LIVERMORE FALLS — The Frantasia Festival of Out Music and Arts is so much more than a celebration of experimental music and art for founder Fran Szostek.
“To me, it’s a passion,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s a passion I wouldn’t want to do without.”
From Aug. 20-22, Livermore Falls will be transformed into a haven for some of the premier national and international experimental artists to showcase their talent. There will be shows each night at Fitness Stylz on Depot Street beginning at 7 p.m. and lasting until late into the night.
Szostek recalled discovering experimental, or “out” music, and how he traveled to New York City to view such artists at Vision Fest each year.
“The main thing that really started me doing this was my interest in jazz,” he said.
However, what he heard was unlike anything he had ever experienced. It was different variations of jazz, and much more. The twists and turns in the musical pieces sent Szostek on a journey that inspired him to create something similar in the western Maine mountains.
So, around 2002, Szostek arranged for a series of performers to come play at his camp in Woodstock. He remembered that his friend, Ed Snyder, who is blind, played at the first festival.
“We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while. He’s a great musician,” Szostek said.
“We invited neighbors and friends,” he said. “There were no lights, so you couldn’t see anything.”
Musicians played by feel. One lady came up on her horse from Bryant Pond to witness the performances.
In 2004, Frantasia came to Livermore Falls. At the time, Szostek had one day of performances in June, one in August and one in October.
“I decided it would be better to hook them all together,” he said.
Now, Frantasia has settled into its annual August date. It has become one of the biggest out music festivals in the U.S., Szostek said, with performers from all over the country and the world converging on Livermore Falls.
Szostek’s wife, Kathleen, his son, longtime Frantasia performer Chris Cathode, and others help the event run smoothly. Many of the performers will stay at his home in Livermore Falls, and Szostek cherishes the many friendships he’s made. He said he enjoys hearing them talk about their different hobbies, interests, traveling and life in general.
“The people are wonderful,” he said. “They’re respectful, they clean up after themselves.”
As to what the first-time experimental performance viewer will experience, Szostek said that it is difficult to put into words.
“Even some of the things I like are pretty far out for most people,” he said. “Some of it’s really harsh. But some is almost classical music.”
Last year was the first year the festival was held at Fitness Stylz. It has bounced around different venues in previous years. There is plenty of room at Fitness Stylz, said Szostek, and they are able to utilize two rooms, giving performers flexibility.
Some of the performers at this year’s festival include Nicole Lepera, Martin Chartrand, Andrea Pensado, Joshua Erskin, Christopher Cathode, Ben Hersey, Maggie Lyon, ID M Theft Able, Loren Groenendaal & Flandrew Fleisenberg, Stanley Shumacher & Friends, Bopants, Walter Wright, Les Trois Etoiles, Spreaders & Matt Luczak, Big Plastic Finger, Naked Roots Conducive, Tatsuya Nakatani, Matt Weston, James Roemer/Glochids, Lance Simmons/Unguent, Ned, Matt Samolis, Dei Xhrist, Grand National Championship, Gregory Hall, and more.