Hard to believe that it was six years ago when Mile 0 Fest arrived on the red dirt and Americana scene down in Key West, Florida. A logistical hurdle just to secure artists and patrons at the southernmost point of America, the very first lineup was far too impressive for many to ignore and this event continues to evolve and grow each and every year. The folks at Oh Wook! Productions and those working alongside their organization, including the city of Key West, have created arguably the best festival in the country, regardless of genre. Maintaining their traditional January dates for this sixth installment (January 24-28), the initial list of artists expected to join fans this year is impressive as always.
RETURNING FOR YEAR SIX: Bri Bagwell, Wade Bowen, Kaitlin Butts, Cody Canada and the Departed, Jason Eady, Mike and the Moonpies, Courtney Patton, Red Dirt Rangers, Tina Wilkins, Walt Wilkins, Jamie Lin Wilson
BACK FROM A PREVIOUS YEAR: American Aquarium, Willy Braun, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Roger Creager, Dalton Domino, Kevin Fowler, Kylie Frey, John Fullbright, Adam Hood, Jack Ingram, Lucas Jagneaux and the Roadshow, Corb Lund, Jesse Lynn Madera, Micky and the Motorcars, Randy Rogers Band, RC and the Ambers, Shane Smith and the Saints, Heather Stalling, Max Stalling, Sunny Sweeney, The Band of Heathens, The Damn Quails, The Great Divide, The Red Clay Strays, Topo Chico Cowboys (Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy), Morgan Wade
MAKING THEIR INITIAL APPEARANCE: Jesse Daniel, Midnight River Choir, Lauren Morrow, Ian Munsick, Muscadine Bloodline, Kayla Ray, Them Dirty Roses
Sam Foster returns with an appropriately named new album, ‘Heatwaves’ just in time for the summer sun. However, this album isn’t shallow party songs, but instead is packed with depth and subsistence from start to finish.
Highlighted by the title track, ‘Heatwaves‘, Foster touches on a variety of subjects including sobriety and social anxiety, while sharing his latest collection of songs. Included is a murder mystery, ‘Get It Tonight‘, and other local tales all before the final track ‘Loud and Clear‘ brings it home with a unique sound and message of the need for more empathy in today’s world.
His fourth record in eight years, Foster’s range, songwriting, and live performances continue to evolve, leaving fans eager to see what’s next for this native North Carolinian.
Recorded at Earthtones Recording Studio in Greensboro (NC) and produced by chief engineer, Benjy Johnson, ‘Heatwaves‘ paves the way for Foster to continue making music his own way while embracing a growing audience of fans across the state, region, and country.
Sam Foster and The Obsolete are celebrating their album release with Magnolia Green and Crenshaw Pentecostal at High Rock Outfitters on Friday (6/17) in Lexington.
Musicians featured on “Heatwaves“:
Lead Vocals/Guitar- Sam Foster Guitar/Vocals- Seth Williams Bass/Vocals- Brad Cardille Drums- Jacob Kuhn Drums- Brian Norris Keys- Nikki Forrester Fiddle- Emanuel Wynter Vocals- Laura Jane Vincent Vocals- Emily Stewart Vocals- Sara Twomey Theremin- Benjy Johnson
TRACK LIST: 1) Let Me Out 2) Heatwaves 3) Smooth Silk Suit 4) Custom Deluxe 5) (Somebody’s Gonna) Get It Tonight 6) Seven Alarm 7) Memorial Day 8) False Poet-Prophet 9) Even Steven 10) Drama Queen 11) Big Yellow Bat 12) Loud and Clear
Splitting time between Arizona and Texas, Drew Cooper has found an audience among those who enjoy story-telling and honesty from their singer-songwriters. Considered by many to be under the broad Americana umbrella, the truth is there’s a fine mix and influence of different genres – country, rock, red dirt, and more, throughout Part 1 of “This Life” (released April 15). Ultimately, it’s an artist sharing their personal thoughts and feelings just as they envisioned without making any sacrifice to fit a profile or match a label.
With an entertaining cover of John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery‘, Cooper’s attention grabbing baritone sets the stage for a true life journey across a broad range of different topics. Highlighted by the title track, ‘This Life‘, Cooper touches on a variety of subjects while sharing stories to which many can relate, like a rocking ‘American Son‘. The second track precedes ‘Darker and Darker‘, another powerful piece that highlights Cooper’s range and leaves fans eager to see what the second part of this double-album has in store.
