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Fourth annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival kicks off Saturday morning

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 10:13 AM

HUNTINGTON — You may have been to the Ritter Park Amphitheater but you’ve likely never seen it or heard it the wild and wonderful way it will be Saturday.

Gates open at 11:30 a.m. Sat­urday, Sept. 28, for the fourth annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival that will fill the amphitheater with a steady flow of live music from an eclectic mix of 22 indie musical artists and the sights of visual art of all stripes from 25 artists. Toss in an interactive kids art area, the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame mobile museum, drink and food vendors, strolling magic, seven vendors (including Brand
Yourself’s on-the-spot T-shirt making booth), and visual art tapestries that color-wrap every­thing from the fence and trees to the stage, and you have the new, art-covered Music and Arts Festival.

Tickets are $15 advance, at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, the V Club and from any band performing. Tickets will be $20 day of the show. Kids ages 12 and under get in free. And the HMAF ticket also gains the ticket-holder free entrance into HMAF indie concerts Thursday through Saturday in Huntington. (See the website for full listings of the pre-parties and after party concert).

“We are bringing in 14 brand new acts, so 14 of the 21 bands have never played the festival
before,” said Huntington Music and Arts Festival founder and organizer Ian Thornton. “Also, getting Jimbo (Valentine) on board as the art director has helped solidify the art side of it because he is so in tune with the indie art shows ... we have over 25 visual artists and a whole array of everything from textiles and painting to prints, pottery and crafts. There’s really no spe­cific genre so just like the music, it is a kaleidoscope of art and music this year.”

All kinds of bands, under the sun

The lineup reflects the diver­sity of the area scene featuring a wide swath of regional bands — veterans such as The Carpenter Ants and The Greens, along with such edgy, contemporary acts as the rock-rap collaboration of New River Gorge-grooved jam band, The Yetti performing with Charleston’s hip hop unit, The Dinosaur Burps called the Yetti Burps.

Detroit-based rockers, The Muggs will headline the fourth annual fest. Other bands on the HMAF include such indie rock units from around the region as: Morgantown’s Phantom Six, Shepherdstown’s Rozwell Kid, Charleston’s Farnsworth, Nashville’s The Dead Leaves, Ashland’s Gillum brother-built eclectic jazz unit, Gillumesh, Nashville’s Coyotes in Boxes, and Kentucky songwriter Tyler Childers.

There will also be a slew of acoustic acts between band sets including Bradley Jenkins, Jay Hill (who used to back Jesco White), horror-folk writer and guitarist Grim Charles, the old-time string band, Modock Rounders, Aaron Brown, Colten Settle, Sean Richardson, Emily Kinner and Abbie Kimball.

Paintsville, Ky. native singer/ songwriter Tyler Childers lives in Lexington, but is well known in these parts as his songs, like "Charleston Girls," testifies.

This is the third year Childers, who is soon to release a new foursong EP live at Red Barn Radio with his band Highwall.

"It's a pretty awesome one-day, all-out event," said Childers, who has had his songs featured on a national edgy country compilation put together by Shooter Jennings.

"At this festival you get so much different music and I like getting to be a part of it and getting back there and just hanging with all those guys. I've met a lot of friends there and it's cool to be in the same spot with all of them and get to play with them. You always get to meet a lot of people you probably wouldn't run into at one of your regular gigs too, so it's good for networking and meeting new musicians too."

An edgy Valentine of art

Thornton, who plays in the indie rock unit AC30 and helps manage Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, said this year more than ever, there has been great community support as 23 sponsors are now on board.

HMAF 2013 will also include an even greater emphasis on visual art with art director Valentine and friends bringing their art spin to the entire space. An avid festival goer, Thornton said he wants to create a special place, a one-day creative and fun-filled getaway of music, art, friends and food, in the outdoors right here in the city.

"We're really expanding the art around the festival so when you are walking into the gates you are in a new place," Thornton said. "You are not just at Ritter Park to see bands but we'll have big long tapestries wrapping trees, and on the stage and along the fences. We've bought 200 sticks of incense from Scent From Heaven that will be burning throughout the day. We're making that step forward this year to really make art happen. We want this to be an event in every sense of the word.

It's a long day so we want to keep them there and keep them engaged.

We're really excited about all of it, things like the Hall of Fame trailer." Thornton is referring to is the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame mobile museum. Donated by Little Jimmie Dickens, the 28-foot trailer features sounds of famous West Virginians including Bill Withers ("Some Kind of Wonderful"), Maceo Pinkard (the Harlem Globetrotters theme song "Sweet Georgia Brown") and Kanawha County native Kathy Mattea's autographed album and gown worn to the White House.

Also, new this year is an interactive area for kids. The Little Artists of HMAF area will feature nine different art stations from upcycling and cartoon lettering to bubbles and candy art. There will also a costume-filled photo booth (with costumes and accessories from Magic Makers) where folks can get their funky and fun pics taken then upload them through Instagram.

"We've got a snap-your-own photo Photobooth with all kinds of costumes and dress up stuff from Magic makers," Thornton said. "We just got the art corner worked out.

That will be on the far right when you come in by the treeline. We've got two tables set up and nine different lessons between 1 and 8 p.m.

It's all children-based and easy stuff. Something they could learn to do there and then be able to do it again in the future." And last but not least, former Marshall University football player and magician, Joey Stepp, will be doing up-close street magic all day as well as doing balloon animals for the kids. There will also be more than 24 dozen visual artists, including Drunken Mermaid Oddities, Keshelle Jewelry, Brand Yourself, Marshall's Campus Activities Board and Spiral Light Productions doing tie-dye and band merchandise as well.

HMAF give back

Also new this year, the festival will also be giving back to the arts in the community. Working with Latta's and Route 60 Music, HMAF Give Back will give a $250 gift certificate to two local elementary schools for visual art and music programs. "Through two different missions we are attempting do our part to help ensure that young children in the Huntington area continue to receive music and art education and to contribute to Communities In Schools, a national dropout prevention program, said Thornton. "This year we started the HMAF Give Back Program," Thornton said. "Partnering with Latta's and Route 60 Music we are donating a total of $500 to the Music/Art programs of two local elementary schools. Spring Hill Elementary will receive $250 in art supplies while Altizer Elementary will receive $250 in music supplies.

"We also hope to grow these amounts for next year through a few different resources," he added.

"Ten percent of all festival and band merchandise as well as 10 percent of all art sold at the fest will be donated to next year's fund. We will also be going green and recycling all used cans, with bins provided by Adkins Recycling, with the raised funds also contributing to the new program. We hope to double our contribution for next year." Thornton said they are also contributing 5 percent of gate proceeds to the Huntington chapter of Communities In Schools, a nationwide network of passionate professionals working in public schools to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

"Hopefully, next year we might be able to give back $800 or more," Thornton said. "I think that shows that we are here, and that we are not just here to make a dollar. We are made out of Huntington. It's pretty much Huntington coming together to make this event. It is through patrons that we are able to make it happen. It's all about showing some gratitude. I wish it could be even more, but it's baby steps. I have chosen to grow it slow. I'm not trying to cash in on a big ticket, I am just trying to grow something awesome and something for here."
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