UPDATE: Brooklyn Americana Music Festival Will Go On—Virtually

UPDATE: Earlier this year, we profiled Jan Bell, founder of the Brooklyn Americana Music Festival. Of course, this is before everything turned upside-down and live events became a no-go. So we were thrilled to hear the show will go on online. Read the full press release below and if you missed our profile of Jan, be sure to check it out.

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival’s “Long Distance”

FREE Online Watch Party

Thursday, September 10 – Sunday, September 13

Sixty artists will play eight virtual stages in the sixth annual
Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, a multi-day event that will bring together US-based and international Americana musicians in a collection of celebratory long-distance watch parties.

The 2020 BKAMF carries on by taking to the digital stage with performances in Brooklyn and beyond, streaming live music from its well-loved waterfront stages of past years to venues across the country and globe. This year’s exciting new stages are brought to the BKAMF
through partnerships with the Americana Music Association UK—hosting the BKAMF’s Opening Day with five artists from the British Isles—and Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge—streaming from Nashville, Tennessee. All four days of the festival can be seen on the Facebook page. Sixty world premier events recorded all across country and overseas. The watch parties are free of charge. Any donations go toward Brooklyn Americana Music, founded by Jan Bell who ordinarily books 400 live music events per year at the festival venues supporting original artists on tour
and back home in Brooklyn.

The BKAMF’s virtual music festivities begin on the afternoon of September 10 Opening Day with The Americana Music Association UK featuring five artists from across the British Isles.

This is the first year partnering with AMA -UK, and each artist wrote a new song with a transatlantic theme. Opening Night features Brooklyn’s beloved Jalopy Theatre with performances by Ali Dineen, Annie Keating, Charlie Burnham, and Iso—all of whom are accomplished artists and dedicated teachers at Jalopy’s School of Music. Stay tuned after that
for a video special from Bluegrass hip hop stars Gangstagrass who you may know from the Justified theme song. Friends from Austin TX round out the evening including Brooklyn born and bred Rich Russell; Ozark House of Songs Graham Weber; and multi-instrumentalist Jenny

Friday, September 11th honors New York tough in the DUMBO Archway “Lock Down Local All Stars” who wrote quarantine songs while hunkered down at home. Hilary Hawke lead banjo on Broadway in the hit musical “Oklahoma”, Queen Esther TED Talk episode ‘Black
Americana’, Jesse Lenat (original cast of RENT, and regular at Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid) songs from ‘Son of a Cactus Farmer’ with his brother David. Curtis J who went solo after multiple successful tours as lead guitarist with the likes of Old 97’s, and Rev. Horton Heat.

Brooklyn locals at this year’s BKAMF include The Chapin Sisters, third generation Brooklyn family rooted in folk music as a force for social justice. Their dad three-time Grammy winner Tom Chapin joins them in this special festival edition performance as Papa Chapin and friends.
A family show they have presented for free throughout the pandemic. Lily and Abigail Chapin have also appeared on Letterman and played legendary stages across the US and Europe.

Neha Jiwrajka a first generation Indian American whose recent teaching experience in Haiti sparked new songs focused on the immigrant experience. Paisley Fields recent rave in Rolling Stone for his new queer country album. 13 year old Nora Brown featured in Banjo Newsletter
Magazine and has been published in Sing Out! “Murder Ballad Monday” and The Bluegrass Situation ‘Top Ten young banjo players you need to know.’ Elyas Khan DUMBO musician now living in Berlin for a decade, leading man in the international circus music sensation ‘LIMBO’.
Mamie Minch played Celebrate Brooklyn last year, original blues and masterful guitar. Founder of Brooklyn Lutherie all woman operation. Mike + Ruthy of The Mammals Hudson Valley songwriters who have made waves in the Americana world and beyond “Some of the best
folk-rock music you will ever hear.” Tape-Op Magazine. Husband wife Duo Ginger Dolden and Pete Lanctot. The dynamic New York singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Sasha Dobson (of Puss n Boots with Norah Jones and Catherine Popper).

Saturday and Sunday include outstanding artists from all across country. Jolie Holland ANTI- labelmates Tom Waits and Sage Francis are both outspoken fans of Holland’s: Waits nominated her for the Shortlist music prize, Marca Cassity – Two Spirit artist of the Oglala Nation. Carter
Sampson Oklahoma born and raised, founder of the Okahoma City Rock and Roll Camp for Girls and Telluride Bluegrass Song Contest finalist., Sabine McCalla a young New Orleans gospel folk country blues singer, and Best of ‘The Beat’ Award winner 2019, Truckstop Honeymoon touring across three continents with four kids and a truck load of songs, relocating to Kansas from New Orleans after Katrina and recently moved to rural Wales. Recipients of awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

BKAMF annual favorites the Women’s Stage in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 68 Jay Street Bar, Sunny’s Bar, Superfine’s Sunday Bluegrass Brunch including story time with local children’s book author and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg. Sunday night after party at Superfine
features old time jazz duo from New Orleans, and soul Americana performed by Samoa Wilson and Ernie Vega’s band the Four O’clock Flowers.

For the full schedule and more info about all the artists, visit www.bkamf.org.






