Music at the Intersection promises St. Louis 'something that we can look forward to'
Music promoter and manager Alonzo Townsend has long wanted the St. Louis region to do a better job of supporting its musicians.
He grew up seeing his father, blues legend Henry Townsend, onstage and knows how the city's great musicianship has influenced artists across the country.
St. Louis’s musical heritage rivals that of Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville — even if they have bigger reputations, Townsend said.
“Those cities have their music and their art scenes rooted into the city's infrastructure,” he said. “They are guaranteed to thrive; that's one thing that our city is missing.”
That's why Townsend is encouraged that Music at the Intersection is expanding this fall, a year after the inaugural festival was cut back because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The region needs a top music festival to showcase its musicians, he said.
“It gives the opportunity for the community around itself to feel like we have a lot more,” Townsend said.
The festival, which is to take place Sept. 10-11 in the Grand Center area, will feature national acts like neo-soul singer/songwriter Erykah Badu and blues and rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr.
Jazz and funk band Hiatus Kaiyote, saxophone player Kamasi Washington, multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin and pianist Robert Glasper also will attract a lot of attention.
The event’s promoters say they want to make Music at the Intersection the premiere festival for the region — one that celebrates St. Louis and its long tradition of musical innovation.
That’s why they plan to make sure the region’s artists receive their due. The festival will include performances by vocalist and trumpeter Lady J Huston, St. Lunatics artists Murphy Lee and Kyjuan, St. Louis-based indie-rock band Foxing and a tribute to the blues with the Henry Townsend Acoustic Blues Showcase, curated by the St. Louis Blues Society and Alonzo Townsend, who serves on its board.
Organizers say festival proceeds will again help support the region’s music scene.
“The lion's share of the money that was spent on that festival went right back into St. Louis,” said Chris Hansen, Kranzberg Arts Foundation executive director and the festival’s chief producer. “We're pumping money into the ecosystem and if it does well, all that money comes back into further support the arts.”
This year’s festival is already bigger than last year’s, with vendors and outdoor stages that weren’t permitted last year because of pandemic restrictions. It will coincide with the Midwest Music Summit, a music industry event co-presented by the Recording Academy.
Regional arts leaders say the festival could become the highlight of the year for generations to come. Vanessa Cooksey, president and CEO of the Regional Arts Commission, said she hopes the festival becomes a cultural cornerstone for St. Louis, much like the Essence Festival is for New Orleans.
“It’s something that we can look forward to,” Cooksey said. “Like any holiday that we celebrate, Fourth of July, you name it, Memorial Day, things that come annually tend to shape our culture.”
It’s an event business owners in midtown also hope to again count on. Last year’s festival was a boon for the Fountain on Locust, a nearby restaurant.
“Our restaurant really felt a positive impact,” said Danni Eickenhorst, the restaurant’s co-owner. “These sorts of events down in Grand Center and midtown are sort of the bread and butter for the Fountain on Locust.”
Hansen said the larger crowds this year will be a good judge of how the festival will operate in coming years.
“We knew we were onto something last year,” he said. “Now this year is about really bringing it full force.”
Jeremy D. Goodwin contributed to this report.
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