The Rise of the Music Micro Festival

As the new music reality continues to take shape, where one big mono genre serves the masses and micro genres crop up to serve the rest, the shape of the way live music is delivered to people is adapting as well. Huge festivals, or “mono festivals” like Bonnaroo mix all music genres to appeal to a many large demographics as possible. Meanwhile house concerts have gone from a kitschy trend to a legitimate way for artists to connect with attentive fans, and fans to enjoy music without succumbing to the rigors of bar or big festival life. Last year I highlighted Weber’s Deck in Minnesota, where the house concert concept is taken to its extreme to become a construct of community. For the upcoming festival season of 2012, a new trend is emerging: the micro festival.

Similar to a house concert but with a much greater scope, the micro festival usually serves a very specific slice of the greater music pie, and like a house concert, is thrown either at people’s houses or on their private property (but not always), but unlike a house concert, includes many more bands, and many more fans, some of which will drive and even fly from out of state to attend an event that in total may have less than 100 patrons. The micro festival is about micro service to a music community forged online and oriented on very focused musical tastes.

Johnny Lowebow, creator of the Lowebow Cigar Box Guitar, and namesake of "Lowebow Fest"

A great example of the micro festival is Lowebow Fest, thrown by Nick Reddit of Cracker Swamp Productions in Orlando FL. March 9th & 10th 2012 will be the second year for the event that focuses strictly on artists that play Cigar Box Guitars, and a specific type of cigar box guitar crafted by performer and luthier Johnny Lowebow. This year will include a performer flying all the way from Finland for the event.

Nick Lindsay of No Brow Productions, a video production specialist from Seattle flew all the way to Orlando to attend the inaugural Lowebow Fest in 2011 and created a DVD of the event that will be sold at the festival and online this year. Nick is also launching his own micro festival in 2012, called the Deep Blues Festival Northwest, an extension of long-running Deep Blues Festival. It will take place this August 4th on a few acres his family owns in Orting, WA.

Nick Lindsay, Videographer, Deep Blues Enthusiast

“The main reason I decided to do this is that I’m selfish and decided that nobody else is going to put on a party like this for me so I’m going to put up my money and time and make it happen,” explains Nick. “Over the last few years I’ve become a big fan of the Deep Blues music movement. This movement consists mostly of bands who have been heavily influenced by the North Mississippi Hill Country artists as well as the Fat Possum record label which helped (somewhat) popularize a lot of these great, old blues artists while they were still alive.”

Another common theme of the micro festival is since they are thrown out of love of the music instead of as a commercial enterprise, there is usually no admission fee. The performers are compensated by donations from the devout and rabid fan base a micro festival attracts.

“This will be a free event with donations accepted. It is going to be a one-day, overnight party and celebration of all the great NW blues-based bands and some from other parts of the country, for all of the fans out here that love this music.

One Deep Blues Fest Northwest performer, The Ten Foot Polecats, is making the trek all the way from Boston for the event.

Really this whole event will be more of a party than a festival.” Nick continues. “I don’t anticipate a big crowd but rather a solid group of friends. However everyone is welcome to attend.”

Another example of the micro festival is Christyfest, being thrown by B.J. and Nicole Christy in their backyard in Shippensburg, PA on May 12th. Music fans as far away as New York and Illinois are planning to attend.

“The reason I am doing this is because there is no where touring bands can play around here,” says B.J. Christy. “Only one bar will book these kinds of bands, and even they are spotty at times. And to tell you the truth I am inspired by Casey Weber (of Weber’s Deck), and believe I can copy that working formula here in the hills of PA. I want an all-donation, laid back environment where bands can come hang out get some good food and a place to stay. And in turn we can all hear good music; something that is lacking in this area. If there is no movement, start one.”

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Lowebow FestMarch 9th & 10th, at SIP in Orlando, FL.

Performers: Johnny Lowebow, Purgatory Hill, Hymn for Her, Jukka Juhola (Black River Bluesman, from Finland), more, & release of 2011 Lowebow Fest DVD.

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Deep Blues Festival NorthwestAugust 4th, 2012 12 PM- 8 PM , at Lindsay’s Landing in Ortega, WA

Performers: GravelRoad, Scissormen, Ten Foot Polecats, Last Watch, McDougall, Lonesome Shack

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ChristyfestMay 12th, 2012, Shippensburg, PA

Performers: Olds Sleeper, Sean K Preston, Husky Burnette, Danny Kay and the Nightlifers, and The Ten Foot Polecats, Robert “Fireball” Mitchell

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Weber’s Deck 2012 Season will begin Sunday, July 8th, and run EVERY Sunday from 1pm-5pm through Labor Day weekend in French Lake, MN.

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Are you throwing or attending a micro music festival in 2012? Leave the info below!