August 28, 2008

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64 bands on eight stages
Keene Music Festival ends the summer with a big bash
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

The Keene Music Festival is not your run-of-the-mill summer music fest, and it likes it that way.

Beginning in May, the Keene Music Festival has featured live music from New England bands and performers every Friday and Saturday night in downtown Keene, all leading up to the principal day-long event that will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Main St. in Keene.

It’s an unusual style that festival organizer Kevin Dremel was inspired to try after a vacation to France.

“Initially the festival started off as purely a one-day event, but when I was in Paris, I kept hearing music at night, and discovered these local performers playing on the steps of one of the cathedrals every night for tips. All of this was supported through the town, and each of the performers had to sign up to play.”

Now in its’ eighth year, this year’s festival will feature 64 performers on eight stages, playing blues, rock, folk and more. Organized by The Keene Music Festival Team and the Keene Downtown Group seeking to not only spotlight music in the Keene area, but also to nurture similar kinds of music festivals across the state, the festival is free to all.

“It’s really a celebration of musicians and the community,” Dremel said. “This is a way for the town of Keene to not only promote itself as a place to come and visit, but also a place for the community to come and listen to live music and for local musicians to come and play.”

It’s a sentiment that the festival’s performers echo. Boston area band Shadwell will be performing at the event, and vocalist-guitarist Aaron Shadwell is anticipating the possibilities.

“This is our first time playing a musical festival and it’s pretty exciting,” Shadwell said. “What free festivals do for the community is a beautiful thing. It’s almost always about the people — you have the opportunity to meet other bands and performers and to make new fans.”

Oragnizers seeks to keep this a free day of entertainment, which means that they rely on donations and help from volunteers to keep it going each year.

“We do this with such a small budget, it boggles the mind,” Dremel said.

Even the many performers have donated their time and talents to the festival free of charge.

“Bands rarely play festivals like these for the money,” Shadwell said. “It’s really about casting a much wider net, as opposed to playing one night in a club. At a festival, you get the chance to entice a fan that maybe doesn’t come to clubs. If they see you play at a festival, they may be more willing to get out to a club to see you later on.”

Though they won’t get a paycheck, the performers won’t walk away from this festival completely empty-handed.“All the performers get a free meal,” Dremel said.


Keene Music Festival
Where: Main Street, Keene.
When: Saturday, Aug. 30, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Info: www.keenemusicfestival.com

Performers to look for
Dozens of performers will play at the Keene Music Festival Here are a few of the groups to look for.
• 2 p.m. My Migrant Soul: Alternative and folk rock from Tilton. www.mymigrantsoul.com
• 4:15 p.m. Black Bear Moon: 8-person ensemble performing traditional West African rhythms and songs. www.blackbearmoon.com
• 5 p.m. Jatoba: Acoustic guitar-driven folk and rock trio. www.jatobamuisc.com
• 6:15 p.m. Shadwell: Boston 5-piece band specializing in contemporary, melodic modern rock. www.shadwellsong.com
• 6:45 p.m. Dusty Gray & The Know: Soulful roots, blues and folk from Concord. www.myspace.com/dustygraymusic
• 7:30 p.m. The Flashing Reds: Boston/Providence band playing a mix of folk, Americana and rock. www.myspace.com/theflashingreds.