brazos River between the Washington Avenue and Suspension bridges, with a Waco-themed program that, in honor of Saturday’s reopening, features a tip of the hat to the Waco Suspension Bridge. Visual effects company Sky Elements also has staged shows for the Grammy Awards, Dallas’ New Year’s Eve and Austin’s SXSW Music Festival.
In addition to the live music, Brazos Nights also will feature food and drink from several food trucks. Next month’s Brazos Nights concert has a Cinco de Mayo flavor with La Fiera de Ojinaga and Los Texmaniacs as featured acts.
Saturday’s Levitt AMP Music Series will combine live music and an outdoor setting, but with a different, closer-to-home vibe. The music will come from Taushey Sias, the Waco Community Choir, Tonee B. Shelton and DJ the.sweetest.t with visual art and activities also reflecting talent from Waco and Bridge Street Plaza’s neighborhood.
A market and other activities at the plaza will run from 5 to 9 p.m., with musicians performing between 6 and 9 p.m.
The new free music series comes as a result of a three-year, $90,000 grant from the Levitt Foundation in a program aimed at stimulating local music in midsize cities. Waco community support in a survey last year brought the grant home, making Waco one of 15 grant recipients and the only one in Texas this year.
The series’ first year will run Saturdays through July 1 with no concert on Memorial Day weekend.