Folk, reggae, rock acts come out for Up From the River fest

Ben Plassard

Local legends and new artists will both be featured at the Kent Stage this weekend when the forth Annual Up From the River Festival begins tomorrow.

The two-night concert event boasts a lineup of eight different Northeast Ohio bands who, according to event organizer Jen Maurer, are the very definition of originality and diversity.

The festival has in the past featured a more folk-heavy bill, but Maurer said she felt she needed to do something to try and draw the college-age crowd.

“We want the show to appeal to college students by featuring younger acts,” Maurer said. “We want the 20s and 30s generation to come out and enjoy the show.”

Tomorrow night kicks off with Donkey Engine, a band Maurer describes as an “eclectic mix of old timey.” Old timey is a style of music akin to bluegrass, but not as formal, said local singer/songwriter Ryan Humbert, who is also a performer at the festival.

Cleveland reggae legend Carlos Jones will perform next. Jones will perform solo, with only his guitar and without his usual band.

“Jones has been a staple in Cleveland for years,” she said. “His music is positive energy and we are excited to have him perform.”

The John Turner Band will follow Jones. Turner’s music can be described as “folk rock,” Maurer said. Turner will benefit from having a strong backing band, as local musicians Mike Lenz, Joe Golden and Rockin’ Robin Montgomery join him on-stage.

Friday will be rounded out with Humbert, who will abandon his usual four-piece rock band for a four-piece gospel choir.

“We will perform everything from traditional gospel to my originals to covers from artists like Joe Cocker and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,” Humbert said. “A show like Up From the River is very diverse and the Kent Stage is a great-sounding room and there is nothing quite like it in the area.”

Saturday night’s show begins with the David Mayfield Band, a group known for its fast picking bluegrass style.

“David Mayfield will be national someday,” Maurer said. “He is a phenomenal picker and his band is absolutely phenomenal as well.”

Folk trio Guild the Lily will perform next followed by Maurer’s band Poontwang, an all-girl quartet whose performance will mark its stage debut.

The highlight of Saturday will be a performance by the Kidney Brothers. The Kidney Brothers are Bob and Jack from the legendary 15 60 75 (Numbers Band) who have been performing since the early 1970s.

Both evenings will have guest emcees, most notably Dredlock Dave from the Waterband on Friday and musician Hal Walker and actor Kedric Wolfe on Saturday.

“This is a very special show with Carlos (Jones), the Kidney Brothers, and to have Ryan (Humbert) with a choir,” Maurer said. “You don’t see those performances everyday and it’s a little different from what you hear in the area.”

The Up From the River Festival begins at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday night at the Kent Stage. Tickets can be purchased for $10 day of show. For more information visit

Contact off-campus entertainment reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].