Last August, Off Broadway concert promoter John Henry told RFT Music that he wasn't sure how big the hugely successful Open Highway Festival ultimately would become, but he shared that he and club owner Steve Pohlman wanted to continue to surprise concertgoers with a variety of musical genres and perhaps even lengthen the event's duration.
This year, Henry and Pohlman are making good on those promises.
Now considered a hallmark event at Off Broadway, the Open Highway Music Festival has been a showcase of local, regional and national talent since 2012. But what began as a four-day tribute to roots music has now become a five-day showcase of soul, rock, country, gritty Americana and everything in between. The event, which runs August 5 through 9, also will include a special set at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room.
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"We feel very fortunate to have worked with a really great lineup of artists and bands over the past two years, and we aimed to continue that for this year's festival," Henry tells RFT Music.
The festival begins Tuesday, August 5, at Off Broadway, with Cory Chisel's Soul Obscura serving as the main dish. Chisel performed his special brand of folk rock during the 2013 festival (joined by award-winning vocalist Norah Jones in an unannounced appearance), but he's planning to take things into a more soulful Stax Records-oriented direction for Open Highway.
On Wednesday, August 6, the festival moves to the Duck Room, where rockers the Baseball Project -- which features former members of R.E.M. in a lineup of noteworthy musicians -- will perform, with Water Liars opening the night. Sturgill Simpson will bring his vintage country aesthetic to Off Broadway Thursday, August 7, and the Dock Ellis Band and a duo of Brian Henneman and Kip Loui will perform sets earlier in the night.
On Friday, August 8, Americana songwriter Justin Townes Earle will hit Off Broadway, with Emily Wallace opening. Finally, reunited brothers in roots rock Dave and Phil Alvin will close out the festival on Saturday, August 9, at Off Broadway with their band the Guilty Ones. Candye Kane will open the show.
"The goal has always been to expand into a genre-wide festival that isn't necessarily specific to 'roots' or 'country' music. Water Liars and Cory Chisel's Soul Obscura are good examples of that, I think," Henry says. "It's very soulful and passionate music that is slightly outside of acts we've had in the past, yet it still works well within the framework of the festival."
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The configuration of days also has changed for this year's Open Highway Music Festival. The two prior events had begun toward the end of the week and continued over the weekend. This year, though, concertgoers can rock out all week long, as the festival kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Saturday. Henry is looking forward to how fans react to the festival's expansion and the inclusion of more musical genres and notable acts.
"I feel that, more and more, people are open to music that isn't necessarily specific to what they normally listen to if it is done with feeling," Henry says. "We love working with bands like that."
The Open Highway Music Festival will be held August 5 through 9 at Off Broadway, with one performance on August 6 at Blueberry Hill's Duck Room. Tickets are $14 to $33 and can be purchased at offbroadwaystl.com.
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