Let the festival begin!
HUNTINGTON — Marshall University graduate and local music promoter, Ian Thornton, started the Huntington Music and Arts Festival nine years ago to shine a bit of Ritter Park daylight on the popular club bands he had once booked in the nowgone near-campus club, Shamrock’s Pub.
In its first year, HMAF rolled out a 15-band all-you-could rock buffet of the region’s best rockers (like Qiet, Pillow Talk, Deadbeats and Barkers, Fletcher’s Grove, The Demon Beat and American Minor), all brought to the stage by emcee Jack Browning III in a lavish Ron Burgundy-level brown leisure suit.
In one day, which included a V Club after party, HMAF has grown into a dozen events spread over Monday, Aug. 27 through Sunday, Sept. 2. The pinnacle event is still settling into Ritter Park’s Amphitheater where the main HMAF Festival is preparing to rock Ritter from noon to 10 p.m. Set to sound off are 25 acts from all over the region ranging from Lexington and Cincinnati to Huntington, Charleston and Nashville.
Most of the events are free, or charge only a nominal fee, and open to the public. The main festival, which also features a local arts and crafts area, local food trucks, a beer tent, art stations and more, is a ticketed event. Tickets will go on sale Monday, Aug. 6 through Eventbrite for $17 advance or $20 day of the event.
Thornton, who talked by phone while at Lollapalooza this week with one of his Whizzbang BAM artists, Tyler Childers and the Foodstamps, sold out the fest last year. He said unlike the first year when there were not so many regional bands and original singer/songwriters making waves, the explosion of the scenes in Huntington and in surrounding cities such as Lexington have made it both easier, and then tougher in some ways.
“I think it’s important to stay as eclectic as possible,” Thornton said. “Most people are like me and like more than one style of music and there’s a lot of different people out there doing a lot of different stuff rock and soul and blues, country and indie. I feel like good music is good music no matter how you slice it.”
While last year’s headline consisted of Childers, who was fresh off of releasing his Sturgill Simpson-produced debut album, “Purgatory,” Thornton decided to dial up some of slamming power pop and punk of Rozwell Kid for this year’s closer.
Although its their first time closing the fest, Rozwell Kid, which is based out of Martinsburg, West Virginia, played the fest in 2013, and Jordan Hudkins and Adam Meisterhans played as The Demon Beat, their equally raucous three-piece unit with Tucker Riggleman.
Thornton said it’s been tough to narrow down the lineup since there are so many good acts out their honing their music and out touring in the region. He’s relied on a big helping hand from Keebie Gilkerson, who is part of his Whizzbang BAM (Booking and Management) team to help contact artists and finalize the lineup.
“That has proven to be one of the difficulties is that I am friends with a lot of people and I try to stay as involved as I can but it is becoming harder recently as I’ve been on the road more,” Thornton said. “When we are curating the festival, we try to keep it where we do not repeat too much, and we’re looking at bands that have a new record out and are trying to aim for that, or if they are new to the scene. We have a couple of bands from Lexington (Johnny Conqueroo and Magnolia Boulevard) that are great and that haven’t played it. It is really difficult though. I would love to put on every single band that we like.”
Here’s a first look at the band’s and solo artists that will be playing the 9th annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival at Ritter Park Amphitheater at noon Saturday, Sept. 1:
12:30 p.m. Maggie; 12:55 p.m. Zach McGlone; 1:05 p.m. Flat Tracker; 1:30 p.m. Karis Blanton; 1:40 p.m. Ducain; 2:05 p.m. Aaron Boyd; 2:15 p.m. Magnolia Boulevard; 2:40 p.m. Will Jones; 2:50 p.m. Johnny Conqueroo; 3:15-3:25 p.m. Chloe Edmonstone; 3:25 Short & Company; 3:55 p.m. Patrick Stanley; 4:05 p.m. Dividends; 4:35 p.m. Chelsea Nolan; 4:45 p.m. John R Miller and The Engine Lights; 5:15 p.m. Josh Nolan; 5:25 p.m. Bendigo Fletcher; 5:55 p.m. John Clay; 6:05-6:35 p.m. Qiet; 6:35 p.m. Casey Campbell; 6:45 p.m. William Matheny & The Strange Constellations; 7:25 p.m. Justin Wells; 7:45 p.m. Ona; 8:25 p.m. Arlo McKinley; and 8:50 p.m. (70 minutes) Rozwell Kid.
Thornton said he had hoped Childers, who played the past eight years (since year two) could have played but that he and the band will be in Europe that week.
The absence of The Foodstamps (James Barker, Rod Elkins and Craig Burletic) and known in a former musical-life as Deadbeats and Barkers, breaks Elkins and Burletic’s streak of being the only two musicians to have played every single HMAF.
“We’re still trying to figure out if we can Skype them in,” Thornton said with a laugh.
Thornton said he thinks the lineup is super solid throughout with Huntington’s own Ona, who’ve twice been featured on Mountain Stage, back after not being at HMAF last year.
Also, after a stand-out performance last year Qiet, which played the very first HMAF, is back by popular demand.
“We’re excited that Ona and Qiet are back and John R (Miller) with his first band, and we’re super excited for people to hear a couple great Lexington bands Magnolia Boulevard and Johnny Conqueroo,” Thornton said. “Right out of the gates we’ve got good acts. Maggie is a brand new band from Gallipolis and we like to keep it fresh and fun and flow is important. They are newer to the scene and are quite good and is also helps that they have something they are promoting. So we have a lot of bands that are not necessarily just hot but that are out there working.”
Go online at https://www.facebook.com/HMAFestival to see the full lineup and to check out all of the events.
Read more about all of the daily events in next week’s Herald-Dispatch.