Singer-songwriters Steve Williams, Sherrie Austin and Mike Aiken perform during the in-the-round concert at the 2011 festival. The segment this weekend will feature Aiken, Austin Cunningham and Buzz Cason.
Singer-songwriters Steve Williams, Sherrie Austin and Mike Aiken perform during the in-the-round concert at the 2011 festival. The segment this weekend will feature Aiken, Austin Cunningham and Buzz Cason.

Archived Story

Musical treat for Smithfield

Published 11:08pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Visitors to Smithfield’s Aiken and Friends Fest in October will see a variety of talented original performers, plus some fretwork from members of Westside Elementary School’s Advanced Guitar Club.

“They performed for us three or four years ago, and it was just really neat to see 10 or 15 kids onstage playing the national anthem on their guitars,” said Jim Abicht, director of festival presenter Smithfield Music with wife Elaine Abicht.

“It’s kind of what we do with the (festival) proceeds, to promote programs like that with the school system.”

The eighth annual festival, named after Hampton Roads songwriter and performer Mike Aiken, takes place Oct. 4-5 at Windsor Castle Park and Smithfield Little Theater.

Beside the Westside guitarists and Aiken and his band, the lineup includes legendary singer-songwriter and performer Buzz Cason (“Everlasting Love”), country hit-maker and expert guitarist Danny Flowers (“Tulsa Time”), Texas-born Austin Cunningham (“I Love You This Much”), folk/blues icon Mojo Collins, traditionalists the Hungry Monks and contemporary folk star LEA.

Abicht pointed to two upcoming open-mic nights, at Hampton’s Victorian Station next Thursday and another at Cozzy’s Comedy Club and Tavern at Newport News on Sept. 10, both starting at 7 p.m., where aspiring Tidewater singer-songwriters can win the chance to perform at the festival.

While the festival showcases the talents of original singer-songwriters, it also gives visitors the chance to learn from them, during workshops on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Mike Aiken and Austin Cunningham present a songwriting workshop at 11:30 a.m., Danny Flowers leads a guitar workshop at 1 p.m., and Mike Aiken’s wife Amy Aiken, representing independent label Northwind Records, will teach indie music promotion at 2:30 p.m.

Most performances are scheduled for two stages at Windsor Castle Park on the Saturday afternoon and evening, while Mike Aiken, Cunningham and Cason team up for an in-the-round concert at the Little Theater on Friday, Oct. 4.

“It’s a lot of people you may not have heard of, but may have heard from,” Abicht said.

“We bill this as a celebration of songwriters. Everything performed, with the exception of the elementary school kids, is original music done by the creators of it.”

In many respects, the festival is putting Smithfield on the map, Abicht says, particularly in the singer-songwriter community.

“They haven’t kept quiet about it when they have left Smithfield,” he said. “This year, over 300 musical acts asked to perform.

“Not a lot of festivals are looking for song-writers, they are looking for people who have sold millions of records.”

Ticket prices range from $10 for workshops (one or all three) to $35 for a two-day festival pass.

Tickets for the Friday songwriters concert are $25, and a $15 (in advance) or $20 (on the day) Fest Field Pass is good all day for Windsor Castle Park. Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Military personnel will pay $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

The festival will also feature arts and craft vendors. For more details, including ticket orders, visit www.aikenandfriendsfest.com.

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