ashland.news
July 14, 2024

Pair of concerts at the bandshell aims to stir up a sense of community

Singer-songwriter Sean Hayes will headline the first show in the Summer Sounds series at the Lithia Park bandshell on Monday, June 17.
June 11, 2024

With ‘Summer Sounds,’ the Ashland Folk Collective and the Epic Ashland organization will bring folk music, a family vibe and a beer garden to Lithia Park; Sean Hayes and Blitzen Trapper are featured artists

By Jim Coleman for Ashland.news

Something new is coming to Lithia Park. Summer Sounds will bring free concerts by indie folk stars to the park’s bandshell. Bay Area singer-songwriter Sean Hayes will headline on Monday, June 17, and Portland folk rockers Blitzen Trapper will perform Monday, July 29.

Food trucks will offer concessions, and there will be another new feature for Lithia Park: a beer garden. Each show will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs, and parents are encouraged to bring their children.

Blitzen Trapper will top the bill at the second Summer Sounds show, Monday, July 29. Cousin Curtiss will be the opener.

Sound of Honey, featuring Emma Rose, bassist of the band Big Richard, will open for Hayes. Cousin Curtiss will open for Blitzen Trapper.

The Summer Sounds concerts are happening because Epic Ashland, a coalition of Ashland business owners looking to bring family-oriented events to an often tourist-oriented town, got the city’s OK to sell alcohol in Lithia Park to offset some of the expenses, and approached the Ashland Folk Collective to book the shows.

A collaboration

The Ashland Folk Collective is an established concert promoter that has been bringing major and emerging folk musicians to the Ashland area for seven years. Epic Ashland is a recently created organization with a mission: to develop more events designed for Ashlanders, particularly for families with children.

“There wasn’t an organized group putting on events for young people living in town,” said Eric Herron, a commercial real estate broker and a co-founder of Epic Ashland. “Ashland has become stagnant for a long time.”

Emma Rose leads Sound of Honey, opening band for Sean Hayes’ show on June 17.

On the Epic Ashland website, the group poses this question: “How do we make Ashland a vibrant haven once again, one that captures the spirit and energy families living here?” The website describes Epic Ashland as “an organization solely focused on nurturing the dreams and aspirations of our younger generations.”

Herron, who works for Cascadia Prime, said Epic Ashland was established by a group of younger businesspeople with children who live in a city that they see vigorously catering to tourists.

A new approach to events

Looking beyond the concert series, he said Epic Ashland hopes the group might host a pumpkin carving event for children. Community dinners are a possible option. And Herron said he’d like to get the city more involved in bicycle racing events, many of which are run by outside promoters with little interest in Ashland.

“We want get to the city involved,” Herron said. “We want to build more events into bike races.” For example, a race day might include parent-child events and could entice race participants to linger after their race.

Seeing untapped potential

Epic Ashland saw potential in the Butler Bandshell, which has been part of Lithia Park for decades. More than 1,000 people can sit on the grassy slope overlooking the stage.

However, “The bandshell is the No. 1 underutilized facility in the city,” Herron said.

It will give the Ashland Folk Collective its largest concert space for two acts that have filled shows at Fry Family Farm, which can accommodate about 300 concertgoers.

Beatles night fundraiser
The nonprofit Ashland Folk Collective’s annual fundraiser show, a Beatles Tribute Night, is set for Friday, June 21, at Fry Family Farm. An all-star backing band of seven local musicians will play Beatles tunes. Lead performers will include AFC founder and executive director Jacqui Aubert and Hanna Winters, the collective’s director of operations, as well as Sugar Pine Gals, Kathryn Kavanagh, Duane Whitcomb of Creekside Strings, Chelsea Murray, and OSF actors Christian Denzel Bufford and Uma Paranjpe. Bufford and Paranjpe are starring in OSF’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Daniel Sherrill, who plays guitar in “Much Ado,” will be part of the band. Tickets, $30 in advance and $35 at the door, are available at ashlandfolkcollective.com.

That’s good news for the Folk Collective. “For the last two years we’ve been looking for a larger venue,” said Jacqui Aubert, executive director and founder of the collective. “Sean Hayes and Blitzen Trapper each sold out Fry Family Farm twice.”

For this year’s Summer Sounds, “We’re hoping to bring 700, 1,000 people for each show,” Aubert said.

That means the bands will command more pay than they would for a 300-seat show. The beer garden will help.

A change in policy

That’s why, as one of Epic Ashland’s first moves, Herron said, “We went to the City Council and asked them to allow alcohol sales in the park” for special events. The council granted approval, and Summer Sounds will be the second event to serve alcohol under the new policy, he said. Including food trucks, the concessions make it more feasible to stage the concerts. Child-friendly refreshments, by the way, will include sno-cones, Herron said.

Proceeds from the beer garden will go to the musicians, and Epic Ashland will cover the remainder of the musicians’ pay for the two shows.

“At this point we’re self-financed,” Herron said. It’s all through donations from businesses.”

Along with Herron of Cascadia Prime, Epic Ashland was co-founded by business owners and leaders from Evergreen Bank, Work Sharp Sharpeners, toymaker Blue Marble, Skout taphouse, Ashland Automotive and the Columbia Hotel.

Both Summer Sounds shows are scheduled for Monday nights. That’s unusual, but there’s a reason for it.

“That’s so people who work on the weekend, people in the service industry,” can attend, Aubert said. “And OSF is dark.”

And Aubert, who is raising a toddler with her partner, Daniel Sherill, said she appreciates Epic Ashland’s family focus.

Looking ahead

The Folk Collective and Epic Ashland want to make Summer Sounds an annual series. They hope to put on four or five shows at the bandshell next year. Although Epic Ashland is shouldering the costs this year, Aubert said the Folk Collective will seek grants and other funds to help pay for future Summer Sounds series.

“With the support of the community, we could bring some really good artists in” she said.

If so, this year’s Summer Sounds series may be just the start of a new Ashland community tradition.

Ashland resident Jim Coleman is a retired journalist with decades of experience at the Los Angeles Times. He is a volunteer copy editor for Ashland.news.

June 12: Date of Blitzen Trapper concert corrected.

Picture of Jim

Jim


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