Recorded at Studio 606 in Los Angeles (home to the Foo Fighters) and produced by its chief engineer, John Lousteau, ‘This Life‘ paves the way for Cooper to continue making music his own way while embracing a growing audience of Texas and red dirt fans.
The Drew Cooper Band is John June on bass, Austin Sweeney on lead guitar, Austin Goff on drums and Drew Cooper on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.
Musicians featured on “This Life“:
Lead vocals/ acoustic guitar-Drew Cooper Bass-John June Bass- Evan Myaskovsky Drums- Matt Ryman Drums, percussion, background vocals- John lousteau Guitar- Patrick James Junior Guitar- Oliver Roman Guitar- Jack Maher Keys- Martine Guigui Mandolin-Drew Taubenfeld Dobro- Albert Hickman Fiddle-Jody Bartula
Time is a funny thing. Less than a week removed from the fifth installment of Mile 0 Fest in Key West, Florida, it feels so far away. On the other hand, it’s also hard to believe this once dream concept has now grown into the behemoth it is today. A boutique red dirt and Americana festival at the southernmost point of the United States is a far-fetched idea on the surface, but Kyle Carter, his staff, volunteers, and locals have turned this event into one of the most impressive music festivals in the land – across all genres.
Returning to its usual late January dates after moving to April last year, Mile 0 Fest kicked off under absolutely gorgeous weather before suffering one day of Florida winter, which was still better than most attendees left in order to arrive on the island. However, fans weren’t to be deterred and they were helped by the heat bands were brining all across the island (more on that later). Overall, this year ranks among one of the best yet and, as every year does, has left both current, returning, and future attendees with a sense of excitement and anticipation for what next year has in store.
FRAMILY – FRIENDS + FAMILY
Let’s begin by stating there are no words that could possibly describe the overall experience for those in attendance. From rookies to veterans, the friendships and relationships spawned as a result of this festival is something definitely unique to this event. Many from across the country, continent, and ocean, have developed friendships and look forward to meeting up in paradise for one week a year. But the best thing may be how newcomers are just as easily welcomed into these circles as there’s space for everyone on the island. Whether you want to sleep in, be a tourist, turn in early, or party all night, there’s something for you, all while the focal point remains on each artist and their music throughout the entire week.
Only at Mile 0 Fest can you witness the many characters of Courtney Patton in action, while also hearing the Sequestered Songwriters sing Jimmy Buffett songs on a beach. The ability of this festival to continually come up with ideas for these artists to collaborate and entertain is amazing. One of the best shows this year was hosted by the Topo Chico Cowboys, Drew Kennedy and Josh Grider, who have quickly grown into fan favorites. Their ‘All Night 90’s’ country covers kicked off with Brooks and Dunn’s ‘Brand New Man‘ as many other artists took to the stage throughout the evening, keeping the crowd entertained late into the night. But well known artists weren’t the only one’s there to steal the show. Festival founder Kyle Carter hopped on stage at least twice, showcasing his talents that once defeated Cody Canada in a battle of the bands, singing ‘What Might Have Been‘ by Little Texas during the event and playing again at ‘The Last Bloody Brunch’ – alongside scheduled artists Jake Flint, John Goolsby, Blake Lankford, and Justin Clyde Williams in addition to a few other special guests.
Perhaps no other band embodies the spirit of Mile 0 Fest more than Mike and the Moonpies. Performing three sets during the week, they kicked off night one with what has quickly become a tradition – ‘Honky Tonk Tuesday’. It helped set the tone for the week ahead as these specialized experiences are something only a festival centered on showcasing its artists can deliver. Another Mile 0 Fest staple, Jamie Lin Wilson, hosted ‘The Sing-a-long’ Friday night leading to some fun combinations and multiple collaborations including Chloe Beth doing ‘9 to 5‘, Wilson, Kaitlin Butts, and Courtney Patton covering ‘Goodbye Earl‘ and the entire cast accompanying Bryon White for ‘The Road Goes On Forever.’
