The word “unique” comes up over and over again when discussing the Old Farmers Ball.
And rightly so.
The festival, hosted by Cabinet, is the first of its kind: a lineup of non-major label bands, many of them local, playing at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, the Scranton venue operated by concert conglomerate Live Nation.
Even more unique: It was Live Nation’s idea.
“The initial idea was proposed to us from management of the Live Nation venue here, and it had to do w our Peach Festival set,” Cabinet manager and Old Farmers Ball organizer Bill Orner said, referring to last summer’s Allman Brothers Band-headlined event at which Cabinet and fellow local band Miz performed on the main stage. “They liked the band and everything about us and knew that we did pretty OK locally and said, ‘Would you be interested in doing your own festival?’”
While Orner’s first reaction was “we’re not really in the business of festivals,” he and Cabinet eventually came on board.
The inaugural Old Farmers Ball will be held Saturday, May 11, with the musicians – Cabinet, Yarn, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Miz, Coal Town Rounders, Kyle Morgan and Pappy – performing on Toyota Pavilion’s side stage. The capacity for that part of the venue is 1,100, Orner said, adding that the entire facility – concessions, the lawn area and so on – will be opened on Saturday, save for the main pavilion.
Live Nation, the multibillion dollar concert industry titan, gave Cabinet and Orner free reign to program the festival.
“That was wide open to us and pretty much me,” he said. “I basically chose the bands. . . . We chose by who we are friends with locally and regionally that we know would be able to bring some people and reached out to some friends nationally, at least on the East Coast. It went as smoothly as we hoped it could go. Nobody wasn’t interested in doing this with us. Everybody we called was interested, and even, we’ll say, everybody worked with us and our budget, in a way, and we’re very grateful.”
Most of the bands have performed with Cabinet in other markets, while Holy Ghost Tent Revival, from North Carolina, frequently performs in Scranton and features a local member, Kevin Williams, in its ranks.
And The Moneynotes, a band which was based in Scranton, have not performed since December of 2011 and will reunite for a one-off performance at Old Farmers Ball. ATM guitarist/singer Mike Quinn currently lives in Los Angeles but will return home to play the show.
“As we were sitting trying to come up with ideas for this, and there was definitely a gap in our lineup as far as artists, we were sitting in the office working on some stuff for Cabinet, and iTunes came on,” Orner recalled. “The very first thing was And The Moneynotes, and I was like, ‘Shit, let’s ask those guys.’ It’s a bigger deal than most people can imagine, because one of the guys is coming in from Los Angeles to make this happen. And I take that as a personal favor to me. It means a lot to me that someone is putting their new life on hold to come home and do something because I asked them.
“And the band is great, they give a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor in that lineup. The people that know will know, and the people that don’t will become a fan.”
In addition to the music, the family-friendly festival will feature concert memorabilia, poster art and photography and items for sale from Scranton-based Alchemy Home Company, a screen printing demonstration, food and a kids’ stage presented by the festival’s charity partner, Marley’s Mission. Marley’s Mission will also have some of their horses on site for a limited time, Orner said.
The festival – a locally programmed event at the Live Nation venue, which holds nearly 18,000 when the main stage is open – will be the first of its kind here, and probably one of the few of its nature nationally.
“It’s a very unique thing that we have happening here, and we’re pretty honored that they asked us to do it,” Orner said. “It’s a pretty big deal for everyone involved, and for those guys to even think about us is pretty amazing.”