The Americana Music Association’s annual AMERICANAFEST: The Americana Music Festival & Conference brought in an estimated aggregate attendance of more than 50,000 from around the world during its 19th annual run on September 11-16. The association has also announced the dates for its 20th event, taking place Sept. 10-15, 2019.
For the 19th consecutive year, AMERICANAFEST has brought together a dedicated community of artists, industry professionals and die-hard music fans over six days filled with more than 250 musical showcasing acts, 60 conference panels and almost 100 special events — totaling over 500 performances. Music City served as the ideal backdrop, with festivities spread over 62 famed local venues (up from 57 last year) located in eight Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County city council districts.
“It’s been both truly inspiring and humbling to watch this community grow,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “AMERICANAFEST has always felt like one big family reunion, and I’m grateful that this event has once again provided a musical common ground for attendees to connect on over the course of the week.”
The six-day gathering commenced with events that set the tone for many walks of life to come together for the love of music. These included a special interactive performance led by Choir! Choir! Choir! in which audience members sang along with Brandi Carlile at the Union Station Nashville Hotel, followed by a powerful keynote interview with k.d. lang and NPR Music critic Ann Powers at The Westin Nashville.
The 17th annual Americana Honors & Awards served as the association’s hallmark event that week, celebrating distinguished musicians of the community with coveted awards while presenting show-stopping performances at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Hosted by The Milk Carton Kids for the first time, the widely acclaimed program has been digitally re-mastered for broadcast and is scheduled to air November 28 on CMT, and in February 2019 on PBS via Austin City Limits.
“We were so honored to host the awards [show] and we learned so much from the experience,” said Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids. “There was laughter, there was reverence, politics, collaboration, even a little controversy, all of which was welcome.”
Official showcases during the nighttime music festival gave attendees the opportunity to experience music legends in unique settings, such as John Hiatt at the intimate Station Inn, while also offering the chance to discover buzz-worthy acts like The War and Treaty at Cannery Ballroom. 2018 showcase highlights included American Aquarium, Courtney Marie Andrews, Fantastic Negrito, Lilly Hiatt, The Lone Bellow, I’m With Her, Lori McKenna, John Prine, Amanda Shires, The Suffers, Richard Thompson and many more.
In addition to the Station Inn and Cannery Ballroom, official showcases were held at 3rd & Lindsley, The 5 Spot, 12th & Porter, ACME Feed & Seed, Analog at Hutton Hotel, The Anchor, The Basement, The Basement East, Mercy Lounge, The High Watt, ONE at Cannery Row, City Winery, The Local, Musicians Corner at Centennial Park, Nashville Palace, and Third Man Records.
Since the inaugural AMERICANAFEST in 2000, daytime conference panels have provided a first-rate educational forum to discuss varying cultural and industry-related topics among top professionals and artists of the Americana music community. This year, from a MOJO Magazine sit-down interview with Emmylou Harris and Margo Price to an intimate conversation with Carlile and Dave Cobb, there was no shortage of musical insight, inspiration and engaging discussion in front of attendees.
Standout conference sessions at The Westin Nashville included a conversation between Mary Gauthier and Randy Lewis (The L.A. Times) on her critically acclaimed “Rifles & Rosary Beads” LP; “Minds in Motion,” a spotlight on African American music innovators moderated by Jewly Hight alongside panelists Jason Eskridge, Kim Franklin (The Suffers) as well as The War and Treaty’s Michael Trotter, Jr. and Tanya Trotter; and, “Deportees, Woody Guthrie and Immigration Today” with Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Fernandez (Loyola University), Radney Foster and Will Hoge, moderated by the Woody Guthrie Center’s Deana McCloud. In an ongoing partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, AMERICANAFEST also presented quality programming at the renowned museum featuring an interview with Robert Earl Keen, a musician’s spotlight session with Jerry Pentecost and much more.
Separately ticketed shows bookended the music-filled week with respective concerts by Old Crow Medicine Show and k.d. lang at the Ryman Auditorium, and Harris’ dog-rescue “Woofstock” benefit at the Ascend Amphitheater with many special guests ranging from Jerry Douglas and Price to John Paul White.