Through all the glory and the whiskey and the sweet southern sky, there was a part of me bleeding for my Ohio lullaby
— Hey Monea

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Little C Music Festival in Canton, Ohio. While I have been to quite a few music festivals this year, this one was different because I got a peak behind the curtain. My old college friend Jason, who runs JLS Artist Management, was running the festival along with one of the bands he represents, Hey Monea, who are from Canton. It was really cool to see this festival from the inside and get to meet everyone involved, and I had a great time both at the festival and hanging around in Canton.

Mural in Downtown Canton

The name “Little C” comes from the idea that Canton is often overlooked among the “Big Cs” of Ohio: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. In recent years Canton has tried to reinvigorate itself from the inside and create more of a tourist draw with events like Little C Music Festival. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is excellent and will always be a big draw, it’s great to see a town moving away from being a one trick pony. Keeping people around for the night or an extra day or two seems to be the current plan, and it seems to be working. I was really impressed with Canton which has a thriving art and music scene and a youthful, energetic and progressive population. It really was a great little city for a music festival, and I think everyone really enjoyed being there.

I arrived in Canton on Thursday night and met my friend Jason when he got in at an incredible local dive and our home-away-from-home for the weekend: George’s Lounge. Opened in 1959, I don’t think George’s has changed a whole lot over time and I mean that in a good way. It’s definitely a time-piece, but one with cheap drinks, good food, live music and super-friendly bartenders who were more than accommodating the whole weekend we were there. When he got there, Jason introduced me to all the bands who were playing that weekend and some of the people who were working for and with him on the festival. Rarely in my travels have I felt so welcome so quickly as I did that night, but the whole crew who was there was great. Everyone seemed really happy to be there and really excited for the weekend. We stayed up late, drinking and telling stories and it was the perfect way to start off the weekend.

Anna Rose Playing on Friday Night

During the day on Friday, I left them to their preparations as they were all busy getting the stage areas and all the equipment set up and I had some work I wanted to catch up on. We reconvened for the start of the festival Friday evening. Hey Monea started the show with the first of three sets they would perform over the course of the weekend. They seemed so happy to be back in their hometown, and played a great set which included some new and as yet unreleased songs. I was also really impressed with the powerful and haunting voice of Anna Rose and the bluesy rock of White Buffalo Woman, who reminded me a lot of a youthful Rolling Stones. On the second stage, I loved the energy and good humor of Nashville-based singer-songwriter Steve Everett. After the music ended for the night, we retired back to George’s Lounge to discuss how things went and talk about what was on-deck for Saturday.

Saturday morning the festival continued in the midst of Canton Flea, a wonderful downtown market full of local products, crafts and food trucks. We all got a nice break in the middle of the day for a much needed nap before the music started up again at 9 p.m. I loved the amazing guitar skills of Keaton Simmons, the folky roots sounds of The Currys and the final performance by Hey Monea. They drew in a good crowd of locals for their set, and it was a great way to finish off the festival. My friend Jason even got up and played the keys on a few songs. When the music stopped, the party did not and apparently raged on long after I called it a night.

Street Art in Downtown Canton

Sunday I met the whole gang for a last meal and some football before everyone went their separate ways. It was fun to get together one last time to celebrate the successful weekend and all the great music which happened there. I had a great time hanging out with the bands who were all incredibly humble and deeply passionate about the music they were making.

In all, it was an awesome weekend of fun, community and music in a cool little town in north-central Ohio. I was so grateful to everyone there for welcoming me in and showing me such a good time. It was great to catch up with my old friend Jason and to hear his opinions on the industry and the future of music too. I was happy to be off the road for the weekend and to be a part of something so special. I think all of the acts I mentioned in this post are destined for some level of success, and I hope the Little C festival continues to bring great music to this little town for years to come.

Hey Monea Opening the Little C Music Festival in Downtown Canton, Ohio