Eclectic Sounds Come to Baltimore

071814_oregon-ridgeOregon Ridge Park will host international reggae stars, guitar virtuosos, bluegrass heavy hitters and bigtime indie rockers this summer.

The Believe in Music Festival on July 26 and the Hot August Music Festival on Aug. 16 bring diverse, multigenre lineups featuring up-and-coming local bands, national acts and internationally renowned artists.

The inaugural Believe in Music Festival lineup boasts Thievery Corporation, a Washington, D.C.-based collective of musicians and DJs that play a danceable mix of jazz, reggae, dub and world music; Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican guitar duo that Believe in Music founder Kenny Liner calls “jaw-droppingly amazing;” roots reggae legend Jimmy Cliff; rootsy, soulful band Lake Street Dive; electronic rock duo Boombox; and local legends The Bridge and DJ Who featuring the Believe in Music Kids.

“Thievery Corporation was really supportive of the cause and really liked the idea and was on board on right away,” said Liner, who founded the Living Classrooms program Believe in Music in the fall of 2012. “We built the lineup around them.”

The cause Liner referred to is that of his program, which aims to uplift and provide a creative outlet for inner city students through a multifaceted music education. He just finished teaching his second school year of students at the Perkins Homes, Baltimore’s largest housing project. This summer, he started teaching classes at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center, which is also in downtown Baltimore.

Liner’s program includes music history, rhythm lessons in which students play in a bucket band, melody and harmony, group vocal ensembles, an “American Idol”-style contest and individual and group songwriting.

“I’m just so grateful that it’s still going and that I’ve gotten all the support I’ve gotten to keep it going,” he said.

Liner started the program about a year after The Bridge — for whom he plays mandolin, percussion and beatbox, a form of vocal percussion — stopped touring in 2011. The band still plays locally a few times a year, as it will at the festival on July 26.

He partnered with area promoter All Good Presents to throw the festival. Promoter, talent buyer and All Good co-founder Tim Walther previously worked with Believe in Music on a benefit show at Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore last summer.

“Believe in Music creates an incredible opportunity for underprivileged kids to experience what music can do for the soul,” Walther said via email. “Kenny knows this first hand and we are honored to work with him on this one day event, the Believe in Music Festival.”

Walther and his company took this summer off from throwing the annual multi-day, camping music and arts festival, The All Good Festival, so the timing worked out. Walther said Liner’s cause attracted a lot of bands, and a headliner as diverse as Thievery Corporation allowed the rest of the lineup to be equally as eclectic.

“The Believe in Music concept garnered interest from every artist that we approached. The beautiful thing for me was that the process expanded my musical reach and led me to bands that I had never listened to before,” he said. “I would suggest that the diversity of the lineup sets us apart from the rest.”

Not only has a major regional promoter partnered with Believe in Music, but the Jewish community is also rallying behind Liner’s cause. The Center for Funds & Foundations, an arm of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, recommends donating to Believe in Music on its list of funding opportunities.

While the upcoming fundraiser and music festival is overflowing with big-name bands, Liner is equally excited for the day’s first performances, which will be by his students. The performances, being refined at the program’s summer classes, will feature bucket drumming, singing, rapping, dancing and more.

“A lot of them have never performed before. So they’re excited but they’re nervous. It’s going to be awesome,” Liner said. “There’s some real talent. They’re singing Destiny’s Child and it’s [ridiculous].

The Believe in Music Festival is July 26 at Oregon Ridge Park, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville. Gates open at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $59. Visit believeinmusicfestival.com.

Hot August Music Festival
As the music scene has changed, so has Brad Selko’s festival.

“I wanted to change. I needed to change,” said Selko, who first threw the Hot August Blues and Roots Festival at his Monkton farm 21 years ago.

With the festival growing larger and the music more diverse, Selko rebranded his festival this year and renamed it the Hot August Music Festival. It takes place on Aug. 16 at Oregon Ridge Park.

“I think it’s probably the best one I’ve put together,” he said. “The diversity is really great and it seems to be attracting people.”

Festival headliners include Old Crow Medicine Show, a Nashville-based old-time string band, progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek and indie folk-rockers Dr. Dog. Other performers include blues guitarist Tab Benoit, Brooklyn funk band Turkuaz, seven-piece funk and soul band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, bluegrass band Cabinet, and Americana band Houndmouth. Local performers include blues/soul/funk singer-songwriter Ursula Ricks, electro-rock quartet ELM, soul-singer Bosley, rock trio the Jordan August Band and folk-rockers The Solicitors.

In addition to its three stages, this year’s festival features improved festival infrastructure, a larger kids area and an Eastman guitar auction, proceeds from which will be donated to musical organization Common Ground on the Hill’s programs for at-risk youth.

As for the name change, Selko, who attends a lot of concerts and is constantly listening to new music, said it’s about staying with the times.

“I think you have to stay on top of what’s going on in music,” he said.

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