This past week, I was fortunate enough to attend AMERICANAFEST (AF) for the first time.
A near week-long festival that stretches across the city of Nashville, AF brings together music industry professionals and Americana musicians from across the country for a series of concerts, parties, vinyl sales, conferences, and more.
I attended several events during the festival’s run from Tuesday, September 19th to Saturday, September 23rd, and I was endlessly impressed and entertained with each one of them. The only downside to the event — if it can even be called a downside — is that the schedule is so packed to the brim with exciting happenings, that it can be overwhelming to determine what you want to check out. Each event had its own draw, be it great music, food, drinks, merch, or just the experience itself, and by the end of the week, I found myself wishing I could have made it to more.
Here are the highlights of my AF experience.
Oh Boy Vinyl Road Show @ Jackalope Brewing Company
Few things go together as well as beer and records, and that’s exactly what I indulged in first at the Oh Boy Vinyl Road Show at one of Nashville’s favorite breweries in Jackalope. A lively group of vinyl enthusiasts gathered on the brewery patio to peruse a large assortment of vinyls, both new and used courtesy of the late great John Prine’s record label.
The selection was vast; they had everything from classic rock staples like Pink Floyd, to Eminem, to My Chemical Romance to the Barbie soundtrack and much in between. In addition to these records, one of the major draws to the event is the limited edition sale of Oh Boy Records’ own artists’ work. There were plenty of featured records by Prine himself, as well as the acts signed by the label more recently like Arlo McKinley, Kelsey Waldon, and Tré Burt.
The only catch: the selection is constantly changing, so if you see something you like, you have to either buy it or find Oh Boy Records on the road at their next stop. This makes the experience all the more unique and fun to indulge in.
Industry Panels @ The Westin
On Friday, I attended a conference titled “A Behind the Scenes Look at Legal and Financial Due Diligence in Copyright Sales.” Moderated by author Todd Brabec and featuring panelists Jeff Brabec (BMI Rights Management) and Sarah Smith (Keller Turner Andrews & Ghanem PLLC), the discussion covered the process of acquiring music catalogs and income streams as well as the agreements and negotiations that drive this process.
The bustling vibe at The Westin exuded a feeling of importance and high-end professionalism, and the panel lived up to this expectation. It’s hard to know what goes on behind the scenes in the deals made between artists and labels or publishing companies, and the panelists provided a window into the most important parts of making these deals work. In the end, it all comes down to both sides of the negotiation knowing what the sale is worth.
As the music industry and the world at large progresses and evolves, it gets increasingly important for everyone involved in these transactions to be well-versed in both the legal and financial aspects of the process. As Brabec stated during the panel, “Lawyers are not just lawyers these days; the really good ones are business people.” For anybody involved in the music business to any capacity — even the busker on the street — these panels go a long way in educating and informing.
Musicians’ Corner @ Centennial Park
My third event was on Friday evening at Centennial Park’s Musicians’ Corner. The vibrant, energetic scene was packed with live music, food trucks, vendors, and hundreds of Americana enthusiasts. Presented by New West Records in partnership with TIDAL, musicians and fans came from far and wide to celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary.
Stacked with top tier performers like Buddy Miller, Esther Rose, North Mississippi Allstars, Emily Nenni, Rodney Crowell Trio, and The Wild Feathers, the party was lively and bumping from 3:00PM until 9:00PM.
I had the pleasure of watching performances by Nenni and Miller, both of whom were electrifying, supremely talented, and endlessly entertaining. In addition to just being plain good, both acts wonderfully embodied both New West Records and Americana as a genre.
In addition to the spellbinding performances, the warm energy and vibe of the event as a whole was palpable. You could just as easily sit and enjoy the show as you could eat, shop, and stroll along the pathways of Centennial Park, enjoying the scene and the beautiful Nashville weather. This was a definite contender for my favorite event of the week.
Chelsea Lovitt @ The Countrypolitan
My final event was Chelsea Lovitt live at The Countrypolitan on Saturday evening. Located right on the corner of Union St. and Printers Alley in the heart of Nashville, the vibe and energy at this little hotel bar/restaurant was unmatched. From the moment I walked through the doors, I was met with beautiful art deco interior design, elegance, and great music to match.
Lovitt, a Mississippi native, performed a series of originals from her humorously-titled album, You Had Your Cake, Now Lie In It. An epic cross between bluegrass, Americana, country, and rock ‘n’ roll, Lovitt’s performance was full of heart, emotion, humor, and talent.
This show was a bit more mellow and intimate than some of the other events, but I felt it wonderfully encapsulated the dynamic feel of AF. Each event was different and enjoyable in its own way, and I found that I could appreciate every one of them for what they brought to the table.
AMERICANAFEST offers something for everyone, and this sprawling days-long music festival embodies the very heart of what Nashville represents- music, revelry, and a bonded community.