Originally published on April 21, 2023
Two Step Inn is a new country music festival put on by C3 Presents, the same company that organizes ACL every year. As a native Austinite who has gone to ACL for the last six years in a row, I can speak to the vibe of ACL. The vibe at Two Step Inn was very different… to say the least. Central Texas has been growing in recent years, however, most of the people I talked to at the Two Step Inn festival were from other parts of Texas. The outfit choices, which I see as strongly reflecting cultural influence, were less diverse as they tended to strictly follow Western wear norms.
The line-up of Two Step Inn was mostly clean-cut country music artists but there were also untraditional country artists. These untraditional country artists and rapper T-Pain (the odd-ball of the line-up) played on the Country Curious stage. Meanwhile, the Big River Stage stage was zoned for traditional country music. There was a drastic difference in the artists that played on the Country Curious stage and those who played on the Big River Stage.
Two Step Inn paralleled ACL in interesting ways which really displays the differences between the two festivals. Instead of impromptu mosh pits like you may see at ACL, there were two steppin dance floors set up on the lawn in front of the stage. Instead of there being a Delta-8 aroma, the sweet smell of cigar smoke blew through the dust. ACL seems to play off of Austin’s hippie culture with its tie-dye festival tees whereas Two Step Inn was based around Georgetown’s country culture with the hay barrel photo area. The festival goers were mostly people in their late-twenties and older. There were a fair number of affluent people at Two Step Inn, more than you see at ACL. As I walked around Two Step Inn, I observed that approximately 1 out of every 4 women had on designer apparel. I did not approach these people for photos. But there was a lot of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Golden Goose. This is not the norm at ACL, which attracts more young people who either saved up for their ticket or bought it off a scalper last minute.
The first day of Two Step Inn, I watched country singer Tanya Tucker perform on the Big River Stage. She was in a notably western outfit: white jeans, a silver belt, and a blue pearl button shirt with white fringe on the sleeves. In her opening song When I Die, Tucker praised Texas. She sang “I might not go to Heaven— Texas is as close as I’ve been.” This view of Texas being akin to Heaven was shared by Zach Bryan. Bryan also performed on the Big River stage, which is zoned for traditional country music. Bryan, who is from Oklahoma, also professed his love for Texas in his ironically titled song From Austin. (The singer’s view of Austin was associated with the Southern culture of Austin rather than the counterculture.)
The Country Curious stage featured alternative country artists like Nico Moon and Blanco Brown. Nico Moon, a country pop singer, rebelliously sang: “I don’t wanna hear any sad songs.” Moon swayed around the stage with a yellow solo cup in his hand. Unlike other country artists, he was committed to having fun. This overarching commitment to fun was in opposition to the traditional country artists whose performances feature more solemn tracks. Moon pursued fun while wearing a cowboy hat, a Hawaiian shirt, and distressed light wash jeans. Between his outfit and his tattoo sleeves, he struck me as simultaneously being a punk-frat boy and a techbro.
Country-rap singer Blanco Brown also performed on the Country Curious Stage. He did covers of traditional country songs like Chris Stapleton’s Tennessee Whiskey over a remixed baseline. Brown wore a sports jersey, and 3 chains with peace sign diamond pendants that hung from his neck like medals. Between songs, Brown light-heartedly shared with the audience that he was broke once. He disclosed: “I did think about robbing the bank.” But like any man who had found peace in life— he decided to wait for God to intervene instead. This confession evoked laughter. Which could be said to be more ballsy than the self disclosures of Tanya Tucker or Zach Bryant.
Rapper T-Pain, whose music doesn’t fall into the country genre whatsoever, also performed on the Country Curious stage. In addition to the country-music fans, T-Pain drew a crowd of his own. There weren’t as many cowboy hats in sight. As I was waiting for the show to start, a guy behind me was trying to comb through the crowd. The crowd parted and allowed him to go through. My fast-friend stood beside me. “Alright, you ready?” He said excitedly, “We’re about to pop, lock, and drop it!” The show started and we dropped it low. Even though we certainly weren’t two steppin— our moves fit the vibe of the show. T-Pain was so high energy. He hopped across the entire stage on one leg and did all sorts of advanced dance moves.
Needless to say, Two Step Inn had a very interesting vibe and it was cool to see subversive takes on traditional country music. T-Pain provided a much-needed reprieve for non-country-music fans (like myself) from the honky-tonk music that dominated the rest of the festival. Next year, I hope to see the festival more well-advertised to the Southwestern and Georgetown community.
If you want to attend Two Step Inn in 2024, click here.