The (blue)grass is always greener …

Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival returns

By CC Hutten

Photo: Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers present the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival Nov. 7-8 in Wilmington

The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival prides itself on gathering national leaders in music and providing the largest indoor bluegrass, old-time and gospel festival in the region, as well as a friendly atmosphere for enthusiasts and families alike each November.

Established by producer, radio broadcaster and musician Joe Mullins and sponsored by Deering, Janet Davis Acoustic Music, Cohen, GHS Strings, Classic Country Radio and Mullins’ network of radio stations, the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival will take place for the 11th year in a row, in the Roberts Convention Centre in Wilmington, Ohio, on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7 and 8.

The festival boasts a showcase of bluegrass pioneers and rising stars, providing entertainment for 1,500 to 2,000 guests. According to its website, it hosts nationally-known, quality musicians.

“Ours is an event that has attracted national and international visitors, as opposed to a regional and neighborhood gathering,” Mullins said. “We are very selective on talent and presentation. You’ll enjoy the whole experience.”

Major headliners on Friday are The James King Band, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and Bill Yates & The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band. On Saturday audiences can expect The Crowe Brothers, The Larry Stephenson Band and The Boxcars to headline.

Mullins’ own band, nationally recognized bluegrassers Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, is the official host band of the festival. The band will play multiple sets throughout the festival, along with other bands that people are likely to be looking forward to, such as Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out and newbies Flatt Lonesome.

“We keep a great variety of talent,” he said. “Some artists are back by popular demand, but we also have new groups that Ohio needs to see.”

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out is a rock-influenced bluegrass band whose members have been together for over 20 years. Moore boasts two Male Vocalist of the Year honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in the 1990s, and has recently resurged to reclaim the trophy for the last three years in a row.

“[In] this festival, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out is the most popular festival band nationwide,” Mullins said. “They are the most awarded male vocalists in the nation and are loved everywhere they go. They’re always in demand because they are crowd pleasers everywhere.”

Awarded Emerging Artist of the Year at the 25th Annual IBMA Awards Show, pickers Flatt Lonesome are sure to bring new energy to the arena. The band claims to be “deeply-rooted in bluegrass music’s historic classics,” accompanied by “an energetic flair for country sounds, progressive jams and soul-stirring gospel music.”

Not only does the festival exude gifted musicians, the event incorporates crowd involvement through door and raffle prizes, workshops, an instrument check station, a designated jamming area and various vendors.

Two workshops will be led by Blake Williams & Friends, and jam sessions and the instrument check station will be facilitated by bass and guitar string manufacturer, GHS Strings.

Raffle tickets will be sold on site in the food and vendor court at the Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers booth. Drawings will take place at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Prizes include two pairs of four-day passes to the 2015 Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Festival in Lockbourne, Ohio; one night at the Roberts Centre Holiday Inn with dinner at Max & Erma’s, one in-room movie and a framed festival poster; one Morgan Monroe Rocky Top mandolin, courtesy of BBB Music Center in Chillicothe, Ohio; one Deering Goodtime Banjo and one commemorative handmade quilt.

“[The raffles and workshops] add to the experience,” Mullins said. “We give away all kinds of cool bling from bluegrass labels. CDs, shirts, packages from sponsors … it’s an opportunity to get cool stuff between all of the bands.”

Some of the raffles will even leave attendees feeling warm and fuzzy. Benefit raffles are $5 per ticket to win a Martin D-16 guitar or a handmade quilt to support Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of injured and ailing veterans, “through the healing power of music.”

“It’s a chance to be part of something bigger than yourself, too,” Mullins said.

The event takes place in an alcohol- and smoke-free environment in order to keep all audiences comfortable and offers free admission to children in hopes of growing the bluegrass audience. Combined, these elements help create the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival’s famous family-friendly atmosphere.

“We want young people there,” Mullins said. “Gotta grow the core traditional bluegrass audience by keeping youth involved. I personally enjoy smoke- and alcohol-free atmosphere indoors … At outdoor events, people can carve their own space. But our indoor audience is very listening-oriented.”

And that’s exactly what the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival experience is about – participating in a musical experience.

“Bluegrass itself is genuine American music,” Mullins said. “It’s a genre with roots, but with a lot of new branches … When the right song is presented in the right way, you can here a pin drop. At the same time, we can create a lot of excitement on the stage by wearing it out on the banjo or guitar, and the crowd goes wild. We turn [this space] into an intimate experience … We’ve got a wonderful atmosphere, whether you want to listen intently or be a participant. It’s contagious.”

The Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival will be held Friday, Nov. 7, from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 8, from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. at the Roberts Convention Centre, 123 Gano Road in Wilmington. Tickets are available in advance by phone at 937.372.5804 or online at somusicfest.com. Tickets are also available at the door. Prices vary by day and seating. Visit somusicfest.com or the Southern Ohio Music Festival Facebook page for more information. For more information on Guitars for Vets, visit guitars4vets.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at CCHutten@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com

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