‘I AM’ OPEN YOUR EARS AT

NEW LON­DON MU­SIC FES­TI­VAL ROLLS OUT THE NON-CLAS­SIC ROCK

The Day - Sound & Country - - I Am - By RICK KOSTER Day Staff Writer

TThe idea that just be­cause sum­mer is in the rearview mir­ror, there will be no more out­door mu­si­cal fun in the re­gion is just not true. And in New Lon­don, it hasn’t been the case since 2006. On Sept. 13, the third an­nual I AM Fes­ti­val— which is short for In­de­pen­dent Arts and Mu­sic— takes place as al­ways in the city’s Water­front Park on the Thames River. An in­stantly pop­u­lar event bring­ing to­gether cut­ting edge and up-and­com­ing mu­si­cal artists of all gen­res, as well as var­i­ous artis­tic work­shops, ac­tiv­i­ties and in­ter­ac­tive events, I AM draws a multi­gen­er­a­tional crowd from across New Eng­land and NewYork that joins hap­pily with the lo­cals.

Plus, there’s that won­der­ful me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal segue in the air— from sun­tan lo­tion and warm, salt­wa­ter breezes to those teas­ing au­tum­nal scents of woodsmoke and turn­ing leaves in the brisk air. Not a bad set­ting for a day of fun.

This year’s fes­ti­val stars head­lin­ers MarthaWain­wright (folk-pop), Oak­ley Hall (alt-coun­try), Kidz in the Hall (hiphop) and Jay Reatard (punk)— along with an amaz­ing ar­ray of lo­cal and re­gional tal­ent.

“Di­ver­sity has al­ways been the pri­or­ity,” says Sean Mur­ray, who books many of the I AM artists for the New Lon­don Mu­sic Fes­ti­val out­fit that puts on the event. He points out that where many mu­sic fes­ti­vals reach to older artists from the past to at­tract crowds, the goal at I AM is to at­tract at­ten­dees with acts on their way up. “That’s the chal­lenge: to study in­di­vid­ual artists and see where their ca­reers are head­ing.”

The first I AM fes­ti­val, fea­tur­ing in­die rock he­roes Girl Talk, Rainer Maria and the Rye Coali­tion, stunned happy lo­cals when the trains un­loaded mu­sic fans from all over and park­ing lots were full of cars with out-of-state plates.

But event or­ga­niz­ers were con­fi­dent the fes­ti­val would be a suc­cess from the word go.

“We fully ex­pected that, with the right bud­get, we would be able to at­tract na­tional acts, who in turn would at­tract fans from out of town to visit our city,” says Rich Martin, who op­er­ates the New Lon­don Mu­sic Fes­ti­val. “New Lon­don has al­ways been a mu­sic town. That it hasn’t been rec­og­nized by any na­tional au­thor­ity as a mu­si­cal mecca is per­haps only be­cause of our rel­a­tively small foot­print and bud­get. But I think, na­tion­ally, there is a grow­ing aware­ness of what we’re do­ing, and the I AM Fes­ti­val is be­com­ing the fo­cal point.”

Mur­ray adds, “We’ve learned that this is an im­por­tant event to the city’s arts scene as well as Con­necti­cut’s mu­sic scene in gen­eral. We try to in­vite some of the most ac­tive play­ers in the state to come and pro­mote what they do here. Con­necti­cut record la­bels, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, pro­mo­tion com­pa­nies and venue rep­re­sen­ta­tives— all rub­bing el­bows and net­work­ing with each other. Mean­while, you’ve got a huge crowd just en­joy­ing the event. It’s re­ally a great thing to see.”

While mu­sic is cer­tainly a huge draw, Martin says this year the ef­forts to fo­cus on other artis­tic dis­ci­plines will be big­ger than ever. “We’re def­i­nitely go­ing to branch out,” he says, de­scrib­ing plans to in­clude an on­go­ing silk-screen print­ing demon­stra­tion, a vir­tual art gallery with pro­jec­tions of the works of lo­cal artists, a work­shop on how to build a gui­tar, and po­etry read­ings.

“We want this to be a great fes­ti­val for all the ob­vi­ous rea­sons,” Martin says. “But also just be­cause New Lon­don is a great arts city— and more and more peo­ple are re­al­iz­ing that.”

TOP, WATER­FRONT PARK IS ALIVE WITH MU­SIC AND MU­SIC FANS DUR­ING THE DAY­LONG I AM FES­TI­VAL; ABOVE, SHAWN CUN­NING­HAM OF NEW LON­DON GIVES HIS DAUGH­TER RAVEN, 4, A LIFT DUR­ING THE 2007 EVENT. PHO­TOS TIM COOK / THE DAY.

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