Due to our site being down the past six weeks, I was unable to share my feelings on the first ever, MoonRunners Music Festival in Chicago, IL on April 27th, 2013.
Nine months of planning went into MoonRunners Music Festival 2013. The first acts were confirmed in early July of last year, and they consisted on the MR staff: Shooter Jennings, Last False Hope, and Robert Dean. I made a list of artists that I thought would make an incredible lineup and called them. Within two weeks, we had a full day of music planned. The anticipation has been insane. I was nervous, excited, and worried during the months and weeks leading to this. My first fear was that no one would show up and I wouldn't be able to fulfill the contractual obligations with the artists. Than, as the fest sold more and more, my fear became that there would be too many people at one place at one time. I dont think anyone can handle 13 hours of sweating and not being able to move! Pretty much anything bad that could happen raced through my mind these past weeks.
We officially sold out on April 16th with NO outside promotion or advertising. We printed 5,000 handbills, whored the fest on facebook, and that was it. Our friends at Muddy Roots made some Facebook posts about the fest, and of course, the band's posted the show on their social media pages. I am so proud of the fact that this fest was 100% DIY. To the core. Once the fest did sell out, many national and local Chicago publications finally started to notice.
I arrived at the venue with my wife, and Last False Hope band mates at 8:30 AM to be greeted by the opening band, Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two and Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band, who had been sleeping in their van in the band parking lot for a while prior. The vendors loaded in, security prepared, bar backs stocked up, the first two bands sound checked, and we were under way. Only one problem. We did not announce the schedule until the day of, and Jayke Orvis noticed that some of the slots were wrong on the make shift hand outs I printed the night before. Of course, I freaked out, but, luckily, my second hand man, Tyler Smith, found a Kinko's blocks from the venue and printed 500 new schedules to hand out before doors opened.
Doors opened at 10:30 am to an already lined up group of people anxious to get inside for some music. DJ Ivanna Riot spun punk rock and Motown, while folks prepared for Carmen Lee. Carmen has been writing for us here at MoonRunners for a few months, and I actually met her through her band when they came by to record a session for Outlaw Radio Chicago. To say the least, Carmen is a timid spirit. A very soft spoken girl who comes off as a shy sweetheart. I was afraid this may come off on stage, but her and her band proved me wrong from the first note. They immediately had people tapping their feet and ordering drinks. We knew we were all in for a great day. Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two was a perfect band to get the event underway. A classic country crooner with only an upright bass, and electric guitar backing her. She caught many people off guard.
The Dirty Generals immediately followed in the Music Joint room, a mere 50 foot walk from the main room. The smaller room quickly filled in nicely for the local Chicago Indie/Country outfit. My fear of people not walking back and forth was quickly put to rest after seeing the crowd more than willing to make the trips from room to room.
Lonewolf OMB destroyed the main room with his 12:30 set time. The first fast paced act, and he couldn't have performed any better. He sold out on all his new cd's almost immediately after his set. The crowd was into everything they were getting hit with. As soon as he picked up his banjo, after opening his set with his resonator, the room erupted.
Aran Buzzas had a similar reaction back in the Music Joint. A relatively unknown secret in our community, Aran certainly made a lot of new fans and friends after his set. He impressed the early crowd and I heard folks talking about his set for hours after.
Solitary Records artists, Coondog and the Stumpjumpers laid to rest their former name, Ol' Red Shed, at the beginning of the set, and pleased the large crowd with some down home country music. While I watched from the front row, I heard a man behind me say "These guys are the real deal", during a new song "Guns and Liquor". If you are looking for a real country act with no frills, find these fellas.
Pearls Mahone used her set to record a live record that will be out later this year. I cant wait to hear it, as she owned it on stage that afternoon. I see Pearls nearly monthly, as she is a fellow Chicago artist, and she and her band were on their A game.
Next, was MoonRunners' own foul mouthed, Robert Dean, making his spoken word debut for an antsy music loving crowd. I must admit, I was a bit nervous for Robert. But, within two minutes he had the crowd in the palm of his hands for his entire 15 minute rant. No one talked over him and people laughed out loud for the funnier moments of his set. Robert's set led into Last False Hope. I think we did ok and held our own.
Owen Mays and the 80 Proof Boys gave the crowd some classic picking and song writing as only he can do. Always a pleasure to see Owen peform. T. Junior took the big stage all by his lonesome, and really sucked the crowd in. Top notch singing and lyrics made him a stand out.
His set lead right into Fifth on the Floor on the same stage. Wow. Just wow. Justin Wells opened the set by performing "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes", and the crowd was still. Completely intense and moving moment. Tears were shed, and it is really a moment that represented the entire festival. Just spectacular. The band came on after the Jones cover and performed a raucous version of "Burnin' Nashville Down". 40 minutes later, the crowd was left speechless.
And, they were left speechless by CW Ayon from New Mexico. A one man blues band that is just so chill and relaxing and fucking talented. Another name a lot of people did not know before the fest. He made himself known right away. I have a feeling he will be back next year, with even more hype. What an artist.
