LEWISTON – It’s time Bates College’s WRBC Roots Music Festival grew up.

The festival’s 2002 debut drew so few people, about 500 in all, chief organizer Michael Dixon decided not to try again.

After all, it cost one-fifth of the college radio station’s annual budget.

However, instead of letting the festival die, the station’s board of directors decided to increase its budget. They hired acts from farther away and focused the styles of music they would bring; there’s more of a rock edge this time. And they convinced Dixon to return.

“You’ve got to give things an opportunity to catch on,” said Joseph Maurey, WRBC’s general manager. “People have to know we’re here.”

The station has hired six new bands, from as far away as Texas, to play at the day-long festival Saturday, May 17. They will begin at noon and continue until 6 p.m. at the Kelgwin Amphitheater, the outdoor stage beside the school’s Olin Arts Center. If it rains, the festival will be moved indoors to the Gray Athletic Building.

Headlining will be Clem Snide, a New York band that has been receiving critical praise in such magazines as Spin and Rolling Stone of its genre crossing between country and rock.

Each of the six bands carry hyphenated descriptions, spanning country, rock, alternative grunge and even psychedelia. None of the bands has received substantial play on commercial station.

Maurey doesn’t mind. College radio is known for its eclectic musical journeys. People ought to attend the festival and get a taste.

Maybe local radio listeners might then pause when they are searching the dial. They might move on, but at least they’ll know what they’re listening to while they’re there.

They’ll know what it means to be at 91.5, Maurey said.

Increasing the station’s visibility at the school and in the local community is what the festival is about, he said.

The station is a combination of community and student efforts. About one third of the shows at the station are run by disc jockeys with no other connection to Bates College. That increases over the summer holidays to nearly the entire staff.

Dixon, himself, is a nonstudent who serves as director of blues and roots music for the radio station.

While the numbers were lower than hoped last year, the mix of students and non-Bates people who attended was a success, he said.

“This year, I would just like to see more of each,” Dixon said. “We need to grow it up.”

On-campus parking has been provided for members of the community. People wishing to attend may park at the lot outside the school’s Merrill Gymnasium.

There will be no food or drink sold at the event. People may bring food and non-alcoholic beverages.

For more information, see the festival on the Web at:

http://abacus.bates.edu/wrbc/Rootsfest2003.htm.


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