“Have you ever watched a peaceful chest
Rise and fall as you got dressed
Unsure if you could catch your breath
Unsure if you’re that strong

Relax, let it go
Roll with the flow, you’re
Gonna get over it, be
Fine in the end
Give up all your ghosts
At least the ones you love the most
They’re never holding you as close
As you are holding them”

— Rebecca Loebe, “Ghosts”

In June of 2014, I hosted my first concert. My friend John was coming through town and the one songwriter-friendly venue was already booked, so I offered up my backyard. He played unplugged on the lawn while people stirred beneath the motion-detection floodlight to keep a spot on him. It was totally rustic and utterly magical and without even realizing it, I was hooked. I wanted to keep having that experience and sharing it with other people.

When I started consciously booking artists instead of just saying yes to folks coming through town, the first one I reached out to was a friend of John’s. I’d heard Rebecca Loebe’s name come up among him and his Austin circle and I was thoroughly enamored with her deadly combination of crystalline voice and razor-sharp lyrics, all packaged up behind the warmest smile I’d ever seen. Her first Folk All Y’all show was in September of 2015 and she brought her band, Nobody’s Girl, by for a visit last April. As we celebrated our fifth anniversary, it felt fitting to honor a series created to help out a friend by featuring an artist whom I’ve been lucky to add as a friend during the last five years.

The release of Becca’s brand-new album, Give Up Your Ghosts, was also an appropriate thematic focal point for the evening. She played nine of its eleven tracks, telling a clear story of the record’s vision and intent (at least as I interpret it): nostalgia is fun and memories are powerful, but it’s time to let go of anything holding us back from who we’re supposed to be.

(Sidenote: I’d venture a guess that this was the first time Becca performed “Tattoo” in a venue under the same roof as a tattoo studio. I couldn’t help running my hand over the updated version of my piece inked in that very space and think about how its meaning has evolved over time.)

Of course, living in the present moment has its own challenges, too. “Growing Up” is a clear-eyed look at the ways women are still required to bounce back from what the world throws at them “a hundred times before lunch.” Having watched Becca be the badass CEO of her own personal corporation over the last five years, I know she’s all too familiar with the topic.

Friends help, though. Becca played “Cannonball,” dedicated to its co-writer Ashley McBryde, the recent winner of ACM’s New Female Artist of the Year award. “New” is of course a funny term, since Ashley has been burning through asphalt for years, and it was with genuine joy that Becca celebrated her pal’s hard-earned visibility. There was also an old mutual friend in the crowd, supporting us both on this milestone night and jumping into the standing ovation that got us a haunting acoustic encore of “Come As You Are.” Fittingly, we closed our anniversary show and a chapter in the series with “Memoria, memoria” filling the air.

Five years, y’all. Five years. It’s not a long time in the grand scheme of things but off-stage it’s been one of the most tumultuous, amazing, heart-breaking, and triumphant periods of my life. And every bit of it has been punctuated by one-of-a-kind performances that somehow were exactly perfect for that moment. Some of our artists I’d loved for decades and some I just met two hours before, but every single one has been gracious and grateful for the chance to be heard in a city where music matters so much. I’m so thankful they trusted us to make it happen.

And most importantly, I’m thankful to everyone who has come along for this journey – every guest, patron, sponsor, and chair-folder. I started this series because I wanted these exceptional artists to have the audiences they deserved, and you’ve been exactly that. There’s truly no folk without all y’all.

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