Gruene Hall

September 2016: I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the past few years, and find that I’m drawn to places that are a little off the beaten path. In most cases, unless you’re a local, you pass by them on the road without a glance.

Case in point: Texas’ Gruene Hall, where I saw Charlie Robison play the second night of his annual weekend Labor Day bash with opener Strangetowne. It had been some time since I had been to Gruene Hall, located near New Braunfels in the Hill Country, and I wanted to showcase this unique Central Texas institution.

Built in 1878, the 8,000-square-foot dance hall was designed to give tenant farmers a way to socialize on the weekends. George Strait got his start there, playing once a month while beginning his career, and the hall has hosted a who’s who of Texas artists, including Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and Jerry Jeff Walker. Robison is a regular, as is his brother, Bruce, and they occasionally play as a trio with Jack Ingram.

Gruene Hall bills itself as the oldest dance hall still operating in Texas, a claim disputed by some, and its charm comes from how little about it has changed. It has a high-pitched tent roof with a bar in front and a small lighted stage in the back. Signs from the 1930s and ‘40s still surround the stage and hang in the hall, which has side flaps that are used for open air dancing.

This photos in this album were taken in real-time, so you can see how the evening started slowly and progressively got more full once Robison took the stage. If you ever get the chance to go to Gruene Hall, don't hesitate. It’s a piece of history you won’t soon forget.

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