Big Barn Dance

Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance takes the stage in September

By Haven Lindsey
Nathan Burton/Taos News

For the past 20 years, some of the best Americana, Country, Folk and Bluegrass musicians in the country have descended on Taos for Michael Hearne’s Big Barn Dance. Fans travel from all over the country every September for the three-day music festival that kicks off the night before with a free Art Stroll where musicians play at every gallery. The festival culminates in one of the biggest barn dances in the southwest. 

AATW ©MichaelWeintrob_6978

This year, the 21st Big Barn Dance will take place September 7-9 in Kit Carson Park, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Taos with shops and restaurants within easy walking distance. The festival welcomes musicians and fans, many of whom travel to Taos every year for the festival. Although the Big Barn Dance was never meant to be a secret, word spread quickly when the event won Best Festival at the Ameripolitan Awards in Memphis, Tenn. in February. 

“The response has been great,” commented Michael Hearne about receiving the award alongside his daughter and Event Director, Sarah Hearne Naftis. “We heard from a group of 20-30 people in Sweden after winning the award and they’re coming to Taos. I guess that means we’ve gone international now!”

Omar Oyoque plays bass guitar with Mike and the Moonpies.

The music festival offers something for everyone. In addition to local accommodations, there is limited RV camping available and music fans can purchase tickets for one or all three days. Each day is broken up into two sessions, the day and evening sets.

With food trucks, wine and beer tents, shops, two dance floors and ample room under the large tent to find shade, it is easy to spend the entire day listening and dancing to music. On the final evening, the chairs are removed from the big tent to reveal one of the largest dance floors in Northern New Mexico. The final evening attracts dancers of all levels including some of the best in the Southwest.

Ray Guitar Photo by Mike Shore

Every evening a headliner takes the stage. “This year the stars aligned for us,” said Naftis as she described the excitement in welcoming Grammy-winning, Austin-based band Asleep at the Wheel. The popular group has had more than 21 singles land on the Billboard country charts. 

When they take the stage on the final evening, it will be their first time performing at the Big Barn Dance. “We’re also very excited to welcome Suzy Bogguss as one of our headliners this year,” continued Naftis. Bogguss has enjoyed a successful career with six top-10 hits and multiple awards including the Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist award.

As coloured light is cast across the audience, couples two-step to Mike and the Moonpies’ performance.

This year’s line-up includes a sampling of musicians who have played the Big Barn Dance before and musicians who will be playing for the first time. Wilder Blue, a band that is gaining a great deal of attention in a short amount of time, is scheduled to play for the first time, as well as Rosie Flores, and Bri Bagwell. 

Back by popular demand are Balsam Range, Mountain Heart, and Beat Root Revival, who never fail to put on a lively show. Michael Martin Murphy returns this year along with the heart of the Big Barn Dance: Shake Russel, Bill Hearne, the Red River Songwriters, the Rifters, and Michael Hearne and his band, South by Southwest.

Tickets went on sale May 8 and will likely sell out.