On the Goe: Art-music event tweaks name and more with shaken up lineup

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year I was writing an article about the paltry Art and Jazz Festival and its imminent death.

This year, there’s no need for such sour notes as I’m feeling much more optimistic about 2014.

If you haven’t heard, the Art and Jazz Festival is kaput and finished once and for all. Thankfully, something with greater potential has taken its place.

Allow me to introduce you to the (Hazel Miller free) Art and Music Festival featuring Firefall, Carrie Rodriguez and a number of local performers including Shea Bramer and the Alycia Vince Jazz Quartet.

At face value, the Art and Music Festival doesn’t look that much different than Art and Jazz, but it will become clear that this is not the same event as last year.

Yes, technically it’s just a tweak of the name, but the new name implies a much more open and inviting event. Swapping “Music” for “Jazz” alone opens the door to this new-look festival to new audiences and all genres of art and music.

The new name gives the festival an air of ambiguity and will allow it to evolve naturally to include all forms of art and music.

It’s a conscious switch that’s already worked in my book. The buzz around Art and Music Festival headliner Firefall alone has made this year’s event infinitely more exciting than years past.

Couple that with the festival’s ambitious multi-stage set up on Main Street and the fact that the festival will no longer provide seating in front of the main stage (it’s BYOC now if you want to sit down), and you’ve got something that feels much more energetic and lively.

I’m sure some people are upset that the festival has moved away from an all-jazz lineup, but that change needed to happen. Jazz music will still be a part of this year and future year events, but it’s no longer the appetizer, main course and dessert.

The Art and Music Festival bill will feature Josefina Mendez and the Alycia Vince Jazz Quartet plus the high school and Colorado Mesa University jazz bands, so in reality nearly half of the music lineup is still devoted to jazz.

What’s not being talked about is perhaps the most interesting and drastic change of all. Sunday is now an open mic contest if you will. Instead of booking music for Sunday, by far the festival’s slowest day, one of the festival’s dedicated side stages will allow local performers to come up, play a couple songs, and try out for a slot playing the summer Downtown Farmers Market.

The prospect is entertaining and seemingly fits well with the valley’s general love of open mic nights and blues jam nights, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

To be fair I think it is important to disclose that I participated in a planning meeting for this year’s festival.

Sitting in on the planning for 2014, one thing was absolutely clear: The effort put into revitalizing this event is real and genuine.

Change is a hard thing for this community, yet it is absolutely necessary for the success of the Art and Music Festival and downtown Grand Junction.

What we learned from the Epic Rides festival last August is that not only is there a better way to stage and situate a festival on Main Street, there is a hungry audience in this town for contemporary live music.

The Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival and the WestCO Festival have shown the same thing.

This community is ready for the new Art and Music festival.

Read more from David Goe at the Music on the Goe blog at GJSentinel.com. Goe is a programmer for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio. His show airs at 9 p.m. the first Friday and first Saturday of each month. You can email Goe at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter at @David_Goe.


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