Lexington CRAVE food music festival bands, weekend schedule
Who do you invite to an anniversary party? Well, your friends, of course. But it’s likely you will also want some of the individuals along who helped make the event you’re now celebrating so special to begin with.
That’s what CRAVE is doing this weekend as the popular food and music festival honors its 10th anniversary.
Among the 11 acts performing as the event hits Masterson Station Park, eight will be returnees. Most are Central Kentucky rooted, a few are from around the region, but all – along with a trio of newcomers – will be on hand to keep the rave in CRAVE.
“For the first CRAVEs we were booking, I was trying not to repeat artists from year to year,” said Saraya Brewer, music and production manager for the festival. “There are so many wonderful local bands, definitely enough to go around, that I wanted a completely original lineup every year. But once you get to year 10, you start to realize you have already booked a lot of your favorites. We decided this year to bring back some of the strong bands that have done really well at the festival, who we feel are just at a really great place in their careers.”
What that comes down to is one of CRAVE’s most stylistically diverse performance rosters. This year’s music will range from soul/R&B (Joslyn and the Sweet Compression, in a rare hometown visit following a summer of national touring), Latin fusion music (Big Maracas), hip-hop (Devine Carama), funk (Ernie Johnson From Detroit, a nine-member ensemble that actually is from Cincinnati), bluegrass (The New Beckham County Ramblers), multi-genre groove music (Club Dub), prog (Louisville’s Doom Gong), psychedelic soul (The Jesse Lees, also from Louisville), progressive pop (Frigidkitty), punk/funk (10 Foot Pole) and Southern rock/soul (Texas/Tennessee songstress Bee Taylor, whose repertoire includes a New Orleans-style party piece titled, curiously, “10 Foot Pole.”)
“A lot of the people who come to CRAVE are not your typical folks who go to the music clubs, so these bands are really getting exposed to a larger audience than they would at a typical kind of local gig,” Brewer said. “That’s something we’re really proud of, something with a lot of value to the bands that perform.”
For Kim Conlee, CRAVE is something of a tradition. Aside from being a regular attendee, she has performed at the festival in previous years as a member of two Lexington bands, Big Fresh and Bear Medicine. She took her own pop project, Frigidkitty, to CRAVE in 2021 as a three-piece outfit. Frigidkitty will return this weekend as a massive 10-member troupe.
“CRAVE is something really unique that Lexington has to offer,” Conlee said. “It’s so much fun to have a different kind of audience other than ones that come to bars or late-night clubs. To have a daytime show where there are kids running around enjoying the music, that’s a nice treat.
“This time, we’re bringing dancers, we’re bringing props, we’re doing a whole show that is just specific for CRAVE. We’ve been working on that the last couple of months, trying to make it something special.”
Devine Carama first played CRAVE in 2015 after noticing the lack of hip-hop, the music he has advocated and practiced locally for the last two decades, at the festival’s initial outings.
“Part of the challenge was there wasn’t a ton of venues that celebrated and amplified local hip-hop. People were just unaware, but the other part of it was finding hip-hop that would work in a family friendly space like CRAVE,” Carama said. “They just needed somebody to step up and make them aware. When I spoke with CRAVE, they were 100% open and supportive.”
Like Conlee, Carama sees value in playing events where live music, much less hip-hop, is not the exclusive focus. But he said CRAVE has also offered further opportunities to link his music with ongoing work as a community activist. In his offstage life, Carama is director of One Lexington.
“I love being part of a diverse bill like this where people are going to be there who may not be fans of hip hop or may not even be aware of you and your music. For me, with music and community being so intertwined, what that does is pool new people and new fans and supporters into my movement via the music. Ultimately, they also become part of the community,” Carama said. “I know there are some people who donated to our annual coat drive (Carama’s ‘A Coat to Keep the Cold Away’ drive also celebrates its 10th anniversary this year) that actually met at the CRAVE festival eight years ago. So for me, it’s bigger than just gaining new fans musically.”
“The culinary scene in Lexington is definitely at the epicenter of the festival,” Brewer added. “But I think the most successful festivals have to be very dynamic and offer lots of different things to capture people’s attention. CRAVE gives folks different directions to go because you don’t want to just sit there and listen to music all day and you don’t want to just eat all day. Trying to provide all of these different things is really kind of a showcase four our favorite aspects of Lexington’s independent culture.”
Organizing and curating distinctive music festival events is nothing new for Brewer. She led the Boomslang festival — WRFL-FM’s multi-day, multi-venue presentation of experimental music — in the early 2010s. Currently the editor of the Chevy Chaser and Southsider magazines — which, like CRAVE, is overseen by Smiley Pete Publishing — she has been involved with the festival since its inception. She took over as music and production manager in 2014.
“Definitely all the work I did with Boomslang fed directly into CRAVE. Boomslang was more experimental. My whole M.O. was bringing in these bands that normally wouldn’t get a platform on a big stage here in town just because they have such a niche audience. CRAVE really tries to understand great music that will appeal to a much larger crowd. That’s the difference in direction now in the kinds of music I’m booking, but one experience has definitely fed the other. CRAVE is just a more streamlined event.
“At this point, we’ve become pretty well-oiled machine with how it runs. And that’s great.”
CRAVE Food + Music Festival
When: 11 a.m. Aug. 26-27
Where: Bluegrass Fairgrounds at Masterson Station Park, 3051 Leestown Rd.
Admission: $10 each day, $15 for the weekend. Children under 10 admitted free. Parking is free. Various ticket packages for multiple patrons including Crave Bucks for food purchase are also available.
Live music performance schedule
11:30 am: Frigidkitty
1 p.m.: Devine Carama
2:30 p.m.: The Jesse Lees
4 p.m.: Bee Taylor
6 p.m.: Ernie Johnson From Detroit
8 p.m.: Joslyn and the Sweet Compression
11:30 a.m.: Club Dub
1 p.m.: Doom Gong
2:30 p.m.: The New Beckham County Ramblers
4:15 p.m.: 10 Foot Pole
5:45 p.m.: Big Maracas