From the Richmond Register, by Critley King.
Levitt AMP Berea will make a rowdy return Friday, July 6, for 10 straight weeks of fun, festivities and, of course, some of the best music Madison County can offer. A vibrant roster of approximately 21 musical acts taking the stage in Old Town Berea include The McClain Family Band, Bell’s Bartok, The Handshake Deals, Appalatin and Big Maracas.
Concerts will be held every Friday from 7-10 p.m. The music series kicks off July 6 with performances by Brett Ratliff & John Haywood, who will be playing old-time mountain tunes, as well as Jack Herranen & the Little Red Band — who describe their music as working class, conscious-country, hill-soul, post-industrial folk songs of “radical hope.”
While all nights promise eclectic, entertaining musical fun, event organizer Ali Blair noted the above-mentioned July 6 performance, as well special dates on Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 — adding that all three would feature a First Friday Market filled with informational and arts and craft vendors.
On Aug. 3, Levitt AMP Berea will pay homage to Berea arts by hosting the McClain Family Band during its 50th Anniversary Tour. Additionally, the same night, members of the Singing Bird Music School — part of Berea Tourism’s Festival of Learnshops — will perform onstage with their instructors, including popular local performers Donna and Lewis Lamb.
The concert series year finale will be held on Sept. 7 and is slated to be arguably the largest show of the year, also dubbed Monarch Day Celebration. As the Monarch butterfly is known for its annual migration to Mexico, the night will emanate a Latin feel. Musicians will be Appalatin and Big Maracas. The night also will feature a fire show by Knot Fire Productions with whom Blair will also be performing. Bluegrass Printmakers will be on site for free monarch prints. The night is sponsored by the Berea Human Rights Commission.
Other notable dates will be an Aug. 17 collaboration with the Berea Celtic Festival and a Back to School bash on Aug. 17.
Blair said out of the several 100 booking requests she receives from artists, it is never easy booking only 21 acts. However, based on budgets, style, and who is traveling through the area, Blair tries to create a mix for the series which features both Berea favorites and new artists for the audience to discover. Many of this year’s performers will be releasing albums this year — creating an opportunity for Levitt AMP Berea to help them promote their music, while they in turn help promote their own performance at the Berea venue.
Originating as First Friday Berea, Levitt AMP Berea Concert series builds on its dynamic and diverse predecessor. Blair said, at the series beginning, it was grass roots, and relied on people who were ready to dig down and make it happen regardless of challenges. In 2017, the series received the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation grant for $25,000, joining 14 other small-to-mid sized towns across the nation to receive the award.
The grant selection process, for which each competing city must complete each year, is a popular vote. When Berea received the grant for a second year in a row in 2018, the votes for the southern Madison County town had doubled from the year prior, Blair said.
As to why the community has stood up to back the popular series, Blair says it’s because it is geared toward community members and is great for families to have something to enjoy on Friday nights. Additionally, the event benefits Berea tourism and business as performing acts draw audience members from across the country. Blair said she hopes the event continues to grow.
Each concert will feature “inbetween” act entertainment. Musicians, speakers, dancers, etc. can contact Blair at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to participate. Volunteers for the event can also find forms on FirstFridayBerea.com.
For more information on the series, visit First Friday Berea and Levitt AMP Berea Music Series on Facebook.