With over 200 artists scheduled to perform during its sprawling six days and dozens more in Nashville for the accompanying conference and awards show, the Americana Music Festival has always been a place where any set could result in a surprise guest appearance. But most shows don't have guest sit-ins, leaving fans who wants a bonus to their concert experience to guess at which artists are most likely to have one. A safer bet is to attend one of the numerous Americanafest shows that are already pre-scheduled to be all-star affairs. Here are five of the best.
Guitartown and Sin City Present: Better Together- Sept. 20 at Basement East
The Americana Music Festival kicks off its 2016 edition with one of the most star-studded musical affairs of the entire weekend at Basement East when Chuck Mead and Aaron Lee Tasjan play host to a night of music. Not all of the guests for the evening have been announced, but the show will culminate with a huge, for a festival set, two hour performance by Grammy award winner Lee Ann Womack, who will be joined by Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, and an all-star band sure to be made up of some of the best Americana instrumentalists. Griffin and Womack alone can sell out theaters, so the combination, plus the addition of Miller, Tasjan, and Mead is sure to make this show a hot ticket.
Songwriters in the Round- Sept. 22 at Bluebird Cafe
The Bluebird Cafe is an internationally known destination for people visiting Nashville for many reasons and their “in the round” style multi-artist jam sessions is one of the biggest ones. So it's no surprise that The Bluebird is joining up with the Americana Music Festival and the 30A Songwriter's Festival for a special Americanafest edition of their Songwriters in the Round series. This edition will be hosted by beloved Americana songwriter Mary Gauthier and will feature performances by Gretchen Peters, Jeff Black, and Verlon Thompson. Seating is very limited at the intimate Bluebird Cafe, so reservations are strongly suggested for this show.
Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us- Sept. 22 at Downtown Presbyterian Church
Well known producer, sideman, and songwriter Phil Madeira has developed a reputation for throwing some of the biggest all-star parties at the Americana Music Festival under his Mercyland banner. Featuring positive gospel music from some of the genre's biggest stars, the two Mercyland albums are already jam packed with some of Americana's biggest names and this year's Mercyland show, taking place at Nashville's historic Downtown Presbyterian Church, promises to be full of them. Already announced to be joining Madeira for the show are Americana luminary Emmylou Harris, Sarah Potenza, and The Wood Brothers, although “several other artists” are promised. While it's impossible to know who might show up for these surprise performances, artists from the Mercyland albums who will be in town to perform at other shows include Buddy Miller, John Paul White, Shawn Mullins, and The McCrary Sisters.
Willie Sugarcapps- Sept. 23 at The Family Wash
Unlike most of the shows here, which feature one-off performances, Willie Sugarcapps is a fully functioning and touring band. But that doesn't make it any less of an all-star jam session. The band is made up of Nashville fixture Will Kimbrough, songwriter Grayson Capps, the husband and wife duo Sugarcane Jane, and Corky Hughes. With roots in South Alabama, the band is a great reminder that not all of Alabama's musical legacy resides in the currently trendy Muscle Shoals area. The band always puts on a great show and their performance at The Family Wash will be a memorable one.
Sixth Annual Gospel Brunch- Sept. 25 at City Winery
The last day of the Americana Music Festival is usually a more laid back affair, with the all-night Americana Showcases finished and many people preparing to go home. For the past several years, the capper to Americanafest for many has been the annual Thirty Tigers Gospel Brunch. Over a meal of chicken and waffles, the Gospel Brunch at City Winery features a rotating cast of performers, many of whom wander on and off stage throughout, creating unique groupings with every song. This year's scheduled list of performers for the Gospel Brunch include Lori McKenna, Luke Bell, Sons of Bill, and The McCrary Sisters.
The Americana Music Festival's 2016 edition will be held Sept. 20-25 in venues scattered throughout Nashville. You can see a full lineup here. If you want more Americanafest news, including a list of can't miss stars, some featured youngsters, and a list of featured speakers at the Americana Music Conference, you can find it all on AXS. We will also be on hand all six days of the Americana Music Festival will daily updates, interviews, and reports on the latest happenings.