On the street and in bars, bands play in Aggieville

By Bethany Knipp

Though bands were playing in eight venues nearby, a group of street performers also drew a crowd at the eighth annual Aggiefest music festival this weekend.

Between gigs at the festival, members of the bluegrass band The Haymakers! brought out a cello, harmonica, mandolin and banjo to play on the corner of 12th and Moro streets for what they call social music, where musicians outside of the band join in and play with them.

The Haymakers! bass and cello player Dave Atchison of Ogden said social street music has been around the area for about 30 years. The four-member band expected that its corner jam session could grow to include up to 16 people.

Spectators watched The Haymakers! throughout the night, listening to the band’s upbeat bluegrass tunes that showed off the twang of the banjo and the bass of the cello. 

Atchison said they do the social music sessions because the experience of live music is important and needs to be perpetuated.

Those walking through Aggieville might have also heard folk, rock, punk, alternative and funk music blaring from the eight venues in the district where 60 bands were scheduled to entertain audiences.

“We got lucky this year and got a good variety,” Evan Tuttle, an Aggiefest coordinator, said.

Tuttle said the festival got started in 2006 with more than 100 bands and about 500 people in attendance.

Eight years later, he said there are fewer bands and venues but more people attend. Tuttle estimated that about 2,000 came out for the music Friday and Saturday evenings.

He said that before the festival came to fruition, members of the Manhattan Music Coalition wanted to revamp the local music scene, and Aggiefest was the way it happened.

“The point of this festival from the beginning has been to celebrate local, live music,” he said.

Sarah Cunnick, owner of the local Sisters of Sound music store and sponsor of the event, said the festival is also one way in which Aggieville venues book their future acts.

“A lot of times they don’t have time to go out and find shows to book, so this is how they do it,” she said.

Cunnick also said live music is something worth appreciating.

“Nothing comes across better than seeing the band live,” she said, adding that a full musical experience doesn’t come across in recordings.

Aggiefest patrons visited Auntie Mae’s Parlor, Aggie Central Station, KatHouse Lounge, Mojo’s Beach Bar, O’Malley’s Alley, Bluestem Bistro, The Dusty Bookshelf, Triangle Park and the Beach Museum of Art to see the acts.

Even though Aggiefest emphasizes local music, the event also had regional and national acts.

Headlining band Labretta Suede & the Motel 6 performed in the packed Auntie Mae’s Parlor basement Friday night. Its two members, lead singer Suede and guitarist Johnny Moondog, are from New Zealand but are based in the other Manhattan in New York.

The band, which identified its genres as rock ‘n’ roll, punk and rockabilly blues, has been to the Little Apple for Aggiefest almost every year since it started.

As the variety of band was diverse, so were patrons’ reasons for going.

Romy Aponte, 23, and her husband Ron Hegedus, 23, of Fort Riley came to Aggiefest because Hegedus had never been to a concert.

Hegedus said because of his post-traumatic stress disorder, he doesn’t enjoy crowds and doesn’t socialize that much. Aponte said Aggiefest was an opportunity to get him out.

She said Aggiefest was the last big thing the couple is doing before Hegedus, an Army specialist, deploys this week to South Korea for a year.

Hegedus said Aggiefest was loud and enjoyable.

“Back in high school I tried joining a band, and it reminded me of a lot that,” he said.

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