ROOKIES / FULL BAND PERFORMANCES
Every year, Mile 0 Fest compiles an astonishing lineup but the new additions this year really made a name for themselves. Rookies – Ryan Culwell, Grady Spencer and the Work, The Red Clay Strays, 49 Winchester, Justin Clyde Williams, Channing Wilson, and Zac Wilkerson each definitely left an impression with their individuals performances. Wilkerson kicked off the entire event, first to take the stage on Tuesday evening, setting the bar high and on Saturday both The Red Clay Strays and 49 Winchester brought the heat to a chilly Sunset Pier. Delayed by a wind advisory, fans were still out in full force braving the elements and this lineup didn’t disappoint. In perhaps the most talked about set of this year’s event, The Red Clay Strays immediately made it worth everyone’s wait ahead of 49 Winchester and the final Mike and the Moonpies performance of the week.
Alongside these rookie achievements, a few past solo acts and one collaboration, presented full band performances that also raised the bar. Lucas Jagneaux and Chance Anderson have each made prior appearances, but this year both had their backing bands in tow and it literally amped up their sets. Lucas Jagneaux and the Roadshow fired up at Dante’s Pool Bar and the Southernmost Beach Cafe, where Chance and the Takers also performed after making their Coffee Butler Amphitheater debut the night before. RC and the Ambers are also veterans, but accompanied by Lance Roark and on the verge of releasing their debut album, RC Edwards and Amber Watson continued their rise drawing big crowds at both the Smokin’ Tuna and Southernmost Beach.
The week not only featured amazing live performances, but many of the artists on hand also released new or new versions of music during the festival. Morgan Wade made her sophomore appearance at the event and really impressed during a special acoustic performance at Key West Theater before her time at the Amphitheater. The deluxe edition of her debut album, ‘Reckless‘ featured new tracks and was put out Friday.
Grady Spencer and the Work toasted fans in attendance during their festival debut over at Dante’s Pool Bar on Friday, celebrating the release of their fourth album – ‘Wait‘ – a nice blend of past and present sounds exceptionally put together around an introspective lyrical journey.
The Red Clay Strays, along with Lucas Jagneaux and the Roadshow each had singles drop while entertaining fans with their live performances. ‘Doin’ Time‘ from Alabama’s The Red Clay Strays and ‘Honky Tonk Heart‘ by Louisiana’s Jagneaux each debuted last week for everyone’s enjoyment, available on all streaming platforms, and it was fun hearing them live too.
Waves also dropped their debut EP of six original songs on January 28, instantly becoming renowned on the lineup more so than in years past. With two full band sets, mixing into the variety shows, and sitting down for a Texas Voices television interview, this group continues working hard laying the groundwork for what should be an impressive future career in the music industry.
For the first time ever, two North Carolina artists made the official lineup and each made the absolute most of their opportunities. Raleigh’s American Aquarium, led by front-man BJ Barham, is arguably the hardest working band around with lead guitar Shane Boeker and bassist, Alden Hedges routinely backing the variety shows; in which, Barham also made a few select appearances prior to their first full set out on the beach. Playing to a packed beach and batch of shrimp boats, American Aquarium brought out some deep cuts for their initial performance much to the delight of those who have been following their rise in the industry. Setting the standard for energetic performances, the band brought both vibrance and their hits to The Amp stage on Saturday night.
Justin Clyde Williams also impressed with a set alongside Oklahoma’s Raina Cobb at Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon on Thursday. Drawing a large contingent from The Old North State, it’s a safe bet Williams left the island with many new fans from all across the country. Also joining the aforementioned group for Saturday’s ‘Last Bloody Brunch’, the line down Charles St. stretching to Duval was filled with those who had been in attendance at his earlier performance and many others from North Carolina. The connection between this group, state, and the music continues to grow and seeing more artists from the area down in the keys was truly special.
HOLD MY BEER
Texas country legends Randy Rogers Band and Wade Bowen have long been staples in the scene and veterans of this festival. Bringing their ‘Hold My Beer’ collaboration, now two volumes strong to the island, for another special show, each also thoroughly impressed with their individuals performances backed by their respective bands. Bringing out hit after hit, the one-two punch of Bowen and Rogers to end Friday night at The Coffee Butler Amphitheater may have been the best all week.
In a shift from previous years, there was no true emcee of the festival but instead a group effort from many different artists and associated individuals who shared time in the spotlight introducing upcoming acts. Perhaps none was more impressive than Uncle Bekah, who has become synonymous with Mile 0 Fest, thanks to her ‘Inappropriate Trucker Hats’ which annually take over the island. From fans to artists – funny, clever, classic, and sometimes even impromptu sayings – find their way onto hats and they’re so prevalent, it’s unlikely you’ll see any recap footage or even a photo of the event without spotting at least a few. At any rate, Uncle Bekah’s introduction of The Great Divide was just another in a long list of memorable performances orchestrated by Mile 0 Fest throughout the entire week.
