Breaking Artists & Big Moments Mark 2024 Mile 0 Fest

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What happens in Key West doesn’t stay in Key West during the annual five-day Mile 0 Fest. As one of the first country music events on the calendar each year, it helps set the table for everything else that will transpire in the coming months, from up-and-comers who will break in the coming year, to previous up-and-comers exploding in popularity, to established artists cementing their legacies.

This was never more true than in 2024. As Mike and the Moonpies were making the announcement that they were changing their name to Silverada on one side of the tiny Key West island, the Josh Abbott Band was holding a release party for their new album Somewhere Down The Road on a beach near the southermost point of the United States.

You had the 16-year-old Jake Kohn from Virginia appearing as an artist many expect to be the next Appalachia star, as well as Lance Roark from Oklahoma who after getting a cut on the new Turnpike Troubadours album with bassist RC Edwards, is one of the most buzzed about names in Red Dirt. Meanwhile Taylor Hunnicutt and her band of Alabama boys is the talk of live music, putting on one of the most high energy shows around.

When Morgan Wade took the stage to headline Mile 0 Fest on Thursday night (1-25), she spoke in-depth about how the festival was the first major event to take a chance on her, and even if she didn’t fit in perfectly with the Texas/Red Dirt world, she appreciated the opportunity. The Red Clay Strays have a similar Mile 0 Fest story after appearing two years ago for the first time, and like Morgan Wade (or perhaps even more), they are skyrocketing in popularity to the point of recently selling out the Ryman Auditorium for three straight nights.

Of course you also had the big headliners of the Texas/Red Dirt genre such as The Randy Rogers Band, Josh Abbott Band, Wade Bowen, and Shane Smith and the Saints all perform. But one of the cool things about Mile 0 Fest is every performer feels on equal footing, and the songwriters are perhaps just as revered as the headliners, if not more.

Jamie Lin Wilson, Courtney Patton, Jason Eady, and Adam Hood made up the nucleus of what happened at Mile 0 Fest in 2024. The Topo Chico Cowboys of Drew Kennedy and Josh Grider were also seen all over Key West during the week. They all took turns hosting afterparties at the Truman Waterfront Amphitheater in Key West after the big headlining sets, singing cover songs, or in the case of Adam Hood, taking an opportunity to sing songs he’s wrote or co-wrote with folks like Wade Bowen, Courtney Patton, Taylor Hunnicutt, and Josh Abbott’s “I’ll Sing About Mine,” which was nominated for Saving Country Music’s 2013 Song of the Year.

This year, if there was any single songwriter or performer whose name kept coming up, it was Charlie Robison. He may have passed away in on September 10th, 2023, but his spirit was most certainly still alive at Mile 0 Fest. Wade Bowen and Jamie Lin Wilson hosted a tribute to Charlie and songwriter/performer/producer Keith Gattis Tuesday night at Key West’s open air Smokin’ Tuna bar. Throughout the weekend, Robison songs were played, and they usually drew a crowd of performers coming on stage to sing along.

Key West is not easy to get to, and it’s very expensive to stay at. For some fans, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. For others, it’s an annual pilgrimage. For still others, it’s an impossibility. But what’s true for everyone that makes the trek is they’re the most hardcore of independent Texas and Red Dirt country music fans. This makes everyone who attends the festival not just a patron, but an active participant. These are the word-of-mouth taste makers and influencers who share their experiences online, supporter these bands when they roll through town, travel to support them elsewhere, and create the grassroots that the music grows from.

After seven years now, Mile 0 Fest is quickly going from the scrappy new festival on the calendar to one with it’s own mystique, its own traditions, and the event that all fans want to go and artists want to play because of the unique setting, the community that has been built, and things like the explosion of the Red Clay Strays or Morgan Wade, or the Silverada announcement. You never know what’s going to happen, or who you’re going to discover next.

It was one line in one song that perhaps struck the deepest tone at Mile 0 Fest 2024. The song “Maritime Moon” was written by Jamie Lin Wilson and Jason Eady the previous year at Mile 0 Fest, and Wilson released a studio version of the song right before this year’s festival.

