This weekend marks the beginning of the third annual Moon River Music Festival, a newfound Memphis tradition meant to put The River City in the spotlight like never before.
“I thought [the festival] would be a fun way to do two things. It could get our fans from all over the place to come to my hometown of Memphis, which I love, and I really want people to see and enjoy it,” Drew Holcomb, headman for Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors as well as founder of Moon River, said. “Secondly, it allows me to gather bands that we love and gotten to know on the road and bring them all to share them with our fans.”
Holcomb has always had an affinity for artist-organized festivals. He said he feels Moon River epitomizes what it means to have a truly cohesive and well curated festival for all of his fans.
“We don’t try to do too much. It’s one stage, all day, one location, very intimate and limited in size. I always want it to feel kind of like a reunion,” Holcomb said. “Because I hand-pick and curate all of the acts… It’s kind of a community of similar tastes. There are so many festivals where they just pick bands with no musical association to the next band. It just doesn’t feel right.”
This year’s Moon River lineup includes acts such as Kris Allen, JOHNNYSWIM, The Oh Hellos, as well as Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors themselves. With a very clear folksy, acoustic theme throughout all of the artists playing, last year’s festival was proud to pull in the highest paid attendance of any event in Memphis’ historic Levitt Shell.
“We were elated,” Holcomb said in regards to last year’s record-breaking success. “We had such an incredible kind of groundswell of support for the festival. The Shell is a really special kind of venue. It probably was a top five night of my life professionally.”
Although the Moon River Music Festival has become a success on its own right, Holcomb emphasizes the event was born out of something much bigger than just a band curating a successful lineup.
“Everybody’s home is special to them. I grew up in Memphis… it’s just a very important place to me. I wouldn’t be making music if it wasn’t for playing shows at the P&H Cafe and at the Hi-Tone back in my early days,” Holcomb said. “It just has such a unique identity as a city, and honestly, I think it gets a little bit of a bad rap from people, and I think [that] is mostly unjustified.”
“More than anything it’s just that we are getting people from all over the country to come to Memphis, a lot of them for the first time,” Holcomb said. “If I can be a part of exposing people to all the great things that are happening there, and the good people that call it home, I would consider that a great success.”
Moon River Music Festival begins this Friday for those with special VIP tickets to the event. The general lineup of performances begins on Saturday. Tickets are on sale now at Moon River Festival’s website with prices ranging from $45-$250.