Musikfest 2019: Good to be Home

Since we made this announcement back in November, a lot has happened. We changed our name. We moved to Nashville. And yes, we’ve met tons of incredible creatives of all disciplines in our travels.

Through it all, we’ve never forgotten where we came from. This past weekend, we had a chance to go back.

We couldn’t have timed our first visit back any better. After all, our hometown of Bethlehem, PA plays host to Musikfest, the nation’s largest free outdoor music festival, every August. This year, the 10-day festival enjoyed near-perfect weather throughout, drawing a worldwide audience of more than 1.2 million strong to this small, but plucky city of 75,000 or so people.

We arrived in time for the festival’s second weekend, with the centerpiece being the opportunity to take in American Idol winner Phillip Phillips‘ headline set on Saturday night, with opening support from roots rockers Bronze Radio Return, Philly 21st Century neo-soul artist Max Swan, and contemporary jam band, Bethlehem’s own Billy Bauer Band.

But, before we could do that… we had some ‘Festing to do Friday night into Saturday!

And so, we did. After running around a bit and catching up with folks on Friday night, we made it to the festival’s South Side on the SteelStacks campus to take in festival favorite, the Russian-born, Venice Beach-based Igor & the Red Elvises. The fun continued on Saturday afternoon, as we took in free stage sets from a diverse and multi-talented lineup that included (somewhat in order of appearance) Nashville folksters Cari Ray and the Shaky Legs, Boston Americana trio Honeysuckle, Philly indie pop artist Lauren Marsh, and a couple of quick acoustic sets from locals and friends Cubbage and Ben Tyler.

Then, it was back to the South Side for the Steel Stage main event. For sure, we were in for an evening full of excellent musicianship, beginning with Billy Bauer Band‘s brand of upbeat acoustic rock, which blends alternative and heartland rock with roots, folk, and even a smidge of Celtic influence (which could most clearly be heard in opening tune, “You Never Know”). From there, Max Swan brought a laid-back, soulful vibe to the stage, utilizing looping technology, live instrumentation, and his own improvisational wit to impress over the course of a half-hour set.

Bronze Radio Return was next, delivering an eclectic and entirely enjoyable set full of high-powered anthems which fit in perfectly with the summer twilight. That was followed by Phillips, whose band flexed its musical muscles over a 12-song offering that featured a healthy number of extended jams.

That was the musical side of things. I haven’t even mentioned the atmosphere, which felt like the music industry at its best. Being a part of this show felt special for everyone involved — from the musicians, to the crew, to the staff and volunteers that make Musikfest possible for ten days every year. Appreciation and positive vibes were in the air. Personally speaking, it was an honor to share this experience with the bands and everyone else, and I’d love to do it again.

You can count us in for some leg of Musikfest 2020. We’ll be back. We’ll always be back.

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