Perhaps you have to experience Mile 0 Fest or Key West specifically to fully appreciate the the song. But there is a reason that songwriters such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Shel Silverstein, and David Allan Coe all found inspiration on the island, not to mention other titans of letters such as Ernest Hemingway and Judy Blume that called Key West home.

The worst part about Key West and Mile 0 Fest is you never want to go home. As Jamie Lin Wilson sings in “Martimine Moon,” “If we stay awake, it’ll stay yesterday.” This embodies how each moment is precious and cherished in Key West, and you never want them to end.

But they do, and they eventually did. Yet as the fans and participants of Mile 0 Fest 2024 fall back into the normal rhythms of life, they’ll carry with them lifelong memories made via music in paradise.

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All photos by Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos. Sincere apologies to performers either not mentioned or pictured. There were just too many performances to capture them all. For more photos and media, follow Saving Country Music on Instagram.

The epicness and weight that Shane Smith and the Saints evoke through their music sounds like what you’d hear when you take the field of battle with a claymore sword to defend your creed and country, or when you harpoon a leviathan that pulls you overboard into the depths of the great ocean. New album out March 1st.
The music of Kaitlin Butts satiates parts of your soul and psyche you didn’t even know existed previously. It’s the perfect combination of smarts and infectiousness, country roots and country innovation, and acts like a launching pad for her natural talents, most notably her powerhouse voice.
Guitarist Adam Duran, part of Kaitlin Butts’ Astro-Nots backing band
Vandoliers frontman Joshua Fleming said it best. “We want to be a country fan’s punk band, just like we want to be a punk fan’s country band.” Whatever you want to call them, they’re one of the best bands in live music.
Joshua Fleming of The Vandoliers
Vandoliers fiddle player and madman Travis Curry
The Sunset Pier Stage
Floating Tiki Bars listening to the music
Shane Smith and the Saints on the Sunset Pier
The saying “could sing the phone book” was coined for a guy like William Beckmann. From classic country, to classic Elvis, to Chris Isaak, to the best Spanish singing you’ll hear north of the border, William Beckmann can sing it all, and with soul stirring results.
William Beckmann with bass player Michael Moad
You feel that? That’s the tingling you get when yet another worthy roots band gets its wings and flies into the stratosphere, bolstered by a sound the world was starving for. This is where Brandon Coleman and The Red Clay Strays are headed.
The Steel Woods take the stage like modern Southern Rock gods, and then proceed to send out reverberative pulsations of soul-infused and tone-heavy power chords to immerse you in Southern Rock bliss. This is like the sludge metal version of country music.
Steel Woods guitarist Tyler Powers
Steel Woods are now touring with steel guitar player Logan Mehr.
Crowd assembled at Comedy Key West for the unveiling of “Silverada” (formerly Mike and the Moonpies)
Mike Harmeier making the band name change announcement.
Silverada burning it down later that night on the amphitheater stage.
Mere hours after the Silverada announcement, Uncle Bekah Inappropriate Trucker Hats turned up throughout Mile 0 Fest.
Promising up-and-coming songwriter Lance Roark got to play by a pool.
Turnpike Troubadours bassist RC Edwards showed up to support his songwriting buddy Lance Roark. RC also played some impromptu shows over the week.
The Randy Rogers Band closed out Mile 0 Fest 2024.
Can you drink a fiddle while singing and playing keyboard?!? Kin Faux can, and if they’re rolling through your town, go and see these crazy dudes. Killer live band and a great time, they’re a fusion of country, Southern rock, Tejano and mariachi, and even some Cajun thrown in. Instead of smashing all those influences together, they find the common thread between them and make you appreciate them all, and one after another.
Josh Ward is as country as it gets, and looking/sounding great after his horse accident a couple of years ago.
They call Drew Kennedy and Josh Grider the Topo Chico Cowboys. They hosted a ’70s get down afterparty Friday evening. No telling where Kennedy found yellow pants.
