What's it take to plan a big music festival in rural Minnesota?
Featuring headliner Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit along with Amanda Shires, Shemekia Copeland and Dessa, Grand Rapids Riverfest is expected to draw about 3,500 people. Tickets go on sale 8 a.m. Friday, April 28, at grandrapidsriverfest.com/tickets.
What’s it like to plan a music festival with big names in a small town?
KAXE News Director Chelsey Perkins sat down for a conversation on KAXE’s Between You & Me podcast with Music Director Kari Hedlund, who’s spent months planning this year’s Grand Rapids Riverfest set for Sept. 9, 2023.
Featuring headliner Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit along with a bill of Amanda Shires, Shemekia Copeland and Dessa, the festival is expected to draw about 3,500 people. Tickets go on sale 8 a.m. Friday, April 28, at grandrapidsriverfest.com/tickets.
"With Jason Isbell as the headliner and the rest of the lineup, it's really reaching beyond even who has been there in the past,” Hedlund said. “And that is pretty satisfying and exciting to see people’s reactions of the lineup and the people that are playing together.”
With Isbell and Shires, husband and wife, the subjects of a recently released HBO documentaryRunning With Our Eyes Closed while also serving as Record Store Day ambassadors this year, Hedlund said the buzz around the couple is growing at the right time for the festival. And with Copeland working with Isbell several times in the past alongside the clever vocal stylings of Minnesota’s own Dessa, Hedlund sees an amazing day ahead.
“I just think that there’s some potential for some real musical magic,” she said.
Booking the festival’s acts is like putting together a puzzle, Hedlund said, influenced by several priorities — local interest, equitable representation and great music that reflects KAXE/KBXE’s airwaves. A band as big as Wilco headlining last year’s event, with band members offering rave reviews of their time in Grand Rapids, was an asset in talking with booking agents for this year’s event, she said.
“They know with Wilco, a band of that caliber, they understand what their expectations are and what is a good experience to them. It means a lot,” Hedlund said. “And so that was truly a huge notch in our belt to have the good graces of the bands from last year in helping book this year and that will just continue to move forward, right? That sort of goodwill and attention to detail and level of organization was just up there.”
Listen to the full conversation about Riverfest past and present by subscribing to the Between You & Me podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or on the NPR One app.