By GUY D’ASTOLFO
This summer of music festivals is not over yet.
In fact, a late-season rock monsoon will hit Saturday when two first-time events will take place: the Big Kick It at B&O Station, and JD’s Summer Songfest at Quaker Steak and Lube in Austintown.
If it seems like there have been more music fests than ever this year, it’s because there have been. It’s a local reflection of a global trend.
But it’s also part of the do-it-yourself ethos of regional acts who are taking a grass-roots approach to the music business.
Jones for Revival – which has been staging its own music festivals for years – is behind the Big Kick It.
The band also threw its second annual Revive festival downtown last month and is currently scrambling to throw another festival – Jonesfest – in October. The latter event has been at Nelson Ledges every year, but got moved off the schedule there at the last minute.
Jimmy DeCapua is the guitarist, singer, band manager, promoter and holder of a few other titles for Jones for Revival. He said that throwing music festivals became a necessity in a dog-eat-dog business.
“If I can be brutally honest, I would say that I was forced to throw these events because I was sick of the venues and bars around here trying to book us for less than what the band brings to the table in terms of business,” said DeCapua. “To me, a show is about the show and the tickets sold, not about how much beer is being sold. I understand how a bar works, but I see a lot of bars around here ... [taking] advantage of young, gullible bands who don’t have the knowledge or experience yet to know [better]. Nothing against the Youngstown hustle, but bars around here are what led me to start looking into other avenues.”
But if getting a fair shake was the impetus, Jones had an even bigger reason to – literally – move to greener pastures.
“This band’s style fits the outdoor setting more than the bar setting,” said DeCapua. “I don’t really drink, and I don’t like the depressing feeling of a bar. I like being outdoors. Maybe that vibe is projected through the music this band creates.”
Jones is a traveling band, and most of its road gigs also are outdoors.
DeCapua noted that Youngstown music fans are the key to making festivals work. “We are very fortunate to have the community we have here,” he said. “Without the people, there would be no way of pulling off these events. Let’s make that very clear.”
Judging by attendance figures, local audiences also seem to like it outdoors. The inaugural Revive fest in 2014 attracted 500 paying customers, while this year’s drew 650.
The Big Kick It will get underway at 4 p.m. and run until 2:30 a.m. It will take place in the riverfront park at the B&O, with performances on two stages. Other acts include 5 Elements, Vibe & Direct, Liam Jones, Stephen Lewis, LethalFX, DJ Diamond, The Flying Trees, Spirit of the Bear and Two Days Until Tomorrow.
Also on Saturday is JD’s Summer Songfest, the brainchild of JD Eicher & the Goodnights.
It’s the band’s first stab at putting on a music festival. Unlike Jones, the decision wasn’t born out of frustration, or the gut feeling that spearheading outdoor shows is the best path for the band.
Eicher framed it as an experiment that plays into his band’s unique style and fanbase.
“[The idea] came out of our desire to start building some fun traditions around what we do and creating some events that involve more than just [our] band,” he said. “If it goes well, we’d definitely like to grow the concept and bring it back next year.”
Summer Songfest will offer free admission and a family-friendly atmosphere.
“It’s going to be way more laid-back than the traditional music fest,” said Eicher. “We’ve got a humble outdoor stage setup and a focus on acoustic music and just enjoying the day. We’ll have cornhole and kan-jam, a few giveaways, and a lot of talented musicians with us. I’m hoping to play a lot of cornhole with folks, and I know the whole band is looking forward to hanging out and enjoying the day with everybody.”
Also on the bill at Summer Songfest are Jordan DePaul, the Labra Brothers and Spencer Saylor. Eicher will begin the music with a solo set from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. His full band will wrap up the night with a set that will begin at 8:50 p.m.