The Rise of the Music Micro Festival

February 4, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  45 Comments

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!

45 Comments to “The Rise of the Music Micro Festival”

  • It’s crazy what initiative and generosity can build !

  • Just adding here……Weber’s Deck 2012 season will begin Sunday, July 8th, and run EVERY Sunday from 1pm-5pm through Labor Day weekend. That’s right folks- 9 straight Sunday’s of the finest music to be heard on this planet!!

  • i had not heard of the is type of instrument before. though an acquaintance of mine does make banjos out of cans. or canjos as it were. they sound very nice. any rate, loved the video. good stuff. thanks.

  • Chris Johnson, the original Deep Blues Festival founder is also hosting a fest at Bayport BBQ in Minnesota.



    • Looks like that is going down June 29th to July 1st in the Twin Cities. I’d probably consider that more a full blown festival, but a cool one nonetheless. Can’t wait to see more info on this, and I’m sure I’ll be talking to Chris and/or some of the other folks involved as it gets closer.

      • …and also, just to let you all know, Deep Blues Festival – Cleveland is also happening on Sept 22, and maybe a pre party on Sept 21, details to follow.

        I love the idea of people hosting micro festivals all over the country as it is very beneficial for the musicians who make a living town to town in their van. It gives them an opportunity to play to more people than in a regular club setting and also the chance to interact with near every person who goes to the festival.

        • Jim, hit me up if you travel through Memphis again. We may have a better venue this time around. ;-)

          • Will do Chad!

        • 10 years ago, could we even have conceptualized the idea of a fan or a band getting into a plane and flying across the country to participate in a music event at someone’s house? And I bet this is going on not just in blues and country music, but in hip-hop, indie rock, all of it.

  • I love how there is a fighting chance for “Do-It-Yourself” music fans/promoters. Seems to me like we’ve taken the power back from the mega companies that influence mainstream culture by hosting mega events. We can’t get always get what we want so we have taken in our own hands. Much respect to all the others out there putting their own working class necks on the line to wrangle in the bands to your regions. The whole world is watching and it truly helps the bands with publicity both locally and internationally.

    • One of the most interesting things about this who dynamic is the local / international connection. Local music scenes have virtually dried up in many places from lack of support. Yet that support has now manifested itself online with an international scope. A micro-festival for example, takes that international support, and refocuses it on a local level. Like Casey Weber has talked about, Weber’s Deck has created a little financial and cultural boom for his little community of French Lake. BJ is throwing his micro fest because he wants to bring talent to his region that is underserved.

      Back in the 30′s people used to listen to music in their homes, on the front porch with local pickers, or huddled around a phonograph or radio. The micro festival re-creates that dynamic, and brings family and community back into the music structure.

      Can you tell yet how much of a music nerd I am? ;)

      • I started up in this whole scene in about 2006 when I booked and played on shows with Black Diamond Heavies and Sugar Farm/Gravelroad. We just connected on MySpace and DIY’d it from there.

        One thing these festivals have done is help take the randomness out of booking these kinds of shows. With my wife working and baby girls at home, I’ve had to stay booked locally and haven’t been able to travel much. For the past few years I’ve been able to stay connected by hosting bands traveling to and from DBF and Muddy Roots.

        In the past, some of the bands I’ve tried to help out were just not road-ready. They weren’t bad musically but didn’t understand how to conduct themselves on the road in the DIY situation. (This ain’t the Holiday Inn fool) Over the years, the festivals have offered a kind of ‘seal of approval’. If I don’t know the band personally, someone in the community does. It truly has become a COMMUNITY. In my case it’s good for the FAMILY too because if I do the homework, the road comes through here.

  • Thank you Triggerman for the article. This whole idea was to have a few bands play in the backyard, it has snowballed into it’s own monster. Not a week goes by that I don’t get at least 3 bands or musicians asking me if they can play. I believe people are thirsty for this kind of thing. Little outposts of music community all over the country. I can’t believe how well this has been received in my area and across the country. And to tell you the truth I am a little scared by it and yet excited.

    • I think the reason it has snowballed is because the idea of the “micro festival” has really touched a nerve with artists and fans, and that is why I framed this discussion like I did. I think it is important for us all to take a step back from our individual music worlds and ask why this phenomenon is happening, and learn how the music can benefit from it.

      • I think, natural human response when things are not working is to go bigger. You see it every where, even in government. Instead of going to the grassroots, they try to make some unstoppable Juggernaut that is almost uncontrollable. With this kind of homespun movement, it is easier to control what happens and, in the case of my house, invite people that are unable to see this music in bars, for one reason or another.

        • I’m just in it for the chicks.

          • Yeah, all 2 or 3 of them? Oh wait, there are more, they just never get any cred. ;)

  • Are you mad at me or something Trig? You mentioned my name multiple times and not once was “Ginger” included as part of it?

    • A little birdie told me maybe you are not so fond of that nickname, so I though I’d avoid it. ;)

      • Right on. I’ve grown to accept it and embrace it. I’m currently in an old fashioned Ginger Beard Off with Matt of The Scissormen. We’ll see whose is longer come August 4th.

        For anyone interested in the DBF NW, more info will be coming near the end of March. I’m sure anyone who is interested in attending knows how to reach me (courier pigeons, duh).

        • I’ve got the best box of hair dye for Patrick’s beard…he’s gonna SLAY you guys…

          • He’ll be in his own category if you dye it. Artificial Ginger Beard.

