Imagine a smaller version of Forecastle combined with Louisville Brewfest, with a sizable dash of Flea Off Market thrown in for good measure.
That’s what three local musicians hope to accomplish with the inaugural Seven Sense Festival on Saturday, Sept. 20, in the 2100-2300 blocks of South Preston Street in Germantown-Schnitzelburg. We’re talking an outdoor street festival featuring 20-plus bands, seven local and regional breweries, bourbon, street art, vendors and local food – and when 10 p.m. hits, the fun moves inside for a night of eclectic music in three of the establishments on those blocks. Admisssion is free.
Perhaps best of all, the whole shebang will benefit the local Boys & Girls Haven, putting a community-minded exclamation mark on Seven Sense. The name of the festival, the organizers tell me, is a bit abstract, but it still bears meaning.
“It’s beyond all senses,” co-founder Chris Nelson says. “It’s got something for everyone.”
His co-conspirators, Shawn Steele and Hunter Embry, have been concocting this idea for some time, but it always took on different forms. Embry, a music promoter who also operates the New Vintage in that area of Preston Street, had previously talked with Zanzabar and other local venues about doing some sort of joint festival, but it never came to fruition.
And then Steele had the idea to make it more than just a music festival – his idea was to hopefully make it a combination music festival and craft beer event as part of Louisville Craft Beer Week, which is Sept. 12-21 (that part is still pending).
The concept grew quickly from there.
“Our business plan was to do an early version of Forecastle mixed with Flea Off mixed with all these craft brew festivals,” Embry says. “Mix bourbon in there and it’s basically just a conglomerate of all the stuff [people] like to do at this time of year.”
“It’s all the different things you would want in any festival,” Nelson adds. “It’s the general vibe in this great part of town.”
Embry said part of what makes Seven Sense exciting is that no one has done a festival in that area of town, to his knowledge. It made total sense given the venues – New Vintage and Zanzabar, as well as Greenhaus and Purrswaytions – are all there in a tight area, and all four venues wanted to get involved.
“People are so accustomed to going there already for entertainment,” Steele says.
The decision to make it a fundraiser came later; Nelson, a social worker by day and drummer for Local Villains on the side, works frequently with Boys and Girls Haven, respects the leadership and appreciates the mission to help abandoned, abused and neglected children. The trio believes it will also help the community get behind the festival.
“It makes it a lot more exciting,” Nelson says. “It feels good to help people.”
The music lineup is eclectic and impressive. It’s almost surreal, which goes back to the Seven Sense thing. This isn’t a hipster festival or an indie festival or a metal festival or a blues festival, it’s an all of the above festival.
“I’d like to see Johnny Berry play on the same bill as the Pass who are playing with Bodeco who are playing with Woody Pines,” Embry says. Well, if you agree, you’ll get your chance, because all of those will perform at Seven Sense. Throw in Tyrone Cotton, the Louisville Leopard Percussionists, Old Baby, Brian Olive, the Moonlight Peddlers and many more, and your ears won’t know if they’re coming or going.
Oh, and let’s not forget the other senses. Each of the seven breweries, from BBC to West Sixth to New Albanian, will roll out a special brew for the occasion, and these beers will be tapped at specific times so you won’t miss them. You can use these beers to wash down food from the tasty likes of El Taco Luchador, North End Café, Dragon King’s Daughter, Gelato Gilberto, Lil Cheezers, Momma’s Mustard, Pickle’s & BBQ and more. And if you aren’t a beer person, yes, there will be bourbon and other spirits at the ready.
Perhaps what pleases the Seven Sense Festival trio of founders most is that the neighborhood, for the most part, is excited to welcome it. That, and those who’ve heard about the festival, from bands to vendors, have been eager to help.
“This is the first time I’ve personally delved into a festival,” Embry says. “I’ve booked thousands of bands over the last eight years. You live, you learn, you find out new things, and then you realize you have so many friends.”
And that’s what they hope will ultimately make this music-meets-craft-beer-and-more festival work over the long haul.
“I wanted to make this not just a festival but a craft beer event,” Steele says. “As we move forward, we want it to be a destination event.”
Sounds like Preston Street will be a destination of many when Sept. 20 arrives.