When Jimmy Hunt relocated from Boone to West Asheville, he noticed a void. "That's the part of town I live in. That's where all my buddies live. That's where I go out and have dinner and beer and walk my dog." he says. "But there was no big festival."
It's a vacuum that comes and goes. West Asheville has been home to a number of music and arts street parties, such as the now-defunct West Fest, a short-lived turn with Fiesta Latina, and holidays-related gallery and boutique crawls. But Hunt — who started Music on the Mountaintop, an ecologically minded large-scale music festival in Boone three years ago — felt like what his new neighborhood needed was a local festival to call its own.
It was at Music on the Mountaintop that Hunt, who manages indie-rock band Do It To Julia, met Arieh Samson, who manages Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band. Samson had been considering producing a funk festival in downtown Asheville; when he and Hunt brainstormed, All Go West Festival (to be held in West Asheville behind the Rocket Club and in front of Harvest Records) was born.
The event, which Hunt describes as "having multi-facets: music, art and beer" brings together some of the best of what the area has to offer. West Asheville, according to Hunt "is so friendly and has that hip scene. We're going around to every business and saying, 'This is what we have to offer. How can we pair up?'"
The result, for the inaugural year, is a collection of interactive nonprofit booths (plus, a portion of the proceeds from All Go West benefits the Dogwood Alliance), a Kidz Zone, food and a group of about 15 local artists, as well as music happening on two stages.
The bands, for this first festival, were hand-picked by Hunt and Samson. "We selected the bands based on what we've been digging the past couple of months," says Samson. "I've been in the scene for five years now, and have fantasized about a festival. I knew what bands I'd start with."
The culmination of playlists and fantasy rosters resulted in the Booty Band and Do It To Julia, of course, but also pop group stephaniesid, steel-pan fusion act Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, eclectic newgrass/rock outfit Brushfire Stankgrass, live-electronica bands RBTS WIN and Marley Carroll & The Melanaster Band, folk duo Underhill Rose, jazz/rock project The Archrivals, indie-folk groups Kovacs & The Polar Bear and Uncle Mountain, jazz-jam act Vertigo Jazz Project, indie-rockers If You Wannas, Voodoo Wedding and Open Windows, and Americana group Tennessee Jed Band.
"We really like this town so much that we just wanted to embrace it," Samson says. "Instead of booking national acts, we're giving back to the bands here that have been paying their dues."
"We wanted to touch on every type of music that's represented in Asheville," Hunt says. Some genres (say, classical and world beat) aren't on the list, but indie rock — often neglected at festivals in favor of crowd-pleasing funk and jam — makes its presence known. "One of our goals with this festival was to touch on the emerging music. There's a new indie folk-rock scene coming out of Asheville right now," Hunt points out.
Recent Asheville transplants Do It To Julia and Open Windows top that list, along with Kovacs & the Polar Bear and If You Wannas, both of whom have put in several years on the local scene. "It's not that that genre doesn't get its respect, but it's tough for people to understand," Hunt says. The idea: Make it easy for people to get a taste of the sometimes raw, energetic, clever, youthful musical classification at a free festival, so they can then decide which bands they'd like to see at a later date in a local club.
And while festival-goers are sampling, there's All Go West's Asheville craft beer tasting from 12 to 3 p.m. While that particular aspect of the event is ticketed, it's a great chance to pick favorites and check out new offerings. "The beer tasting was an idea I took from Blues & Brews," Hunt says of the Telluride Festival. But — like the approach the All Go West organizers took with the bands — they decided to stay local in scope. "This event is all about staying local," Hunt says.
The festival, which kicks off this Saturday at high noon, is slated to end at 10 p.m. — but that doesn't mean the fun is over. There's a special after-hours late show scheduled at the Rocket Club featuring garage-y Americana band the Trainwreks and self-described "hipster hymns" performers Jen & the Juice. "If people want to party after 10, they should be able to," Hunts says. No need to fight for your right: All Go West Fest makes it easy.
Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: All Go West Festival
what: Arts and music street festival
where: Behind the Rocket Club and near Harvest Records on city streets Waynesville Avenue, Westwood Place and Michigan Avenue in West Asheville.
when: Saturday, April 24 (noon-10 p.m. Free. Asheville craft-beer tasting from noon-3 p.m. is ticketed, $20 online. Late night show at The Rocket Club, 10 p.m., $7. allgowest.com.)