Written by Tom Wickstrom
Wikipedia defines Americana as a genre of contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass & blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound.
I had the pleasure of attending my 1st Americanafest in Nashville, TN. In its 19th year, The Americana Music Festival & Conference was held September 11-16 and continues to draw artists, fans & music professionals from around the world. The Westin Hotel Nashville was the main hub for most of the conference activities which offered seminars, panels, interviews and networking oppotunities. Music fans were able to attend multiple venues throughout the city all week long to see performances of their favorite artists by purchasing a wristband for $75. Also included were many special showcases featuring multiple artists. Parking could be expensive getting around but many places were within walking distance or a short Uber ride away. There was also an Americanafest app that you could download. I found it very helpful in planning where & when & who to see perform. There was so much happening that my plans changed quite often.
Here is my diary of experiences at Americanafest:
I arrived in Nashville Tuesday after lunch and immediately headed to the Westin Hotel to pick up my media wristband & photo pass. There wasn’t much going on besides everyone picking up their wristbands & credentials. I headed over to The Local, which was having the NPR Music, World Cafe and WMOT Kick-Off Party. I stayed most of the day and enjoyed music from The Accidentals, Black Lillies, Paul Thorn, Nicki Bluhm & Mike Farris. I left briefly to grab a bite to eat but returned to The Local for additional performances by Brother Brothers, Dead Horses & Jacob Thomas Jr. After making the drive to Nashville that morning and 8+ hour of live music, I decided I was beat & headed to a friend’s place to crash for the night.
Wednesday started off lazy with coffee in the morning & trying to plan out my day. I eventually headed over to Compass Records for their 8th Annual Hillbillies & Hotdogs. This showcase featured music from Brother Brothers, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Mike Farris, Molly Tuttle & Nicki Bluhm. It was very crowded inside where the music was but they had speakers set up outside to be able to enjoy the music. They also served complimentary Chicago style hotdogs, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream & various beverages. I had a little bit of time so I headed over to the Westin to check out the Exhibit Hall. I picked up a selection of free CDs including the Americanafest Sampler as well as some stickers and other things. At 3pm I headed over to InDo Nashville for Tales & Ales With Paul Thorn & Tony Magee. Tony Magee is the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company. They shared stories about songwriting & beer making while singing songs. Complimentary Lagunitas fine craft beers were also offered. It was a lot of fun and I may have had just a little too much beer, because I went back to my friend’s house to chill and listen to the Americana Music Awards on the radio. I had the best intentions to make it back out for Tyler Childers & Town Mountain, but fell asleep instead and missed them.
I headed to the Station Inn at noon for Quicksilver’s Dirty Kitchen Experience. Quicksilver Productions sponsored this showcase and had performances from Kaia Kater, Town Mountain, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen. Frank Solivan also cooked up a big pot of Chili Verde, which was served free during the performances. Delicious! I was also invited to a friend’s house for the Lost Buffalo’s 3rd Annual Margarita Party. While there I caught mini sets from Missy Raines, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, Lula Wiles and Miss Tess & the Talkbacks. It was a lot of fun. I ran into a lot of friends and made several new ones. I returned to my friend Megan’s house because she had a gig later that evening. We then headed to Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge. Big Monti was playing when we walked in. Up next was East Nasty Women, which consisted of my friend Megan Palmer, Renee Wahl & Amelia White performing together but rotating turns doing their own songs. It was also great hearing the stories behind many of the songs. After dropping Megan’s equipment off at the house, we took a Lyft downtown to the Basement East, where we caught the last 2 songs from Amanda Shires set. There were some sound issues which had shortened her set. Following her were sets from John Paul White & Ben Dickey. Guitar sensation Charlie Sexton sat in for all of Ben Dickey’s set. We then called it a night and headed back to the house.
I slept in a little Friday morning, but made it to 3rd & Lindsley in time for the Shore Fire Media’s Salute To Americana. I enjoyed an awesome Prime Rib Sandwich while listening to mini sets by Ben Danaher, Heather Morgan, Adam Hood, Dawn Landes, Dom Flemons, Paul Cauthen, Amy Helm Band & Asleep At The Wheel. Highlights included the surprise appearance of Dom Flemons and the Amy Helm Band doing “Atlantic City” accompanied by Nicki Bluhm & Allison Russell. I then drove over to Diskin Cider for the Songsmith Social Presented By NoiseTrade & Thirty Tigers. Them Coulee Boys & Pert Near Sandstone, 2 of my favorite bands, started things off with back to back energetic sets. They were followed by Erik Koskinen, Ian Noe, Mary Gauthier, Tommy Emmanuel and closed things out with Amanda Shires. I was totally mesmerized by Tommy Emmanuel’s guitar skills. After grabbing a quick dinner, I headed to The Local once again to catch John Craigie’s set. He is a solo folk artist from Portland, OR and was good enough to win the band competition at the Northwest String Summit a few years back. His songs tell stories with humor that we all can identify with. I caught Catherine Britt’s set prior to John Craigie’s set, which was followed by a beautiful set from Joe Purdy & Amber Rubarth.
Things got going early Saturday with the Michael Weintrob Studio’s Campfire AMA Day Party. Each performer got approximately 15-20 for their set. Adrian & Meredith kicked things off followed by Korby Lenker and then my friend Megan Palmer. She was followed by sets from Amy Speace, Wild Ponies, Matt Harlan. Although the sets were short, they were all excellent and a great way to showcase multiple artists. Although music would continue there all day, I made my way over to the Hatwrks Happenin’. Located at Hatwrks, an upscale hat shop, had a showcase featuring several bands. I got there late but was able to catch Angie Aparo, BARK and an unbelieveable set from Angela Perley & the Howling Moons. Even though they are based out of Columbus, OH, which is where I’m based out of, it had been a while since I had seen her perform. It was definitely one of the best sets of the week. I then headed downtown with Tom Perley, Angela’s Dad, to grab dinner and hear some music at Acme Feed & Seed. We grabbed dinner & a couple of beers & enjoyed sets from Szlachetka & Kirby Brown. I dropped Tom off and returned to 3rd & Lindsley to catch Nicholas Jamerson & the Champagne Truckers. Although there was a light crowd, you could tell he had many fans there & I was glad someone had recommended him to me. Once he finished, I once headed back to The Local for Violet Bell and more fun from Them Coulee Boys & Pert Near Sandstone to close out my evening.
I awoke Sunday morning, packed up & headed back to Columbus. There was one more showcase with multiple performers but I was exhausted from a week of great music, so It was time to go home. In 5 days I saw 55 different set of music at 11 different venues. I plan to return to Americanafest next year and hope to attend the conference as well. Nashville seems like the perfect place to hold a festival of this type because it encompasses all styles of American music.
Here are my Top 10 acts that I saw perform at Americanafest 2018:
1. Them Coulee Boys
2. Angela Perley & the Howling Moons
3. John Craigie
4. Pert Near Sandstone
5. Town Mountain
6. East Nasty Women
7. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
8. Asleep At The Wheel
9. Joe Purdy & Amber Rubarth
10. Nicholas Jamerson & the Champagne Truckers