The Southernmost Music Festival.
Two years. Two music festivals. That’s all there have been of what has become one of the most anticipated music festivals in the Texas/Oklahoma/Americana music genre. In the summer of 2017 when the initial lineup for the first Mile 0 Fest was announced, it definitely turned some heads and made a lot of die-hard fans sit up and take notice. But, many of those fans immediately began asking, ‘how can someone gather so much talent on one stage in the not-so-easy-to-get-to destination of Key West, Florida?’ Was this too good to be true? Oh Wook! Productions took that challenge seriously from the beginning and now with two very successful Mile 0 music festivals under their belts, they seem primed to complete the hat trick in 2020.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to cover the inaugural Mile 0 Fest in 2018, and then invited back in 2019, and if there is one thing I took away from both outings, it’s that despite the many logistical issues that could have, and did, rear their ugly heads in an attempt to thwart both 2018’s and 2019’s festivals, Oh Wook! Productions just continued to step up their game and did so with grace and professionalism. They seriously made it look easy (at least from the outside looking in). I spoke with many of the fans in attendance and the artists themselves while on my rounds photographing both 2018’s and 2019’s 4ish-day event and all had high praise for how things were being run. For a festival this young, this is no easy feat. There are music festivals that have been around for 5+ years (or even longer) that are still trying to figure out simple logistical issues. This is not to say that everything went smoothly both years, as there will always be room for improvement, but having attended many music festivals in my 43 years here on this spinning blue ball, I can categorically state that this was one of the best festivals I have ever attended. I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment either, as Mile 0 Fest was recently voted the #2 Best Emerging Festival by a USA Today “10Best” Poll, in which a panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.
The main performances take place in the Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater, which is a new (as of 2018) $4 million dollar facility in Key West’s new municipal park overlooking the water on the west side of the island. But, one of the best nuances to this festival is the overall format in which there are “satellite” venues that host more intimate performances from all of the artists in attendance. Venues like the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, Durty Harry’s, Irish Kevin’s, The Sunset Pier, and a beach stage at Key West’s southernmost point all provided the local scenery where the artists could invite us a bit closer to the stage in a laid-back environment and just do what they do best. So who has played this festival for the past two years? The laundry list I’m about to regurgitate will most likely make you want to start packing your bags now (don’t forget the sunscreen and make sure you’ve properly exercised your liver!).
2018 was hosted by Elizabeth Cook and the Lineup included: Turnpike Troubadours | Cody Jinks | Pat Green | Wade Bowen | Shooter Jennings | Jack Ingram | Charlie Robison Bruce Robison | William Clark Green | Old 97’s | Stoney Larue | Ray Wylie Hubbard | Jason Boland & The Stragglers | Shinyribs The Black Lillies | Cody Canada & The Departed | The Great Divide | Jason Eady | Jamie Lin Wilson | John Moreland Red Dirt Rangers | Mike & The Moonpies | Dalton Domino | Brandon Jenkins* | Carter Samson | Uncle Lucius | Bri Bagwell *(Brandon Jenkins sadly did not appear due to health concerns which would eventually lead to his untimely passing). 2019 was hosted by radio’s own Ben Ryan, from Ft. Worth’s 95.9 The Ranch and the Lineup included: Randy Rogers Band | The Mavericks | Trampled By Turtles | Wade Bowen | Tyler Childers | American Aquarium | Jack Ingram Bruce Robison | A Special Tribute to Charlie Robison | Cody Canada & The Departed | Flatland Cavalry | Jamie Lin Wilson Reckless Kelly | Micky & The Motorcars | Kevin Fowler | Corb Lund | The Great Divide | Ray Wylie Hubbard | Shinyribs Stoney LaRue | The Band of Heathens | John Fullbright | Shane Smith & The Saints | Bonnie Bishop | Mike & The Moonpies Jamie Wyatt | Bri Bagwell | Jason Eady | Courtney Patton | Walt Wilkins | Red Dirt Rangers | Zane Williams | Sean McConnell Kylie Rae Harris | Kaitlin Butts | Byron White
If those names don’t get your mouth watering for a cold beer or a nice cold cocktail while enjoying some great music in your flip flops, then you may be in the wrong place. There were too many amazing performances to review each one individually, but collectively, I will say that I didn’t want it to end the both times I have been in attendance. I felt a sense of ease and relaxation at all of the venues and I could tell that everyone was enjoying the full experience because Oh Wook! Productions was working hard behind the scenes to make everyone feel like they were getting a VIP experience. With any luck, I’ll be back again in 2020 reviewing yet another incredible experience with a star-studded lineup. Mark your calendars for 2020, as the official dates of 28 January - 1 February, were recently announced! Also, be on the lookout at Mile0Fest.com for the 2020 lineup announcement on 4 July 2019!