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Celebrating 895 Fest From Home, WMOT Airs Last Year’s Inaugural Event This Weekend

Val Hoeppner
Steve Poltz, working solo, offered one of the most memorable sets at last year's 895 Fest

It’s one thing to see America’s big music festivals cancel one after the other under the spectre of a viral pandemic. It hurts that much more when it’s your festival, and one that was just a fresh green shoot, ready for nurturing and another year of growth. But alas, 895 Fest, which would have taken place this weekend for the second time, is off. So we’re taking a cue from Merlefest and DelFest and going to the videotape, all weekend long. 

Starting Friday at noon, WMOT will present all 18 sets from last year’s 895 Fest, captured with top-flight video and audio. The platforms will be LiveSessions.NPR.org, Facebook, WMOT.org and our radio signal at 89.5 FM. You’ll be able to see and hear six hours each day from noon to 6 pm.

The inaugural 895 Fest lineup was a remarkable cross section of contemporary roots music, from its brightest emerging talent to some of its major stars. For a first-year festival to snag Rodney Crowell and Delbert McClinton is a big deal. But their eagerness to play is testimony to WMOT’s impact in its first three years playing Americana from Nashville and beyond.

The event was blessed with perfect weather and the verdant grounds of Murfreesboro’s Hop Springs Beer Park, which lived up to its name by offering terrific ales. Then there was the closeness of everything and everybody, which is a particularly sad thing to reflect on is a time of social distancing. We had just enough distance to dance, but I’ll remember it as probably the most intimate festival I ever attended. 

My musical memories conjure up a few sets in particular. Steve Poltz simply owned the place with a semi-manic storyteller’s patter and songs that were both truthful and funny. He and Rev. Sekou did the most rambling around the crowd, performing from the turf, among the people. Molly Tuttle’s sundown set on Friday was like a preview of her epic summer and fall of ever-larger shows. Delbert McClinton sounded as great as he ever has, and he invited on Heidi Newfield for a guest vocal, teasing the music she’s about to unleash on the world this year. 

Organizers didn’t really think in terms of ‘headliners,’ but the final artist of each night was particularly impactful. The War and Treaty closed out Friday with their sympatico spirit and blazing vocal harmonies. On Saturday, after 11 hours of music, Nashville’s Cordovas still sounded fresh as can be, with two drummers and two lead guitars weaving in and out as Joe Firstman did his charismatic thing as lead singer and bass player. 

We all hope you’ll join us online or on the air and re-live an important event, while we call stay safe and look forward to getting back together. A full broadcast schedule follows. 


Friday, May 29

12p - Robbie Fulks

1p - Molly Tuttle

2p - McCrary Sisters

3p - Delbert McClinton

4p - Lee Roy Parnell

5p - The War and Treaty


Saturday, May 30

12p - Pat Byrnes

1p - Lillie Mae

2p - Mandy Barnett

3p - Rev. Sekou

4p - Jason Ringenberg

5p - Sarah Potenza


Sunday, May 31

12p - Peterson Brothers

1p - Steve Poltz

2p - Rodney Crowell

3p - Mike Farris

4p - Liz Brasher

5p - Cordovas


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