  • I wish I could attend all of these and all the big ones too, but I am so happy to be able to go to Christy Fest. As a fan, it’s the best of both worlds. I’ll get the chance to hang out with my Muddy Roots friends, and I’ll get to sit in a lawn chair (barbeque in hand), listening to some of the best musicians today play right in front of me. It’s a gazillion times better than anything Music Row has to offer.

  • the minnesota roots scene is illin.
    Weber’s Deck,Bayport BBQ,Prairie Home Companion at the Fitgerald Theatre,Duluth…

  • I really like the idea of micro-fests….I do my best to support them! Shameless self promotion alert….On Saturday, June 2nd here in Richmond Va we’ll be having the 3rd Night Of HonkyTonk Angels show benefiting the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. The show features female fronted or all female roots music with 100% of the ticket sales going directly to the Virginia Breast Cancer foundation. In the past we’ve featured bands like Kelley & The Cowboys out of Mt Airy NC, Crazy Rocket Fuel from Milwaukee, Gina Dalmas & The Cow-Tipping Playboys from Norfolk, The Ones To Blame from Gainesville Fla and more…this year we have booked Skye Paige and the Original Recipe from Charleston SC and Andy Vaughan’s “Sister” (Andy Vaughan & The Driveline) may bring “her” band out again!

    This really all just started because nothing like this was going on in the Richmond area and we wanted to do something a bit different than some of the other fests that were happening…and it’s for a good cause!

    • I’d try to make it but I’m WAY out of richmond. Kelley is one hot cookie!

      • I spoke w/Kelley a month ago, sadly they have a standing event the first weekend in June so they won’t be playing this year….They have a standing invite here in the RVA so they might head this direction at some point this year

        • Date and tentative line up for Night Of Honky Tonk Angels III, Benefiting the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation

          Sat., June 2nd 2012 at The Canal Club in Richmond Va.
          Doors Open @ 6:00p

          Scheduled to appear

          Tammi Kammin Band
          Gina Damas & The Cow-Tipping Playboys
          Molly Conley (formerly of Porter Hall TN)
          The Ones To Blame
          Skye Paige & The Original Recipe

          check the facebook page or blog for updates, etc


  • my grandfather used to have bluegrass parties at his house…four or five bands, everybody sitting in with one another…all day long into the night…i used to run around with my cousins soaking it all up without realizing it…there was never any seperation from performers and audience…just lots of people congregating for good food and good music…lots of alcohol and laughin….in my opinion, a hundred times better than any concert…..more.tribal than tribute. …i plan to enjoy christyfest a hell of a lot…especially when Im kicking BJ’s ass in horseshoes.

    • Not going to happen Olds

  • get in the pit motherf*ckers….horseshoe pit that is….

  • We do these kinds of things all the time, but they have to be private, or everyone will end up in jail. Cops don’t like people having a good time. Less cops, more music.

  • I love all y’all. I’ll come to any and all of these festivals I can afford. THIS is what music is about. I’d far rather spend my cash traveling to micro fests/mini fests (Muddy Roots) than to attend a big blow out show at an arena – ever. I only wish I had enough galvanized support here to do the same. Bravo!

    • I wouldn’t call Muddy Roots a mini fest. I would call it a full blown festival, and I think Muddy Roots and other full scale festivals still fulfill a very important part of a healthy and vibrant music world, and I don’t think the emergence of micro-festivals if that happened in force would have much effect on that. Micro-festivals are about hyper serving a small sect, festivals bridge those sects together. Mono festivals bridge all music together.

  • Keep us up to date on the Lowebow dvd, I’ll buy one when it goes for sale online.

  • Nice article. The NW DBF is going to kick ass!

    • You know it!!!

  • The Triggerman February 4, 2012 at 11:18 am
    10 years ago, could we even have conceptualized the idea of a fan or a band getting into a plane and flying across the country to participate in a music event at someone’s house? And I bet this is going on not just in blues and country music, but in hip-hop, indie rock, all of it.

    Can you do a piece on this? Like research it and see if the house show is on the uprise? I’m curious about this across genres…

    • That sounds like work.

      The house show is definitely on the rise and has been for years, and I think if I posted about that, it would come across as redundant. The trend I noticed when I saw BJ and Nick planning their “micro festivals” was this was a new approach to the house concert, with a greater scope. That is what I think is new, and I do think it is crossing genre. We’ll see where this concept goes, and I might talk about it more in the future. Time, as always, is an element.

  • It’s gonna be a big year! Especially if I can make half of the things I want. Can’t wait for my annual pilgrimage to Weber’s Deck, the NW DBF, and all the rest!


    Pump House Concerts has held two of these yearly music festivals, with the 3rd planned for June 2nd, 2012.

    It’s a one day event, four bands, in a public park (near our city owned venue, The Pump House, where we host monthly concerts – basically house concerts, except it isn’t anyone’s house, and I live across the street and traveling musicians spend the night with us)

    We ask a $10 donation (kids free, and nobody is turned away).

    We have a playground, facepainting, food vendors – a family atmosphere but we do rock.

    We focus on the alt-country end of the Americana spectrum. Past performers include Phil Lee, Sonia Leigh, Levi Lowrey, Jill Jack, Annie and Rod Capps, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys.

    This summer we have signed Tommy Womack and the Rush To Judgement (Tommy’s new band) to headline.

    Come one, come all!! (and go like our Facebook page):


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