Other Top Performances (non-variety) and in no particular order:
Shane Smith and the Saints – Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater
Stoney LaRue – Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater
Adam Hood and Jason Eady – Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon
Jamie Lin Wilson – Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater
Topo Chico Cowboys – Sunset Pier
Kaitlin Butts – Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater
John Fullbright – Southernmost Beach Cafe
Dalton Domino – Sunset Green
Max and Heather Stalling – Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon
Cliff Cody – The Marker
Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights – Dante’s Pool Bar
Kylie Frey – Sunset Pier
Walt and Tina Wilkins – Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon
Chloe-Beth – Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon
Year Five of Mile 0 Fest continued to show why this event has transformed into a can’t miss week for many attendees and bucket list item for red dirt and Americana music fans everywhere. Navigating a few artists cancellations, including Ryan Bingham, and a cooler than usual Saturday, the staff and crew working this festival continually make magic happen across the island. As stated in the beginning, no amount of words can truly portray what life is like during Mile 0 Fest, but if you’d like to find out in 2023 – CLICK HERE – and a $100 deposit guarantees you a pass for next year!
The annual pilgrimage of American Aquarium fans returns this weekend, February 3-5.
Fans of North Carolina based American Aquarium have become familiar with the annual journey to the state’s capital (Raleigh, NC) and Lincoln Theatre, orchestrated by front man B.J. Barham. Over the years, inviting talented artists from other parts of the country and those right here in our own backyard, Barham consistently pieces together a solid lineup for the ‘Roadtrip to Raleigh’, now on its seventh rendition after missing last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially gaining notoriety around the Carolinas with a tireless touring schedule. Barham continues working hard to connect with fans and it’s this persistence that has expanded the fan base, leading to national tours with sell outs in tow. From humble beginnings the band now regularly visits Texas, Oklahoma, and has repeatedly played festivals like Mile 0 Fest in Key West (Florida), Music Fest in Steamboat (Colorado) and many others – but none compare to seeing Barham perform on his home turf.
In years past, fans have traveled from all over the United States and even the world to experience these unique sets of consecutive American Aquarium performances. Every year the lineup has been stacked as fans enjoy and discover other artists, all while having an opportunity to take in Barham’s hometown sights often referred to in his lyrics. Once in Raleigh you can, hear “the church bells ringing down at old St. Mary’s” and experience “landlocked nights down at Slim’s” all on your own.
The full 2022 lineup features, Margo Cilker and Old 97’s on Thursday, Adeem the Artist and Aaron Lee Tasjan on Friday, and John R. Miller with Zach Bryan on Saturday – all ahead of American Aquarium who close the show each night.
Margo Cilker (Thursday 2/3)
Old 97’s (Thursday 2/3)
Adeem the Artist (Friday 2/4)
Aaron Lee Tasjan (Friday 2/4)
John R. Miller (Saturday 2/5)
Zach Bryan (Saturday 2/5)
American Aquarium (Thursday 2/3, Friday 2/4, and Saturday 2/5)
Mile 0 Fest returns for its fifth installment, January 25 – January 29, in Key West, Florida. One of the absolute best festivals available to fans of red dirt and Americana music, Mile 0 Fest has rocketed its way into the top echelon of events with stellar lineups, unique experiences, and an amazing setting, all thanks to a relentless work ethic of those behind the scenes. This year’s edition boasts another amazing lineup with over 60 artists performing 100-plus shows in just over four days and there’s no indication things will be slowing down anytime soon.
There’s a handful of first-time artists that are definitely expected to make an impression, including 49 Winchester, Ryan Bingham, Ryan Culwell, The Red Clay Strays, Grady Spencer and the Work, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, Zac Wilkerson, Justin Clyde Williams, and Channing Wilson. Impactful returning performers include North Carolina’s own American Aquarium – Chance and the Takers, John Fullbright, Lucas Jagneaux and the Roadshow, Shane Smith and the Saints, RC and the Ambers, Morgan Wade, Reckless Kelly, and the Topo Chico Cowboys (Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy). In addition, the backbone of Mile 0 Fest – Mike and the Moonpies, Cody Canada, Wade Bowen, Walt Wilkins, Jason Eady, Courtney Patton, and Jamie Lin Wilson continue to impress each and every year.
