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Why ‘North by Northeest’ music festival at John and Peter’s in New Hope is a really big deal

Guy Heller, the strongest front man in rock today (Photo: Charlie Sahner)

Guy Heller, the strongest front man in rock today (Photo: Charlie Sahner)

The “North by Northeest” music festival at John and Peter’s features some of the best music being performed between New York and Philadelphia. Strike that. What’s happening Friday, Saturday and Sunday is that some of the most original, talented musical acts on the planet are appearing in New Hope in rapid succession. And whether you love hard rock, blues, folk, psychedelic or anything in between, this is an event that you might wind up kicking yourself for missing, because it promises to be monumental.

The fun starts Friday night with the Mixxtape and includes acts you don’t want to pass up like perennial favorites Ammunition, Keith Kenny, Rainbow Fresh, Satellite Hearts, and the Moistboyz at midnight on Saturday — all in all, some 25 acts, and all worth seeing. Check the calender and event list to the right of this article for the most up-to-the-minute schedule of performances.

Guy Heller is best known as the lead singer for Moistboyz and Dean Ween Group, both collaborations with long-time friend and colleague Micky Melchiondo, and he is organizing the event and participating in some of the performances, including the Tribute to Raymond Daniel Manzarek concert that includes nine Doors tunes (Manzarek passed away one year ago, and was renowned locally for his love of the Doors).

Heller says he was inspired by the South by Southwest concerts for which he worked the stage as a “lackey, grub and mule,” he said with a laugh. The first South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) was held in 1987 in Austin, Texas which, like New Hope, was less of a major national music market at the time than an incubator of new sounds.

Heller calls this festival “a labor of love” because he’s hung around John and Peter’s since childhood, his father was friends with both owners, and he wants to “remind the world that the music is still here.” He also says that the spotlight during North by Northeest is on local/regional artists, with Sicman of Virginia (midnight Sunday, following the epic Chris Harford) the farthest afield. While the price tag of $20-25 for an afternoon or evening of music isn’t cheap, the average $4-5 per show when you do the math seems a good value, and the proceeds go directly to the bands.

The 3 p.m. Echoes show on Saturday is one for which I will arrive early, and am reluctant to even talk about, because it will feature some of the finest rock produced today and will get packed quickly. In fact, forget I mentioned it.

What’s next for Heller? “I’d like to do this again in November and call it “North by New Hope,” he said. “I’d like to bring Neil Young to New Hope,” he continued. “And maybe help inspire Ween to play here again.”

All good, and all worth coming out for and supporting.

About the author

Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

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