12th-annual Miami Valley Music Festival camps out in Troy

Photo: J. Allen Laack

By Matt Clevenger

More than 30 well-known bands and artists take over the Eagles’ campground in Troy this weekend, as the Miami Valley Music Festival returns for its 12th year providing “a good time for a good cause.”

Shrug, Kelly Zullo, the Ark Band, Elementree Livity Project, and Grateful Dead tribute Arrows of Neon are just a few of the other local and regional acts that will also appear during the festival, which is expected to draw a crowd of around 2,000 people on Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22.

“We’ve had about that crowd, ranging anywhere from 1,800–2,700 for the last four or five years,” festival director Brad Denson says. “We hire all local bands. We try to keep everything local and organic and rootsy, and we’re happy with that size crowd. It’s very comfortable; everybody knows each other and everybody respects each other.”

Known for showcasing bluegrass and a wide variety of other regional music, the two-day concert and campout has grown over the years to become a highly-anticipated Miami  County tradition. “It started out at a church in Covington,” Denson says. “A guy started it over there, and then I had my own festival in Troy. We kind of combined forces and made one big festival.”

Besides help from primary sponsor Troy Community Radio, Denson says they are essentially a do-it-themselves project.

Highlights from this year’s lineup include Freekbass, the Spikedrivers, Caamp and Pink Floyd tribute act Signs of Life. “I can tell you that Saturday night’s going to be heavy on the funk,” Denson says of the schedule. “Freekbass is always a big draw.”

Pink Floyd tribute Signs of Life will perform on Friday. “They’ll be celebrating 50 years of Pink Floyd.” Denson says. “If you close your eyes, it’s just like Pink Floyd, and we have a hell of a light show that goes along with it.”

“The Spikedrivers from Columbus, they’ve been our house band for the last 10 years. They’re a good honky-tonk rockin’ blues/jazz kind of mash-up,” he says. “The band Caamp is a band that I produced an album for.”

The band has millions of song plays on Spotify. “They’re on the verge of making it pretty big at this point,” Denson adds.

Other highlights include Mainline Funk, McGuff and the Dumpster Fires, Jericho Thyme, Lost on Iddings, Cherry Lee & the Hotrod Hounds, Krunktown Boogie, Jesse Henry and the Benders, Kyleen Downes, and Talking Heads tribute This Must be the Party.

There are four total stages at the festival, with two main stages. Additionally, there is a singer-songwriter tent, which Denson says is “more low-key for solo artists or duets.”

The festival has built a reputation for being well organized, in large part because Denson knows what it takes to make an event run smoothly for guests and musicians alike. In addition to organizing the festival, he also plays in several of the bands that will be appearing there.

“I play in Jericho Pines and Lost on Iddings, and then also with Jesse Henry and the Benders,” Denson says. “I’ve played a lot of these festivals and done a lot of gigs, and I can see firsthand where people fall short. I know what the musicians need and how they deserve to be treated, and throughout the day, they get treated like rock stars. If they’re the opening band or the headliner, they all get treated the same; they all get high-quality production, and they just get treated with respect. That’s a rare thing anymore for musicians.”

In addition to music and camping, the festival will also feature food trucks and over 25 craft vendors.

As always, proceeds from the festival itself will also benefit local charities, through grants issued to local nonprofit organizations.

“We’ve donated to the Lincoln Community Center in Troy, Covington Outreach Association, [and] the Upper Valley Medical Center Cancer Unit; there’s tons more,” Denson says, adding that interested charities must apply and five of them will be selected based on an online poll.

“Not only does it help draw attention back to the Miami Valley Music Festival, but it helps draw attention to all the charities that are in the running,” Denson says. “With a lot of people surfing through the website, hopefully it draws attention. Whether they win the grants or not, it draws attention to what their causes are. It keeps it grassroots.”

The Miami Valley Music Festival takes place Friday–Saturday, July 21–22 at the Troy Eagles’ campground, 2252 Troy-Urbana Rd. in Troy. Tickets are $45 in advance or $60 the week of the event and include free camping; children 12 and under are free. Pets and glass bottles are prohibited. For tickets or more information, please visit MiamiValleyMusicFest.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Clevenger at MattClevenger@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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