This year, RedDirtNC is excited to partner with five of those performers throughout the event in order to give fans, both in attendance and elsewhere, a truly unique perspective. Make sure you’re following all of our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – RedDirtNC) but especially Instagram next Tuesday – Saturday (January 25 – January 29) for what promises to be some entertaining and fun content!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 25 – MIKE AND THE MOONPIES (Omar Oyoque)
Mile 0 Fest Scheduled Performances: TUE (1/25) Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater, 10:30pm-12:00am THUR (1/27) Sunset Green, 3:00pm-4:00pm SAT (1/29) Sunset Pier – The Shiner Bock Stage, 3:00pm-4:00pm
-An inaugural member of the lineup from year one, the Moonpies are one of the hottest bands in the country and will be leading the charge on day one ahead of their late-night Honky-Tonk Tuesday performance.
-Another inaugural member of the lineup, Chance Anderson will have his full band in tow for the first time this year and is sure to make an impression.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27 – JUSTIN CLYDE WILLIAMS
Mile 0 Fest Scheduled Performances: THUR (1/27) Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon, 12:00pm-1:00pm SAT (1/29) The Smokin’ Tuna Saloon – The Deep Eddy Stage, 10:00am-12:00pm
-Officially a Mile 0 Fest rookie, you may remember Williams’ from an impromptu appearance alongside Stoney Larue and Cody Canada during a beach set in year number two.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28 – RC AND THE AMBERS
Mile 0 Fest Scheduled Performances: THUR (1/27) The Smokin’ Tuna Saloon – The Deep Eddy Stage, 1:40pm-2:40pm FRI (1/28) Southernmost Beach Cafe – The Kimes Ranch Stage, 1:40pm-2:40pm
-Oklahoma natives, RC Edwards and Amber Watson, front this fun band that always leave you smiling with their fun lyrics and catchy sound.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 29 – GRADY SPENCER AND THE WORK
Mile 0 Fest Scheduled Performances: FRI (1/28) Dante’s Pool Bar – The Uncle Bekah Stage, 12:00pm-1:00pm SAT (1/29) Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater, 4:00pm-4:40pm
-Making their first Mile 0 Fest appearance, it’s a safe bet this group garners plenty of new fans during their time in the Keys.
If this is your first time to the festival, be sure and check out our Seven Things To Know Before You Go from years past. Including 2021 and 2020 – there’s plenty of tips, tricks, and a preview of just how much fun you’re about to have in paradise.
There’s no doubt Cody Canada has already cemented his place in what has become known as the red dirt music scene. From his early days as an integral part of Cross Canadian Ragweed, to the present with Cody Canada and the Departed, it’s the music and live performances that have always resonated with the fans. Fortunately for those same fans, Canada continues making quality music and already has other projects on the horizon.
This latest release, ‘If You Want It That Much’ is available right now however you consume new music and it truly taps into the heart and soul of what one would expect from Canada and the Departed. Written by Gary Wayne Thomason and Scott Melott, Canada, the band, and a few others bring the full sound to life while creating something fans will recognize and should immediately respond to with favorable acceptance.
In addition to this latest single, Canada also has plans in place for an upcoming re-recorded release of the Cross Canadian Ragweed album, ‘Soul Gravy’. Peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, this new version will also features collaborations with country superstar Lee Ann Womack.
Canada had this to say about the future release, “I never was satisfied with the recording of ‘Soul Gravy.’ I thought the songs were all spot on and thought out lyrically. That was a busy year so we recorded fast. No amps. All pod. I didn’t like that idea and got out voted. This time I did it the way I wanted. I can finally own recordings of these songs again and have them on vinyl.”
*credits* – Cody Canada – Lead Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar Pool – Jeremy Plato – Bass, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar Pool – Eric Hansen – Drums – Ryan Snipes – Baritone Guitar, Acoustic Guitar Pool – Lucas Taylor – Acoustic Guitar Pool – Mason Morris – Acoustic Guitar Pool
Again, be sure to check out ‘If You Want It That Much’ (available now) while keeping an eye out for the upcoming re-recorded release of ‘Soul Gravy’.
The world was a much different place in May of 2019 when Justin Clyde Williams released his four song EP, “Preamble.” Appropriately titled, meaning – “a preliminary or preparatory statement, an introduction,” the rising singer/songwriter returns with his first full length album – “Empty Rooms” – after navigating a literal work stoppage of the live music industry due to the coronavirus.
