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Local rock fest comes back after 20 years gone

WANT TO GO?

Music Fest

WHERE: Laidley Field, 200 Elizabeth St.

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: $25, military personnel and veterans (with valid ID or proof of service) $15. INFO: 304-389-8688 or www.facebook.com/WVMusicFest

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- People have been asking Matt Harkins for years, "When are you going to do another Music Fest? When are you going to have another one?"

"I'd get that all the time sometimes," he said.

It was a good question. Originally, when Harkins organized Music Fest in 1993, he intended it to be an annual music festival, a kind of local Localpalooza.

"But It was a lot of work," he said. "And it cost a lot of money."

Now, after a 20-year hiatus, Harkins is bringing Music Fest back. It takes over Laidley Field on Saturday for more than 10 hours of music.

A lot has changed since 1993. The only band left on the local music scene that performed at the first Music Fest is Freaktent, and that's just barely. The trio dropped out of sight a couple of years ago and only recently resurfaced -- and they're not even scheduled to play Saturday. 

Music Fest is also smaller, with fewer acts.

"I've scaled it back," Harkins acknowledged. "Twenty years ago, I had 20 bands in 12 hours, and I'll never do that again. It was just too much."

It was also pretty expensive for a then 20-year-old.

"I spent $14,000 and six months of my life promoting that," he said.

Still, Harkins was proud of what he put together, though it sounded almost accidental.

"It really just started with a friend of mine and I saying we ought to throw a party. He had a band and I was in a band, and we thought, 'We could throw a party in my basement and be the entertainment.'

"It escalated to the rec center, and then three and a half months later, we were at Laidley Field."

But it was a hassle, and after it was over, Harkins was glad. He was able to resist doing it all over until this year.

"Twenty years to do it again sounded about right," he said.

Harkins said he learned a lot from the first Music Fest. This second time around is different. He has more support earlier this time, and though his budget is much smaller and he got a late start, he called the response he got encouraging.

He said, "I put [word] out there on [Monday,] August 19, and by Sunday, I had 25 bands say they wanted to be part of this. The hard part was cutting that down to 10."

Among the 10 are local music scene regulars like Harrah, Dead Serious and Hogan's Goat.

A 10-band set-up, Harkins explained, is just more manageable to him. He added that even though the lineup isn't nearly as big as the first Music Fest, he's pleased with the variety.

"I think we got a good mix of rock and metal, but there were some bands I couldn't put on the bill because of the insurance -- some of the heavier stuff, nothing that might incite a riot."

Music Fest is supposed to be family-oriented.

"A lot of people like to hear this kind of music, but they've got kids and you can't bring the kids to a bar," Harkins said. "I'm just trying to bring the music out of the bars for everybody."

It's supposed to be a good time, and it serves a higher purpose, too. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Wounded Warrior project.

Harkins is hopeful the second Music Fest is a success.

"If we do good, maybe we'll do this again next year," he said. Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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