Day For Night organizer Omar Afra doesn’t just want to entertain Houstonians one weekend a year. On Thursday, Afra and partner Chris Wise announced a new event that will combine two Texas favorites: live music and barbecue.
Dubbed The Great Texas BBQ Festival, the event will celebrate the best of Texas barbecue, music, and craft beer on April 21 and 22 at downtown’s Sam Houston Park. Tickets (general admission $35, VIP $105) are on sale now.
Headliners for the concert portion include Robert Earl Keen, Dawes, Morris Day and the Time, Lucero, Nikki Lane, and the first Houston performance of 2018 by local stars The Suffers. Other performers include Lee Fields and the Expressions, Wanda Jackson, Brownout, Junior Brown, Futurebirds, Ida Mae, Rich O’Toole, and more.
Afra tells CultureMap that he and Wise have been kicking around the idea for the festival for the last year or so. While Day For Night has been highly successful, not all acts work for its spirit. The Great Texas BBQ Festival provides the organizers with an opportunity to showcase different artists that they’re also enthusiastic about.
“Over the last year as this idea developed, we wanted to do a Suffers show. Morris Day and the Time is something I did in 2012. Chris has since turned me on to Nikki Lane, which is a great act,” Afra says. “These are things that have slowly coalesced into this lineup. It’s less of a calculated let’s do this thing and more you slowly collect the ingredients and make a soup.”
Before the first Day For Night he struggled to explain to ticket buyers how much they were likely to enjoy the festival’s computational and light art displays. In contrast, Afra thinks that explaining the appeal of The Great Texas BBQ Festival should be considerably easier.
“It’s barbecue, you fucking love it. We’re not trying to convince people, ‘ok, look, you’re going to love new media...you don’t know what it is, but it’s great.’” Afra says this time his approach is essentially, “It’s Texas. You’re probably going to have barbecue anyways. Come on down.”
Unlike other barbecue events that are focused on restaurants, the festival is inviting 20 of the state’s top cook-off teams to compete for a $20,000 cash prize — some of whom will be selling to the public. The barbecue lineup will be announced next week, but Afra did share some of the principles they used to select the competitors.
“We wanted to create a space that both highlighted Houston and the region’s barbecue talent but at the same time was open to teams throughout the state,” Afra says. “The focus for our event is...more about teams, traditions, and families. We’re talking about a millennia of data and heritage passed down as to how they approach barbecue.”