New faces and old favorites

. May 23, 2012.

Experienced cooks do this all the time: take a successful recipe, keep the main ingredients, substitute some new ones, and create a concoction that’s at once familiar and fresh. Nashbash founders Deanna Relyea, of Kerrytown Concert House fame, and Whitley Hill, longtime Ann
Arborite dancer, musician and now author (more about that in a bit) hew to this creative philosophy. Each year, they keep the essential elements of this one-day music and food festival, while also mixing in new features and musicians.

Familiar components this year on Thursday, August 18th, are the setting, the Farmers Market in Kerrytown, and the food, Aut Bar. Owners Keith Orr and Martin Contrares barbecue delicious, Southern-style ribs and chicken in Kerrytown’s parking lot, and beer, brownies, and other goodies will also be available. Nashbash’s music will also retain its Nashville flavor. When Hill moved to Music City a few years ago, she began inviting some of the musicians she met there to come up north, so she could introduce them to her Ann Arbor friends and fans.

Headlining Nash-bash 2011 will be Paul Burch and the WPA Ballclub, who’ve been wowing critics and audiences alike for two decades, and whose recording, Still Your Man, was nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Americana Album of 2009.” Also appearing will be actress/singer/songwriter Pam Kennedy Boylan whose credits include a role in the musical Warrior, and Steve Mitchell, former member and songwriter of the Juno-Award winning band The Paperboys.

A traditional staple, and closing Nashbash again this year, will be Hill and her band, The Postcards. Formed a decade ago, the band’s repertoire features Hill’s well-crafted, literate country-styled songs. (Literate is right. Hill’s soon to be published memoir, Not About Madonna, is not primarily about the nine months she was—a short lifetime ago—Madonna’s roommate at the UM.) The Postcards include her husband, (and music director for soul diva Bettye Lavette) Al Hill, on vocals, guitar and keyboards, and—in a clear cut case of the apple not falling far from the tree—her son, Sam, on drums. Sam’s day job is drumming for Holland America cruise line’s band. He’s fitting in the Nashbash gig between cruises to Alaska and the South Pacific.

New at this year’s Nashbash, as if all this wasn’t enough, is that the Sunday Artisan’s Market and the Trunkers of Trunkapalooza will set up shop.

Besides referring to the Nashville/Ann Arbor cross-pollination, Nashbash’s name is also an obvious nod to another traditional Treetown celebration. That one serves as our annual Rite of Spring. Nashbash, in only its fifth year, is becoming our Rite of Dog Days of Summer.