Entering its second year, the gray areas are fewer for this weekend’s Grey Area music festival in rural Lone Tree, across the road from the Camp Euforia music festival site.
Grey Area organizer Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios on his nine-acre home property, previously ran a music festival on his father’s land in rural Lee County. Still, he encountered a learning curve launching this new venture in Johnson County.
“Number one: Don’t start with your permitting process so late in the game,” Tweedy, 44, said with a laugh. “I didn’t even realize I needed permits to have bands play in my backyard. I didn’t realize it was such a concern of the county’s that someone would let musicians play.”
The full-time studio engineer also had to call upon his carpentry skills last year to beef up the backyard on his property. In a month, he created the festival facilities needed to showcase the bands that lay down their sounds in the three-story barn he had previously turned into a recording studio.
“In July, there wasn’t a stage there or a shelter house,” Tweedy said. “In August, both of those things existed. And it’s not a small stage or a small shelter house — they’re both very large.”
He’s also beefing up this year’s food vendors; expanding the camping area to better accommodate RVs as well as tents; and adding more bands. He’s also pumping up the kids’ activities to highlight the festival’s family friendly feel.
“I want children to understand how important music is, and a sense of community, and the arts in general,” he said. “I think all-ages venues are very important.”
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Grounds open to campers at 6 p.m. today (8/9), with DJs providing the evening’s soundtrack. The bands start at noon Friday and Saturday and run past midnight, showcasing 28 groups. The Eastern Iowa Circus Collective is returning with acrobatics and other skills. In addition, free yoga and Hula-Hoop classes are in the mix Saturday morning.
The festival encompasses a wide variety of genres, from folk and Americana to blues, indie rock, punk rock, hip-hop and soul.
“I like to say that there’s no headliner, that everybody is given an equal footing,” Tweedy said. “Every act is on the main stage — there is not a side stage.”
He concedes that the festival does feature several big names familiar to Corridor audiences, including Catfish Keith, Soul Sherpa and Tweedy’s cousin, nationally-known William Elliott Whitmore of rural Montrose, who will perform with two of his side projects, Hallways of Always and Middle Western.
“Certainly, there’s people playing at the festival that have no draw,” he noted, “but I feel like they’ve got a future, might have a draw in the future, they’re very good (and) people get the opportunity to see them. Put them in front of a larger crowd, there’s a good chance that they will gain a fan base.”
Each band will play a 40-minute set, with DJs filling the space between acts, to keep the music flowing, with a new band every hour on the hour. The various genres also are interspersed.
“I want the kids that listen to punk rock to see the value of the singer/songwriter ...“I want the heavy metal kids to see something like Whitmore. I want people to see the value in what each other’s doing.”
WHAT: Grey Area 2018
WHERE: Flat Black Studios acreage, 5012 540th St. SE, Lone Tree
WHEN: 6 p.m. today (8/9) to 11 a.m. Sunday (8/12); DJs tonight, bands start at noon Friday and Saturday and continue past midnight
COST: $50 weekend or $35 day, free ages 16 and under, at the gate or Littlevillagetickets.com
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FEATURES: Bands, DJs, Eastern Iowa Circus Collective, kids’ activities, free yoga and Hula-Hoop classes, beer and food trucks, camping with set up beginning at 6 p.m. today (8/9) and teardown Sunday morning
DONATIONS: Accepted on-site for RVAP (Rape Victim Advocacy Program) and Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition (promoting health equity for Iowans impacted by drug use)