Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival Expands Musical Boundaries Sept. 19-22

Dawes, Poco and Pure Prairie League among headliners

WKSU and Kent State University present the dynamic Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival on Sept. 19 through 22 when a regional tradition adopts a fresh attitude and brings more live music to the city of Kent and Kent State. As both city and campus burst out of their shells with new businesses and a soon-to-be-open connecting esplanade, the former Kent State Folk Festival is expanding by welcoming even more artists and music fans to the party.

The new Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival takes on the flavors of the annual day of free ’Round Town concerts typically presented throughout the city of Kent on the final Friday of the folk festival. Although loosely themed as “roots” music, the genres offered during these daylong curated collections of performances pushed musical boundaries. The new festival takes its inspiration from these spirited music-filled Fridays and pulls in bands from a wider pool of entertainers. Music will radiate from the heart of the Kent State campus, at The Kent Stage on Main Street and in expected and surprising spaces throughout the city.

“For many years, ’Round Town Fridays have set the tone for the rest of the folk festival,” said WKSU Executive Director Dan Skinner. “These performances broadened the region’s definition of ‘folk’ to embrace other genres – like jazz, Americana and blues – that have roots music at their core. The Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival is a celebration of sounds, and we want everyone to join in the fun.”

The ’Round Town Music Fest takes full advantage of recent changes to the Kent State campus by welcoming rock band Dawes and special guests Good Old War to the new Student Green on Thursday, Sept. 19. The concert is free, and everyone is invited to this gala, kick-off event. The Student Green is located at the heart of campus, extending from Risman Plaza to Summit Street. Dawes, who recently toured with Bob Dylan, has a large cross-generational following thanks to the band’s artfully concise and increasingly soulful sound. Philadelphia-based Good Old War harnesses a high-spirited simplicity to make its live shows unforgettable by revealing the group’s penchant for infectious folk-pop. 

On Friday, Sept. 20, more than three-dozen spaces in downtown Kent will be home to live music during ’Round Town Free Friday. New restaurants and shops in downtown Kent will join familiar venues in presenting music ranging from folk to reggae to blues and beyond. Stand-out artists on this year’s bill include the Speedbumps (at Bar 145); Smokin’ Fez Monkeys, Johnny & the Apple Stompers and Bethesda (all performing at Acorn Alley); and the Twistoffs and Boy=Girl (playing at Water Street Tavern). Red Michel (of Reo Neon) will perform a show aimed at youngsters at Kent Presbyterian Church. Additional artists are being added to the lineup every day with shows beginning with the lunch crowd and continuing well into the night.

Also on Sept. 20, The Kent Stage turns up the volume with country rock from Pure Prairie League and Poco. With hits like “Amie,” “Let Me Love You Tonight” and “Falling In and Out of Love with You,” Ohio-native sons Pure Prairie League have been wowing fans for more than four decades. Poco had its share of chart-makers, bringing the audience to its feet with songs including “Heart of the Night” and “Crazy Love.”

Free Workshop Saturday on Sept. 21 offers a city full of opportunities to share musical exploration. From noon to 5 p.m., hourlong workshops throughout downtown Kent invite musicians and music fans to learn more about everything from Russian folk and jug band music to clogging and arranging music for group sings.

Visitors can stick around after the workshops to enjoy indie folk from Black Prairie at The Kent Stage. A brilliant amalgam of parts of the Decemberists, the lead singer of Bearfoot bluegrass and other indie musicians who call Portland home, Black Prairie brings a different edge to the roots music scene. The band is in demand and has entertained audiences at Bonnaroo, SXSW, Newport Folk, Philadelphia Folk and other A-list festivals.

The music continues Sunday, Sept. 22, with the return of the Talent Contest, this year held in the tent behind Black Squirrel Gallery & Gifts in downtown Kent. Submissions will be accepted and voted on through the Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival Facebook page with the top 10 vote-getters competing live for a chance to be’s featured Open Mic artist.

The one-and-only Leon Redbone wraps up the Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival with his unique blend of folky blues pop on a Legends Night at The Kent Stage. Brewer & Shipley will open, and singer/songwriter Alex Bevan acts as the evening’s host. Redbone has an instantly recognizable voice and a stage presence that is pure entertainment. Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley met in Kent at the former Blind Owl before beginning their Billboard-charting partnership. Local-son Bevan is beloved for songs including “Skinny Little Boy from Cleveland” and his recent music projects for children that focus on the environment.
Tickets go on sale Thursday, July 18, at 11 a.m. for all Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival concerts and are available at The Kent Stage, by phone toll-free at 1-877-987-6487 or online at The Kent Stage is located at 175 East Main St. in downtown Kent, and the box office is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The festival website – – will be updated with artist bios and videos, along with the complete list of ’Round Town Free Friday performances and Community Workshops as they become available.

The lineup for the Kent State ’Round Town Music Festival:

  • Thursday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m.: Dawes and Good Old War (Student Green at Kent State University) – FREE.
  • Friday, Sept. 20 (various times): ’Round Town Free Friday (37 venues throughout Kent) – FREE.
  • Friday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m.: Pure Prairie League and Poco (The Kent Stage) – $$.
  • Saturday, Sept. 21, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.: Workshops (venues throughout Kent) – FREE.
  • Saturday, Sept. 21, at 8 p.m.: Black Prairie with TBA (The Kent Stage) – $$.
  • Sunday, Sept. 22, at 5 p.m.: Talent Contest (behind Black Squirrel Gallery & Gifts) – FREE.
  • Sunday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.: Legends Night: featuring Leon Redbone with Brewer & Shipley and special guest emcee Alex Bevan (The Kent Stage) – $$.

Festival support is provided by: Kent State University, Dominion East Ohio, Great Lakes Brewing Company and Lehman’s; media partners: the Record-Courier and; and community partners: Western Reserve Folk Arts Association (WRFAA) and the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center.

WKSU broadcasts NPR and classical music at 89.7 FM, and is a service of Kent State University. WKSU programming is also heard on WKRW 89.3 FM in Wooster, WKRJ 91.5 FM in Dover/New Philadelphia, WKSV 89.1 FM in Thompson, WNRK 90.7 in Norwalk and W239AZ 95.7 FM in Ashland. The station broadcasts four HD Radio channels – adding WKSU-2 Folk Alley, WKSU-3 The Classical Channel and WKSU-4 The News Channel to the analog broadcast schedule. The WKSU website is

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Media Contact:
Ann VerWiebe,, 330-672-9153

POSTED: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:02 PM
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2022 01:02 AM