A Music Festival for the Senses

Photo courtesy of Hunter Embry

Photo courtesy of Hunter Embry

Everyone has a sense of ownership over a band. The lesser known the band, the stronger that sense of ownership is. Such an act quickly becomes “my band,” and sharing a song or album from that band in turn becomes an insight or peek into the fabric of someone’s personality. After all, that’s what makes music festivals – especially local ones – so special. For a day or weekend, “my band” becomes “our band,” and that experience is one of the reasons why music is the staple of civilization that it is. Fortunately for Louisville, music festivals are a commodity that the city has in spades. Between Forecastle and Waterfront Wednesdays, there is no shortage of opportunity to have some fun with friends while reveling in the tunes of your favorite musicians or discovering new favorites. Seven Sense Festival, one such local music festival, aims to tap into that desire and create the next great annual event.

“Shawn Steele approached Chris Nelson about throwing a festival here in Louisville at a party several years ago. Chris was excited about the idea, and somehow I got wind of it not long after,” says Hunter Embry, owner of The New Vintage, a local music venue and tavern. Embry opened The New Vintage in 2013 and had long wanted to throw a live music festival. When Embry, Steele and Nelson decided together that they’d combine what they thought was the best of all the local festivals and events and “throw it smack dab in the middle of Preston Street in front of my venue,” it seemed like fate.

Before opening The New Vintage, Embry went to school for music journalism while touring with The Bad Reeds. Through writing about bands, reviewing their records and playing with numerous acts around the region, he learned that his interests lay in amassing talent and organizing events. It was in booking a band called Violet Knives that Embry first met Shawn Steele. “I really liked his band and booked them at different venues around town. Within the last several years, Shawn has taken to the craft beer world and brewing specifically. He’s a certified cicerone – hence the idea for the specialty beers that each brewery debuts or showcases at our festival,” he says.

The final piece of the triumvirate is Chris Nelson – an old friend of Embry’s. The two met when Embry was 16 and they were booking their respective bands on bills together. In addition to his experience playing drums for bands RAMBLE (formerly Local Villains) and Nellie Pearl, Nelson also obtained a master’s in social work, and it was this background that afforded him the connections to set up a relationship with Boys and Girls Haven with Seven Sense. “He contracted with Boys and Girls Haven for several years, which is one reason why we are associated with and benefit the organization,” explains Embry.

The first Seven Sense Festival was held in 2014 and was smaller in just about every aspect. “It was an experiment to say the least,” recalls Embry. “We knew we were going to be running around, heads spinning in circles, trying to tackle every problem that surfaced – and there were a lot. We made it through, managed to make some money for Boys and Girls Haven and were able to start working out the kinks for a better festival in year two.”

Last year saw growth for Seven Sense on all levels. Embry, Steele and Nelson were able to pull in bigger acts in the region as well as some that were nationally known or just starting to buzz around the country. “We saw folks coming in town from nearby cities,” attests Embry proudly. They also managed to pull some sponsorships from places like Heaven Hill Distilleries, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and more.

This year’s Seven Sense Festival will feature an impressive array of over 40 bands with such favorites as Frederick the Younger and ZLP along with big names Dylan LeBlanc and Low Cut Connie. “My philosophy for booking this particular festival is to try and book some of the best local, regional and national acts of several different genres. Obviously, many factors play into how the lineups eventually shake out, but I pride myself on making sure everyone who attends Seven Sense walks away loving one or several new bands,” says Embry.

The absolutely singular trait of Seven Sense, however, is that attending is completely free. That’s right. Seven Sense is a free, all-ages festival that benefits abused and neglected children across the city and region. With such great success this early in the game and a truly worthy cause, all signs seem to point toward Seven Sense Festival becoming one of the music events to beat in Louisville. VT

This year’s Seven Sense Festival will be held on August 27 on South Preston Street from Lynn Street to Fetter Avenue. Admission is free, though tickets still need to be obtained at ticketfly.com/event/1189185. To make a donation or find more information on Seven Sense Festival, the lineup and vendors, please visit sevensensefest.com.