Around the time that CW went on, the 'third' stage opened upstairs in the tiny record store. Local blues man, Lou Shields opened it with his unique sound, percussion and vocals. A small PA, and a very intimate setting made the Record Store sets something very special. It was the secret of the event, as the crowd never really topped more than 20-30 people. But, those that did catch a set, left very happy. Nellie Wilson, Banjer Dan, and Adam Lee all provided scorching sets upstairs. The most unlucky man of the night may have been Jake Cox. An incredible artist, his set happened to start right as Jayke Orvis and The Calamity Cubes! sets were overlapping on the main stages. I suppose you can blame the booker for that one. But, Cox gave it his all for the few that made their way upstairs for his set. Adam Lee had the room at it's fullest as Brooke and Cody of the Cubes! backed him. The set was really incredible.
Speaking of overlapping sets, some people were a bit bummed that this happened. But, I must speak my mind and let you know why this was done. The event was sold out, and that was according to the capacity of the much larger Rock Club Room. There is no possible way that we could have legally or physically fit the entire crowd into the smaller room. Therefore, we needed to overlap for comfort level. It did not seem to upset anyone too much, and really made the atmosphere a bit more comfortable. Most folks did not have any complaints about running back and forth to catch as much of each set as they could. But, not one artist was harmed by this, as both rooms remained packed during the overlaps.
Jayke Orvis and the Broken band impressed as usual. New comers were shocked, and the older fans were pleased as they ripped through many songs off his two albums, and a few live favorites. Jayke and the gang never disappoint. They are the best live band around in my mind.
The Calamity Cubes! started in the Music Joint about 20 minutes into Jayke's set, so I was one of the many running back and forth between three rooms. The Cubes had the room to the point of over capacity as they wildly abused their instruments and the crowd with pure soul. After two songs, they brought up Possessed by Paul James who played fiddle for the remainder of the set. Another special moment. Shooter Jennings also came up to sing "Delia Rose" with the band. Certainly a stand out set.
One band that packed the main room was Hellbound Glory. For their first performance since their arena, Kid Rock tour. I hooked my buddy Zach Shedd up with the bass playing for the night, and it couldn't have gone any better. Hellbound performed many songs off "Damaged Goods", and also did the best of their new material from "'Merica".
Possessed by Paul James started his set midway through Hellbound, so once again, the crowd was going back and forth. Konrad Wert really moved the crowd, as he always does. The man never disappoints!
Scott H. Biram, the co-headliner, went above and beyond to give a spectacular performance. This was him at his absolute best. He got pretty upset when a woman threw a beer onstage and got all over his gear. He called her out in his own fashion, but, than told security not to kick her out, letting her enjoy the rest of the fest. When you have a crowd of folks drinking for hours, shit will happen. When Scott ended he walked off stage while he guitar gave a massive feedback.. waited about 2 minutes, walked back on stage, presumably to do an encore, turned off his amp, gave the finger and exited. Scott is the man.
Rachel Brooke had the tough spot to perform in between Scott Biram, and Shooter Jennings in the Music Joint. But, she brought it. In a rare move, she sat down to perform, and captivated the overly crowded room. Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band joined her for a few tunes, which provided another great moment.
Our headliner, and MoonRunners co-founder, Shooter Jennings, took the stage a bit after 11:30 and thrilled the fans with over 90 minutes of songs covering each of his six albums. the new band was solid and beyond talented. For me, the stand out was "Wake Up" from Black Ribbons. An amazing rendition was performed. By this time, you can tell that the crowd was getting tired after 13+ hours of non stop drinking and music, but, that certainly did not deter them from getting wild during the set. Scott H. Biram joined the band for "White Trash Song", as well as Jake Cox on the harp. Shooter closed with the energetic and powerful "Gunslinger", which had the entire crowd screaming along. What a moment. As he exited, he announced that James Hunnicutt would be performing an after party immediately following his set in the next room.
James, who was added last minute, really sent the crowd home happy. A perfect ending to an amazing night.
Some of the things I learned at MoonRunners Festival, is that the crowd and fans were beyond remarkable. I was terrified when I first announced and planned this fest, that it would be a bust. Every possible bad scenario passed through my brain. But, the people came. And, they were fabulous. All of them.
We could not have done this without the artists taking a chance by committing to an independent festival. Some of them altering tours, and plans to be there. We could not have done it without the unity of the fans and friends. They flew, bused, or carpooled to be there. It was amazing and something that I will never forget. Also, the crew at Reggie's was top notch. They took such a load off me, and made sure everything was smooth. Sound, security, bar tenders, backstage attendees, and house managers all stepped up and made the event flawless.
In a few weeks, we will be announcing the lineup for MoonRunners Music Festival II which will take place April 25th and 26th, at the same venue in Chicago, IL.
It will be even more spectacular and special than the first year! Make plans now, and I hope some of you learned your lesson by not buying tickets soon enough. This will once again sell out.
I love you and thank you for believing in this!
Check out many videos from the fest here: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=moonrunners+fest&oq=moonrunners+fest&gs_l=youtube.3..0.3941.8169.0.84220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.822.214.171.124...0.0...1ac.1.11.youtube.0sTUuGQkE6I