Marfa, Texas, isn’t a typical location for a music festival. The population of the tiny town, which sits high on a Chihuahuan Desert plateau, hovers around 2,000. If you were to host a Coachella-size event there, for example, it would absolutely overtake all resources. And it’s not exactly easy to get to, either: it’s a three-hour drive from the nearest airport in El Paso. But Marfa Myths, which has brought more and more people to Marfa for a weekend since its inception in 2014, isn’t your average event. There are only about 1,000 attendees and one show happening at a time, meaning you won’t miss anything for the sake of something else. And how many other festivals can boast a woodworker-in-residence, host a dance party at a campsite, or even provide tours of The Chinati Foundation, the contemporary art museum that Donald Judd founded? None, and that’s precisely part of Marfa Myths’s charm.
Each year, the Brooklyn-based label Mexican Summer makes the trek down to West Texas in collaboration with Ballroom Marfa, the non-profit and cultural arts space best known for the permanent land-art project Prada Marfa, which you’ll likely pass on the highway on your way into town. Many Texas natives perform: this year included psychedelic rock band Khruangbin, country singer Jess Williamson, jazz experimentalist Jon Bap, and Houston’s OG Ron C and the Chopstars, who just released a chopped-and-screwed version of Solange’s When I Get Home. As for the rest of the lineup, Marfa Myths delivered on booking some truly rare acts. Outsider artist The Space Lady, who has gained cult status since her days busking on the streets of San Francisco in the 1980s with her signature blinking-and-winged helmet, performed as well as composer and multi-instrumentalist Annette Peacock and writer and post-punk musician Vivien Goldman (who was Bob Marley’s first U.K. publicist), to name a few.
Given the mystical, cacti-filled setting and the truly out-there lineup, it comes as no real surprise that the fashion at the festival was a bit freaky (in a good way). Mexican Summer graphic designer Bailey Elder wore pale-pink jeans that she hand-dyed and painted herself in a spontaneous moment of boredom during a solo camping trip in Ojai, California, and artist Sandra Harper wore a handmade set that she commissioned from a tailor on the streets of Kerala in southern India. Many others took the occasion to bust out their Online Ceramics T-shirts (and there were plenty of Grateful Dead T-shirts too, naturally). In a festival landscape that’s become homogenous to the point of banality, in terms of both lineups and style, Marfa Myths still manages to surprise on both fronts.
Here, meet a few of the weekend’s standouts.