Brooklyn Americana Music Festival founder Jan Bell talks local bands, more
Sixty acts will perform at the second annual Brooklyn Americana Music Festival in DUMBO and Red Hook this weekend.
We chatted with Jan Bell, the festival's founder and artistic director, before the big event.
How do you define Americana?
Americana embodies folk, roots, blues, country, singer-songwriters, even jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a wide open landscape, really.
Do you think there’s a growing interest in Americana in Brooklyn? If so, why?
Americana is a very inclusive realm in the music world. Most of it involves acoustic instruments that anyone can learn to play. There are so many places in Brooklyn that offer super affordable classes — classes for beginners and advanced of all ages. Americana music is what you’ll find around a campfire or at one of the many amazing jams that happen around town. I took classes at the Jalopy Theatre and School of Music, and met so many great people there. I also joined the Jalopy Chorus, which is the first time I’ve done something like that since I was a kid. Singing in a group like that is so good for my heart and soul.
What surprised you most about last year’s festival?
Watching folks dance to the bands in the Archway under the Manhattan Bridge was super fun. You would never catch most of them dancing to fiddles and banjos anyplace else! Plus, the wonderful way people got on their bicycle and went from stage to stage. From DUMBO to Brooklyn Bridge Park and back — along with the dog in the bike basket and the kids on their tricycles — and made a whole day of it.
Of the 60 acts playing, what percentage are local?
Ten of the bands live outside of Brooklyn. But most have ties here, and have played here before and built community.