This weekend's Olympia Acoustic Fest crowded with talent

The 2-year-old event is no infant; big names will grace the stage this year

Contributing writerMarch 28, 2014 

The Olympia Acoustic Fest is only in its second year, but it seems fair to say that it’s arrived.

“I’m really excited about the lineup,” said organizer and performer Paul Mauer of Longview. “They are all amazing, awesome musicians.

“It was hard trying to place people on second stage versus main stage because all of them are main-stage quality.”

While Mauer is in no position to be objective, you don’t have to take his word for it.

Headlining the festival — which boasts 11 hours of music on two stages — is Seattle singer-songwriter Shawn Smith, best known as the leader of Brad, a side project of Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard.

“He’s been on ‘Letterman’ and ‘SNL,’” Mauer said. “He’s very successful. He’s a very cool guy, and we’re lucky to have him.

“He’s pretty much the headliner,” he added. “The Oly Mountain Boys are the headliner-headliner because they are Olympia darlings.”

That’s right: It was hard to pick a headliner. Another contender is the Olympia- and Seattle-based folk duo Science, which has been featured in High Times magazine (which named it Unsigned Band of the Month in January 2013) and on PBS’ “Roadtrip Nation.”

“The term ‘acoustic’ evokes images of somber, steady guitar strumming, airy vocals and perhaps a half-empty (or half-full, depending on your perspective) soy latte, but that’s not the breed of acoustic guitar Seattle duo Science specializes in,” Gabrielle Alfiero wrote for the website Brooklyn Based. “The pair plays their old six-strings furiously and with precision, and Jim Elenteny’s nimble finger picking and Justin Stang’s raspy vocals will get your feet a-stompin’.”

The lineup also includes Portland singer-songwriter Kari Newhouse, who played at Lilith Fair.

Portland alt-country duo Samsel and the Skirt, whose first album is due next month, headlines the second stage. The twosome headlined last year’s Portland Soundcheck, which showcases artists on the cusp of fame, and they placed in the top 100 in the national Guitar Center singer-songwriter contest.

While many of the acts could fit into the singer-songwriter category – Mauer himself won an Olympia Music Award in that category – the festival features musical diversity.

“We have Shawn Smith doing this soul kind of Prince-type solo stuff, Olympia Mountain Boys doing bluegrass, me doing an acoustic rock kind of thing,” Mauer said.

Yet the performers have enough in common to build connections.

“Artists who played together last year have become friends and have gone and done tours together,” he said. “That’s what I wanted.”

That, and cultivating an audience. More than 450 people attended the first Olympia Acoustic Fest last year.

“I just want to get a lot of people under the same roof enjoying music that I enjoy,” he said. “I like the camaraderie of the Northwest.”

And it’s no accident that he often refers to that roof, because the acoustic fest is the rare festival that happens indoors. “It’s kind of like we’re kicking off the festival season,” he said.

Olympia Acoustic Fest

What: The second Olympia Acoustic Fest offers music on two stages plus a handful of vendors, including Olympia foodie favorite Tamale Fusion.

When: 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday

Where: Olympia Ballroom and Urban Onion, 116 Legion Way SW, Olympia

Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door; children younger than 12 get in free

More information: olyacousticfest.com or olyacousticfest.brownpapertickets.com

MAIN STAGE

1 p.m. Kari Newhouse

2 p.m. Mark MacMinn

3 p.m. Birds of a Feather

4 p.m. The Brothers Jim

5 p.m. Paul Mauer

6 p.m. Aaron English

7 p.m. Bradford Loomis

8 p.m. Science

9 p.m. Shawn Smith (right)

10 p.m. Oly Mountain Boys

SECOND STAGE

1:30 p.m. James Coates

2:30 p.m. Kat Jones

3:30 p.m. Anna Gordon

4:30 p.m. Elk and Boar

5:30 p.m. The Grey Wharf

6:30 p.m. Juniper Circus

7:30 p.m. Samsel and the Skirt

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