Yes, March is Women’s History Month but we like to highlight the women making Brooklyn history year-round! Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Jan Bell, Brooklyn’s unofficial Americana music ambassador and Founder/Director of the annual Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, which features 50 free, live music events from Dumbo to Red Hook, taking place at woman- and artist-owned establishments and stages all along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Brooklyn Americana

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival 2020

This year’s event takes place September 17 – 20. The four-day festival features at least 51% women artists performing original music in The Dumbo Archway, Superfine, Powerhouse Arena, Time Out Market, and Sunny’s Bar (Jalopy Theatre is the sole ticketed event hosting Opening Night Gala).

If you’re a music fan who’d like a taste of Brooklyn Americana before the festival before the fall, mark your calendars for June, when prominent and emerging female artists will be playing live music for free every Friday at Brooklyn Bridge Park, pier 6.

Yorkshire, England-born Jan has been living in Brooklyn since falling in love with New York City after college. We wanted to hear her thoughts on living in Brooklyn, cultivating community, and carving out a space for the arts and women artists in an increasingly less DIY-friendly city. (This interview has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)

Realty Collective (RC): What’s your connection to Brooklyn?

Jan Bell (JB): I have been based in Dumbo since the late 90s and have curated 3000+ free, live music events during that time. I am a fellow musician and songwriter and have enjoyed presenting events for folks from America and around the world, and helping build community—on stage and off over the last twenty years.

Many of those once-emerging artists whom I was able to help with their first decent-paying gig and listening audience in NYC have since gone on to command main stage festival stages  and sold-out shows at prominent venues like Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall, Union Chapel (UK), The Grand Ole Opry, and even stadium tours opening for big-name acts like Willie Nelson.

When I started out it was before cell phones, and I would literally make plans as I crossed paths with my neighbours in Dumbo on the way to the deli. September 11th was a defining time for our community and within 24 hours, I had wrangled a benefit event in honor of the Henry St. Firehouse First Responders who lost nine men that morning. I invited The Federation of Black Cowboys of America, who had shown up at the Urban Cowgirl Cabaret I had produced with Superfine—a woman-artist owned and operated restaurant bar and art space. In partnership with Superfine, I have produced over fifty fundraisers for artists in need, small organizations, disaster relief, and national calls to action. Music as an international language is the best vehicle I know to bring folks together in good times and bad.

And I’d like to add to that that when I moved to Dumbo twenty years ago, artists could rent live-work space at around $1/square foot. I need to fact check but am pretty sure it’s approaching 100x that nowadays. (ED: she’s right)

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival

Queen Esther image courtesy of Jelle Wagenaar.

RC: New York can be isolating. How have you created community for yourself? How do you recommend others do it?

JB: Strive to be a genuine member of your neighborhood. Make a daily effort to get to know your individual neighbors. Talk to the old-timers, the young families, the kids, and reach out to the teenagers if you want to have their Instagram thumbs up! Support local businesses. Spend your hard-earned dollars locally. Get to know the staff by name. Take an interest in the people working locally, as well as the folks who live locally. They are all your future customers/fan base. If you see an opportunity to help out for a good cause, do not miss the chance to volunteer, pitch in, and be there in person if possible.

“Those kind of efforts do not happen overnight. Genuine commitment and being there along the way are what help make the big difference for our community when the chips are down. “

RC: Who are some women on a local or national scale whom you admire?

JB: I have to say the three women who are the founders and business partners of Superfine. Superfine is the core of the pioneer artist community in Dumbo since the mid-90s. Tanya Rynd is a painter and a poet; Cara Lee Sparry is a filmmaker, industrial designer and inventor; Laura Taylor is a sculptor and the chef. Her American Mediterranean menu is remarkable and as a regular customer I attribute my good health to them in a big way. They started out with supper clubs in their Dumbo loft overlooking the river at the end of Jay St; and are now going into twenty years at their current location on Front St. Their menu changes daily and they are the first ‘farm to table’ restaurant in Dumbo. They feature a different visual artist every month; and present Jazz, Americana, and have hosted hundreds of performing artists from every corner of the city and around the globe.

[On Friday,]  Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the race, so this is where I could write ‘What she said’. And the speech Laura Dern’s character makes in Marriage Story about women always being held to impossibly higher standards than men, pretty much says it all.  As serious a situation as it is, her words made me laugh out loud. We have to make sure we never lose our sense of humor—especially the ability to laugh together when presented with a challenge. It’s important to help each other remember we are fighting the good fight, and all the women and men who have gone before us.

I am an experienced live sound engineer for thirty years, especially when it comes to string bands. I was a lighting designer and master stage electrician before that. Women are still a minority in these technical fields. Little things like folks saying ‘sound man’ have long since failed to offend. You have to choose your battles and take the high road.

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival

The Chapin Sisters image courtesy of Jelle Wagenaar.

RC: What’s given you the motivation to stay in the fight?

JB: I was that kid at school putting on plays, and getting as many classmates involved as possible. Even the shyest boy or girl could go to my ‘Tree Box’ and pull out some 1970’s brown flares and a green polo neck and play a member of the forest. When the Dumbo Arts Festival said 2015 would be the last year, it was a no brainer to aim to keep the live music aspect going. Plus I couldn’t go anywhere in Dumbo without folks stopping and asking me ‘Are you going to keep doing the music?’. Those same folks are now vitally involved, attending concerts, supporting the development of the festival, and telling their friends and neighbors about Brooklyn Americana. [I was thrilled when] PBS featured the festival on Arts NY, and The New York Times put us in their top-three events to attend alongside the Pope’s visit! I make sure to celebrate and share that acknowledgment with everyone that supports Brooklyn Americana Music!

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