However, the title track isn’t a pandemic anthem but a heartfelt ballad of the struggle many artists face on the road to becoming a household name. Playing anywhere and everywhere, paying their dues, and with the unique setup of this album – literally recorded in an empty room on one take, with a single microphone, guitar and fiddle accompaniment by Matt Parks – listeners can not only hear, but feel that journey.
This entire album is a raw, powerful, unfiltered trip from start to finish. Few artists are able to tackle some of the difficult topics addressed in a few of the early tracks like Williams while also displaying the range to incorporate a quality love song or two. Ultimately, the record wraps with ‘Good Times‘, a song about the passing of one partner in a relationship but also with an underlying theme for Williams entire debut album – “it takes bad times, to know good times.”
The world may have changed, but Justin Clyde Williams‘ raw, natural sound that debuted when “Preamble” set the stage over two years ago still rings true. Capturing a roller coaster of emotions sure to reach a wide audience for multiple different reasons, it’s a safe bet Williams’ days of playing any “empty rooms” are behind him.
1 – Blood On Your Hands
2 – Boys From Broken Homes
3 – Kansas City
4 – Livin’ Hard
5 – Back Turned To You
6 – Empty Rooms
7 – Breach The Gates
8 – No Demise
9 – Good Times
Upcoming Tour Dates:
10/8 – Lion’s Den – Pinetop, AZ
10/9 – Lion’s Den – Pinetop, AZ
10/11 – Sam’s Town Point – Austin, TX 10/12 – Hwy Bar – Arlington, TX 10/13 – Ironhorse Saloon – Oologah, OK
10/14 – Bucks Bar and Grill – Venice, NE 10/15 – The Mission – Jefferson City, MO 10/15 – Gene’s Country Club – Pevely, MO 10/16 – Captains Sports Lounge – Lake Lotawana, MO
The fifth Mile 0 Fest (initial) lineup is out and January can’t get here fast enough.
Five years ago Mile 0 Fest arrived on the red dirt and Americana scene down in Key West, Florida. A logistical hurdle just to secure artists and patrons at the southernmost point of America, the very first lineup was far too impressive for many to ignore. Every year since, the folks at Oh Wook! Productions and those working alongside their organization, including the city of Key West, have created arguably the best festival in the country, regardless of genre. Navigating a literal work stoppage of the live music industry just after the 2020 event, last year’s festival was delayed until April but a return to its traditional January dates has been set for the fifth installment (January 25-29) and the list of artists expected to join fans this year is especially impressive.
BACK FOR YEAR FIVE: Wade Bowen, Cody Canada and the Departed, Mike and the Moonpies, Jamie Lin Wilson, Walt Wilkins, Jason Eady, Courtney Patton, Kaitlin Butts, Tina Wilkins, Bri Bagwell, Red Dirt Rangers
RETURNING FROM A PREVIOUS YEAR: Randy Rogers Band, American Aquarium, Reckless Kelly, Shane Smith and the Saints, The Band of Heathens, Micky and the Motorcars, John Fullbright, Adam Hood, Stoney Larue, Ray Wylie Hubbard, RC and the Ambers, Morgan Wade, Bonnie Bishop, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, The Dirty River Boys, Topo Chico Cowboys, Kylie Frey
MAKING THEIR INITIAL APPEARANCE: Parker McCollum, Ryan Bingham, The Dead South, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, Channing Wilson, Zac Wilkerson, The Hooten Hallers
One year ago during the final week of April, thirty-one different artists featured on this Mile 0 Fest lineup played to empty rooms as they fought to keep their music and life somewhat intact with virtual performances. Uncertainty loomed and many, entertainers and fans alike, wondered when (or even if) live music would return. A full calendar year later, those same songwriters and musicians finally got to gather with a reduced capacity crowd in Key West, Florida for what has become arguably the best festival in the country after only just four years in existence.
Every year various attempts are made to detail the soul of this festival with written reviews, still images, videos, and stories that only seem fathomable in tall tales but once you attend, you immediately understand that while these are all great – the true spirit of Mile 0 Fest cannot be captured. Many attendees have begun to describe it as a musical family reunion, not just for the countless acts collaborating on stages all across the four-mile island but also opposite the rail, as so many have grown to become close friends using the festival as an ultimate backdrop for their gathering.
