COMMUNITY TIES: Carolina Pines Fest returns after three-year hiatus

Singer-songwriter Erin McKeown plays the Carolina Pine Festival on Saturday at Waterline Brewing. Courtesy photo


Carolina Pines Fest is back in full swing this weekend after a three-year hiatus. Having made it official with a comeback party in June, followed by a series of house parties and small shows, Carolina Pines relaunches with two days of live music Friday at Satellite and Saturday at Waterline Brewing.

While original festival cofounder Anna Mann says she’s a little nervous about this weekend, as final details come together, she and her new band of planners are mostly pumped. “We’re just going to enjoy the magic that is live music and the community that ties it all together,” she says.

Mann’s teammates include Dirty White Rags lead singer Callen Trippe, Hope Sutton and Kathy Lindenmayer. They have evolved into a bigger and better Carolina Pines while holding onto the original supportive, local vibe from previous years. 

New to 2019 are opening events to kick off each day. Friday will feature an all-ages homemade instrument parade at 4 p.m., starting in front of ArtWorks and marching up the sidewalk to Satellite’s backyard jam session.

Events will start at Waterline on Saturday at 2 p.m. with a showcase from 2019 festival beneficiary Athenian Press, which will receive a portion of proceeds from Carolina Pines. Cofounder Lori Wilson is planning it to be similar to their Femme Speak Outs.

“Athenian values the stories of women and femme writers,” Mann says. “Lori has worked incredibly hard to make Athenian a diverse and supportive place for people to share themselves, and that’s definitely in line with what Carolina Pines Fest wants to support.”

Emcees Amanda Young and Kevin Wilson of the podcast “The Fox and the Foxhound: Love, Marriage, and Harry Potter”  will host. Mann says they were a natural fit.

“Amanda and Kevin are genuinely kind and enthusiastic people,” she tells. “It’s clear they have a knack for being silly and wacky, but also for exploring deeper ideas and concepts. It’s perfect for Carolina Pines Fest because we want to have as much fun as we possibly can while also creating a space for things of substance to flourish.”

Many local musicians are returning to the Carolina Pines’ stages. Laura McLean and Dirty White Rags play Friday, while Tumbleweed, Striking Copper and Stray Local will play Saturday. Many new acts will also join the festival: Sean and Her Dilemma, The Tan and Sober Gentlemen, The Explainers, and Kinjac will play Satellite on Friday. Salt Mullet, Blarney Brogues, Kathryn O’Shea and Erin McKeown take Waterline on Saturday.

“All appeared on my personal radar during the hiatus in different and wonderful ways,” Mann details. “They explore many areas of music and subject matter and that’s something I love—a little bit of everything, or at least a lot of things!”

Genres will cross the spectrum, showcasing everything from rock to Americana, Celtic music to singer-songwriter material, as heard from musician and activist Erin McKeown. It’s been 10 years since McKeown has played ILM. The prolific writer has released several albums, as well as a 2018 Off-Broadway musical, “Miss You Like Hell.” It was Kathy Lindenmayer who suggested adding McKeown to the lineup.

“She is endlessly curious and striving in her creative endeavors and at heart such a natural storyteller—which is also something I think this group coalesces around as a core principle,” Lindenmayer says. “She embraces the spirit of all the things that the Carolina Pines team gets enthusiastic about: connection, community, ideas, expression, and the notion that arts feed all that, and don’t have to be limited to one genre/medium or a strict definition to be magical and meaningful to people.”

McKeown turns to music for expression. She will write about top-of-mind issues, such as ratifying the ERA, as well as anything to do with gender equality. Songwriting is merely another language not only to help her communicate but also to help others.

“Whether a song is ‘political’ or not, I need it to be useful to someone,” she explains. “It needs to help someone express something they may have struggled to express. Or it needs to help memorialize a feeling, time or place they want to remember.” 

Lately McKeown tries to focus sets on some of her older material, from 2016’s “According to Us” and 2017’s “Mirrors Break Back.” But audiences on Saturday will hear songs from her entire catalog, including “Miss You Like Hell” numbers. The musical centers on immigration reform, a subject for which McKeown cares deeply.

“I like to surprise myself and keep myself moving [creatively],” she muses. “One of the main ways I do that is by always experimenting with rhythm as a writing tool. I also write lots of different things besides musicals and albums: poems, essays, etc., keep me on my toes. I am writing a new musical and have two other new album projects in various stages of writing, but I don’t think any of that material is quite ready for an audience.”

As music nourishes the soul, food will be available to fuel the body for two days at Carolina Pines. Satellite’s in-house Bloc Taco will be open as usual Friday, with veggie items aplenty. Saturday’s festivities will see Captain Bill’s food truck at Waterline, along with Detour Deli’s new van serving sandwiches later in the day.

Carolina Pines Festival
with Erin McKeown and more
Friday, November 8
Satellite, 120 Greenfield St.
Saturday, November 9
Waterline Brewing, 721 Surry St.
Tickets per day: $15 adv, $20 door
Both days: $25

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