Thursday, August 2, 2012

Interview with Allison Manuel of the Americana August festival

Earlier in the week I wrote about the Americana August mini-fest coming to the neighborhood and near H Street starting this weekend. I had a chance to chat with Allison Manuel, one of the organizers, and it sounds really neat. The first show is this Friday. Here's their Facebook page, and you can click the flyer at right for more. Here's our chat:

New Columbia Heights: First off, how did you think of this idea?
Allison Manuel: I've been in DC for about 8 years and am from NC. I've missed the old-time and bluegrass culture from my college days. I was inspired by Merle Fest, a great festival in NC that brings together great music, americana past times, and fun.

How did you find the bands?
I've also been hosting house shows for the past two years under the moniker Cellar Door and this seemed like a great time to try out our first "festival." After doing this for two years, we've got positive connections to bands and people that trust us. We've partnered with another group called NxNW and they are also a new group that hosts live music. Many friends from all over DC have come together to make this a reality.

How many people are involved in putting it together?
Twenty plus people with Cellar Door, NxNW, the Scooby Doo Mansion, and many generous friends

The Scooby Doo Mansion is the house where it's happening?
Yes, it's a Mt. Pleasant historic home that people have nicknamed the Scooby Doo Mansion. Jill Andrews is the last show and she will be playing at a home off of H St. NE.

Are you worried there might be a huge crowd, Corey Worthington / Project X / "Daft Punk is playing at my house style"?  Pie contest and music sounds like a big draw to me!
Ha! currently not concerned, but we shall see. I think the aesthetic will appeal to some and others might find too wholesome/down-home. We see this year as more of a launching pad and hope to grow it in the coming years. More musicians, more activities and workshops and jam sessions. Currently, all of the money goes to the musicians so we are limited on how "big" we can go.

We hope this can be an event that brings together lots of music hosts, friends, etc. so that we can work together on hosting live music in the future. There's a ton of live music in DC, so we have to make sure it's quality and that people appreciate the intimate nature of these types of shows, vs. going to a bar or standing room only type of show.

How do you plan to handle issues with noise and things like that?
At this point, we don't expect more than 100 people at any of the shows and we've hosted numerous shows at these venues and not had an issue with noise, etc. If more than 125-ish people come, we will have to turn people away. DC has countless interesting gatherings going on and we will be one in the mix. We hope to find the balance of attracting a good audience, but that it's not too big. Will inform next year's promotion

Cool. Can you tell us more about the musicians?
Yes. Lula Mae is new alt-country band from Nashville, TN. Wendell Kimbrough is an amazing singer-songwriter and a friend. He is an incredibly talented blues guitarist. The Honey Dew Drops tour non-stop and made it "big" when they won a contest on a Prairie Home Companion. Their sounds reminds me a lot of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Jill Andrews happens to be one of my favorite musicians. She played for years in a group called the Everybodyfields and then went solo. She has an amazing voice; a mix of Patty Griffin and the girl from the Civil Wars (can't think of her name) [Joy Williams].

Anything else you want to say? Advice for people coming?
Awesome -- for Friday, wear cool clothing (it can get warm inside), bring a blanket for Saturday and come down to the hill for Jill's show on Thursday, August 9! Thanks again!

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