Many scheduled events across the country missed their target dates, some twice, but the Mile 0 Fest crew took advantage of their surroundings and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. An abundance of open air venues led the festival to postpone for just three months and although uncertainty surrounded their initial revelation, the dates stuck and this past week may have provided the best festival experience ever. The absence of live music for the past 14 months combined with performers finally getting an opportunity to feed off the energy of a crowd led to an occurrence unlike any other.
It also seemed to elevate the performance of certain acts, especially at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater, where Shane Smith and the Saints received extended time due to some last minute cancellations and took full advantage w/ an impressive high-energy performance. Maybe it was the layoff, maybe not, but their set resonated with the sold out crowd, immediately becoming a high point among a really impressive lineup and North Carolina’s American Aquarium continued building on the momentum two nights later with a memorable set of their own. Before setting the amphitheater stage on fire, lead singer BJ Barham and his band entertained at the newly added Sunset Green stage where Barham couldn’t help but crack a smile when someone in the audience yelled, “I Saw A Tiger” between songs in reference to some of his virtual “Tiger King” related content released during lockdown.
Other memorable performances included Chance Anderson, Chloe-Beth, Lucas Jagneaux, Holly Beth, and Amber Watson all looking right at home on the amphitheater stage during their featured ‘Duets’ alongside Jamie Lin Wilson. Anderson and Chloe-Beth nailed ‘Because the Night‘, Jagneaux and Beth entertained with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart‘, and Watson teamed up alongside Wilson for ‘Does He Love You‘. The backing band, featuring Shane Boeker (lead guitar), Alden Hedges (bass), Zachary Moulton (steel), John Henry Trinko (keys), and Giovanni ‘Nooch’ Carnuccio III (drums) also deserve a ton of credit for putting their own spin on each of these classics. Another gem included Drew Kennedy teaming up with Courtney Patton on ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life‘, but it was Mike ‘Moonpie’ Harmier who stole the show by leaping into the arms of Kennedy to end the evening.
First time invitees Max and Heather Stalling, Morgan Wade, and Roger Creager also each made quite the positive impression on their respective crowds around the island and periodic returnee Pat Green dialed up a fun set before the late night show on Wednesday. Mike and the Moonpies, alongside Courtney Patton, have also both become staples of the event continually pumping out quality performances no matter which stage they’re playing. Patton, joined by Kaitlin Butts, Jamie Lin Wilson, and Tina Wilkins created a truly memorable experience poolside singing ‘Waited‘ by the late Kylie Rae Harris. Both Courtney and Jamie Lin also shared an excellent new song, ‘Hard Time Lately‘, co-written during quarantine which Patton teased may be on an upcoming new album. The Moonpies initially played as part of ‘Honky Tonk Tuesday‘, a perfect match and hopefully annual event, while both of their regular full band sets rocked as always.
The Topo Chico Cowboys, Kennedy and Josh Grider, are made for this festival. Initially debuting armed with ‘Dollar on the Wall‘ and ‘Here’s to Friends‘ in 2020, everyone left the island this year as honorary members of the ‘West Texas Cloud Appreciation Society‘. Both truly capitalized on quarantine as each performed almost weekly as part of the Sequestered Songwriters, with Kennedy’s ‘Live From My Backyard’ and the ‘Grider Family Happy Hour‘ which happened live when wife Kristi joined Josh for ‘Islands in the Stream‘ at the amphitheater during ‘Duets‘.
It’s literally impossible to witness each and every set available at Mile 0 Fest, even in a reduced capacity environment, but there are certain settings and lineup combinations you know will be extra special. It may be the artist, it could be the landscape, but there definitely are situations only Key West can create – including John Fullbright playing guitar, keys, and harp on the beach with the ocean serving as a natural backdrop – unforgettable.
As with any event, there were obvious highlights but the fact music was being played in front of appreciative and jovial fans was undoubtedly the best thing witnessed all week. For that, the entire Mile 0 Fest staff, from the very top to the army of volunteers, including the city of Key West and Monroe County, should all be commended for their efforts in being a part of helping to bring live music back. Yes, there are still precautions to take and no doubt the pandemic has changed a lot of how things used to be handled in the past, but the sheer joy this festival induced over the past week could not be ignored and 2022 should offer another opportunity to highlight the best (artists, bands, staff, and fans) in this industry right back to paradise.