Keene Music Festival’s veteran volunteers once again promise a varied and solid lineup of live music for the 19th annual event.
This year’s festival, happening this Saturday, Aug. 31, will feature 10 hours of music from more than 60 artists from the region and beyond on eight stages in downtown Keene.
A core group of about a half-dozen volunteers (and the same number the day of the event) has built the Keene Music Festival over the past nearly two decades, watching it grow and evolve – and become a sustainable event that continues to bring free original music to downtown Keene every summer.
The nonprofit organization’s event has been reduced in size from the biggest year three years ago, which featured 80 musicians on 12 stages. Last year, longtime organizer Kevin Dremel passed the baton to the next generation of leadership.
Volunteers felt smaller is better and decided to keep the pared-down yet more in-depth feel of the event. Artists now have more time on-stage with longer time slots than in past years. In past years, volunteers have listed the event on such sites as Sonic Bids and Reverb Nation for submissions, and there have been as many as 3,000. This year, the event was advertised 100 percent on Facebook, which brought bands mostly from the tri-state area.
Volunteers coordinate the lineup of musicians, each taking on a different stage or two. Local and returning artists take precedence.
Longtime festival volunteer Pablo Fleischmann said the City Tire and Lamson Street stages always are the place for metal, punk and hard rock. The stage in the Miller Bros.-Newton alley is for smaller groups and the Toadstool Bookshop stage (set up for the second year) consists of singer-songwriters, with eight scheduled to perform this year.
“All the other stages are somewhat of a funky mix that runs the gamut (of performers),” said Fleischmann.
Fleischmann is excited to see the return to the festival (after several years) of T.I.P., a high-energy, five-piece band based in Amherst, Mass. The band was formed at Keene State College in the late 1990s.
T.I.P.’s sound is a mixture of rock with ska, punk and metal references, according to the band’s Facebook page. Its influences range from The Cars and Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the arena rock sounds of Aerosmith and Bruce Springsteen. For many years, the band was booked at colleges around the Northeast.
Another band born in Keene that had taken a hiatus from playing the festival, heavy rockers Kennedy Drive, will take the Lamson Street stage.
This year’s artists span such genres as rock, folk, bluegrass, punk, metal, indie and so many more. Many of the musicians have performed at the festival for several years, and every year there are new faces on-stage. This year there are several brand-new artists to the festival. Among them are Gardner, Mass.-based hard alternative rock quartet, Young Other, which just released an EP this month.
Western Mass. indie folk/rock duo New Domestics will play the Miller Bros.-Newton stage with Michelle Cummings Kostek on guitar/vocals and her husband, Ed Kostek, on mandolin/vocals. They list their musical influences as spanning from Radiohead to Nickle Creek.
Another duo playing this year’s festival is returning Bennington, Vt., surf-grunge band Immune Friction (on the Monadnock Food Co-op stage).
Another first-time appearance is the Side By Side Ukulele Ukesters (also on the Co-op stage), a group of nine women who play the ukulele at Brattleboro homes for seniors. They play music from the 1920s to 1970s.
Among veteran Keene Music Festival performers returning this year are regulars Zombie Beatdown and Lobotomobile, along with Boston area “rock pirates” Jonee’s Earthquake playing a mix of surf/rockabilly/country punk/garage rock. The Lamson Street stage will see the return of Boston indie rockers, Aqua Hamster, along with festival stalwart, Hemlock.
These artists are only a fraction of the variety of music visitors will hear during the event.
“What happens at the Keene Music Festival is people of all ages are downtown all day, all of them trying not to miss a band they might fall in love with,” said Fleischmann.
The 19th annual Keene Music Festival happens this Saturday, Aug. 31, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., in downtown Keene. The event is free. For more information and a stage schedule, visit Keene Music Festival on Facebook.