Aiken Music Fest is quickly turning into the best all ages Saturday night party in Aiken! Regardless of how hot it is, there is always a pleasant breeze blowing through the Highfields Event Center pavilion on Gaston Road. You are likely to encounter horses, dogs, food trucks, beer tents, massage tents, contests, and a diverse mix of people kicked back in lawn chairs or bleachers. However, the quality of the music is what makes Aiken Music Fest the place to be once a month!
Southeast touring bands have been bringing their original music to Aiken Music Fest and every show so far has been awesome. Atlas Road Crew, Travelin’ Kine, Dead 27s, The Trongone Band, Seth Walker, and Cranford Hollow put on some amazing shows last year in between dates in Charleston, Asheville, Richmond, Charlotte, Greenville, and other much larger music towns. Similar lineups have been booked for this year. See and hear all about this year’s performers at AikenMusicFest.Com!
Aiken Music Fest is a homegrown local event that grew out of an #Aiken4Music collaboration initiated in the OneAiken.Com Collaboration Room. A lot of area musicians, venue owners, and music lovers participated in small group discussions and came up with some plans to work together to grow the live music scene in Aiken. One of the biggest issues is a lack of music oriented venues. All of our venues are restaurant or bar businesses that were not officially designed for music. Most of the bands take over after the restaurant crowd is gone – late!
Rick Cram, equestrian business owner of Progressive Show Jumping and Highfields Event Center, had put on a couple Aiken Music Fests with local musicians in previous years. He mentioned that he wanted to use the new 50 x 100 foot Highfields pavilion he had just built to provide entertainment for horse show attendees after the weekend’s events.
Word got around and Katy Lipscomb and John Howard, #Aiken4Music organizers, hooked up with Rick at an outside Alley table one afternoon to share ideas. Instant karma! Grateful hearts! Ideas feeding ideas! Wow… it might work!
Rick had just taken his family to hear a bad Neil Diamond impersonator at a crowded food truck party in Wellington the weekend before. Food trucks had just been approved in Aiken. They knew we could throw a much better party in Aiken with good music, good food, and good beer! Plans started shaking out.
John Howard brings his experience booking bands, in his role as Vice President of the Macon-based Georgia Allman Brothers Band Association (GABBA), to the team. (Once a year GABBA holds a weekend festival in Macon with two headliners, artists at large, after parties, and jam sessions at the Allman Brothers Big House Museum. It is a fabulous time at $50 for the weekend events if you love blues rock – more details here.) He added his two cents about how he would like to see if they could bring in some regional bands, during an earlier time slot, to build some demand for more music venues in Aiken.
Katy is a music lover and idea person and instigator of #Aiken4Music. She helped gather local musicians as warm up acts for the headliners. She and Highfields employee, Tamara Key, scoured the internet for albums and videos of full time working musicians who were touring to put together the first season. They burned the midnight oil – sharing music and commenting until they found the “perfect” bands – basking in their task of finding bands they wanted to hear! They started making calls, got hooked up with a few band managers that are handling some Rock and Americana touring musicians and started filling in the dates based on band availability. They operated by the seat of their pants but pulled it together!
Brad Williams’ name kept surfacing as the sound guy Aiken Music Fest needed and he joined the team – working with the band managers on the tech side of things. One thing that everyone quickly learned is that you don’t talk to Brad when he is setting up, you don’t talk to Brad when he is running the sound board, or stop him when he is running to the porta-potty. He’s a busy perfectionist and he makes those bands sound fabulous under the big top of the Highfields Pavillion. He works hard to try to make sure Aiken Music Fest is a quality production. He is, in fact, the only one that actually gets paid for working on Aiken Music Fest which makes him think he is important – which he is. Sound matters the most!
This season has been planned through weekly meetings that began occurring in February. The team brainstorms and does lessons learned after each event. Everyone provides input, but at the end of the day, it is Rick’s money and investment so his decisions stand. Everyone is good with that. Sponsors help keep the music almost free – there was no cover charge last year and this year the cost is $10/carload for parking.
Rick is putting on a fabulous Saturday night party with all the charm of Aiken- purely intent on breaking even and providing a comfortable and laid back place for locals to enjoy music.
Katy is on a true #Aiken4Music mission and is always spouting out, “Musicians need to get paid! We need to charge a cover! You can’t hear this caliber of band anywhere without a $15/$20 cover! How will we ever show that a music venue is viable in Aiken if people don’t start paying for the music? Holy Cow, The Trongone Band is twice as expensive now!” She loves being a short ride from home at the end of a fabulous music night in Aiken and hanging out with all the #Aiken4Music collaborators under the pavilion.
John is just happy to be alive and is a committed team member. He helps put out any fires with a solution versus a whine. He is the Aiken Music Fest “host with the most” and will keep you laughing while goading you into some kind of action. He found some great bands this year to add in the mix and, through his GABBA experience, keeps the budget in perspective.
Brad and his sweet wife/helper, Jayne, are music lovers that buy into the #Aiken4Music mission and are two of Aiken Music Fest’s biggest cheerleaders and promoters. Brad demands quality out of the team and everyone is happy to oblige.
The whole team is hopeful that, in a couple seasons, people in Aiken will realize the caliber of the music coming to Aiken Music Fest and be lining up for $15/$20 tickets in Aiken. They are doing their part to help Aiken be known as having the hottest small town music scene in SC.
The next Aiken Music Fest event is on July 14th. Local favorite, The Kenny George Band, who has also been touring throughout the SE, will be the headliner. Jaycie Ward, a local singer/songwriter is opening. The music starts at 7. Beer and wine is available. There is a $10/carload entry fee at Highfields – map here.
John Howard is working on some update articles about the successes of bands that played during the 2017 season. A lot of these bands have really grown their creds! Aiken Music Fest is likely to be a great place for discovering the next Hootie, Marcus King, or even the Rolling Stones in SC… we can hope, anyway!
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