Josh Abbott celebrated his first year at Mile 0 Fest, and it coincided with the release of his new album.
Josh Abbott singing “I’ll Sing About Mine” with Adam Hood.
The Red Twerk Abides
Jason Eady performing at Hank’s with percussionist Keio Stroud.
Wade Bowen was the Wednesday night headliner at the amphitheater.
John Fullbright played an intimate set at the gorgeous San Carlos theater.
The “Queen of Mile 0 Fest” Jamie Lin Wilson during her main stage set.
Courtney Patton and Jamie Lin Wilson singing with Wade Bowen
More Jamie and Courtney getting down
Courtney Patton when full blown hippie for the ’70s night afterparty.
Courtney Patton, Jamie Lin Wilson, Taylor Hunnicutt, and Adam Hood singing “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
Most agree that Josh Weathers and his falsetto stole the show during the “Sailin'” afterparty Wednesday night.
Every year at Mile 0 Fest and other festivals, Uncle Bekah’s Inappropriate Trucker Hats become like their own living, breathing piece of performance art, enhancing the whole festival experience beyond the music.Sure, anyone can print some stuff on a trucker hat. But it’s Uncle Bekah that challenges the audience to let loose and unlock their inhibitions to be themselves.
Uncle Bekah also helped to introduce bands
Tanner Usrey is like the embodiment of every Southern/classic rock front man who has passed on through the ages, channeling the essence of soul from a century of heartbreak into blistering performances that put the blood, guts, sweat, and grit back into American music.
Tanner Usrey has a killer backing band as well.
Don’t go listing off all the incredible and authentic women saving country music in real time without mentioning Kylie Frey. This rodeo queen and goat-tying champion didn’t leave a dry eye in the house when she performed her song “Horses in Heaven” at Hank’s. Bri Bagwell also stopped by to sing a little harmony with Kylie.
Bri Bagwell singing by the pool at Dante’s
The pool and stage at Dante’s.
BJ Barham and American Aquarium MURDERED it as usual at Mile 0 Fest. The Aquarium is featuring some new songs live that BJ says will be on a new album out in August produced by Shooter Jennings, including one about crying that is killer. And how about that mustache.
Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and Cody Canada and the Departed all performed back to back at Mile 0 Fest. All three lived in the infamous “Yellow House,” jamming together into the night. Though their sounds and influences were disparate, it was a chemistry that worked, and is still working today.
Jason Boland
Cody Canada
Cody Canada with Elysha from Waves in April
Dierks Canada is officially a monster on guitar.
Willy Canada on the skins.
Taylor Hunnicutt slammed into Key West like a Cat 5 hurricane y’all. Seriously, send pallets of water and FEMA trailers. Roofs were ripped off and faces were melted by Taylor and her band’s full tilt Country rock from Alabama.This ain’t for the weak kneed and defibrillated. Taylor Hunnicutt is no delicate songbird. She leaves all of it on the stage and then some.
Cheers, y’all.
Jason Scott and the High Heat helped open Mile 0 Fest on the amphitheater stage.
Morgan Wade making her first headlining appearance at Mile 0 Fest
Ben Chapman brought Grateful Dead Shakedown Street-era vibes to his set, eventually breaking out into a full-blown Dead tune.
Meg McCree pulled double duty, opening the main stage on Thursday, and then singing with her other half, Ben Chapman.
Dalton Domino was in Key West showcasing with songwriters like Jonathan Terrell and Jacob Stelly, and picking up some MC duties as well.
Mickey Braun of Mickey and the Motorcars
James Ford of Them Dirty Roses singing a song he wrote with Adam Hood.
Jake Kohn may be fresh-faced. But when he sings his original songs, an old soul comes rearing out as he mines the darkest recesses of human emotion for words and inspiration. The comparisons to early Colter Wall are inevitable with his guttural tone, but Jake John’s songs are all his own.
Walt Wilkins is one of Mile 0 Fest’s most revered songwriters.
Gordy Quist of Band of Heathens
Ed Jurdi of Band of Heathens
Songwriter Ben Danaher
Max Stalling
Songwriter Kendell Marvel officially closed out Mile 0 Fest 2024 on the Smokin’ Tuna stage.
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