“The event brings together a community who care about the music and want to nourish it.”
When Music Week contacted Black Deer to ask about the AMA UK Awards 2019, co-founder Gill Tee was keen to talk about the relationships that continue to build in the Americana community. Echoing what she had said on the panel of ‘Oh Sister Where Art Though: Women In Americana Music’, during AmericanaFest, our co-founder took the opportunity to place the spotlight on the emerging talent breaking through at the AMAs this year:
“We never just want to book an artist, we want to understand them and get to know the person behind the music.”
That pretty much sums up this year at AmericanaFest: getting to know what’s behind the music. Across three days we heard from artists such as Rhiannon Giddens, John Oates and Yola about the singular journeys, experiences and decisions that brought them to Hackney during a wet and windy January. We learned that the paths artists take are never straight forward and listening to your creative instincts is nearly always the right thing to do. After all, day three’s awards show reunited Graham Nash and Allan Clarke of The Hollies for a reminiscence on a seventy-year friendship that began when a school kid raised his hand to say yes…
AmericanaFest 2019 was more than all talk, as showcase gigs across two nights featured over fifty artists performing live. Black Deer 2019 performers John Smith, Martin Harley and Chance McCoy all delivered great sets and whetted our appetite for their performances at the deer park in June, while we also enjoyed experiencing the power of Kaia Kater, Madison Violet, Sam Morrow and Mike Farris for the first time.
Black Deer 2018 alumnus Treetop Flyers and Whiskey Shivers showed us how they’ve continued to go from strength to strength since last year’s festival, while AMA UK Artist of the Year winners Bennet Wilson Poole gave what many considered to be the best show they’ve played yet: a short, sharp shock of booming bass and drums, heavenly harmonies and the sound of a 12 string Rickenbacker from Tony Poole that we’re sure is still chiming through the streets of Hackney now…
If there was a summational moment of the event, it came on the crisp and cold morning of day two as Rhiannon Giddens delivered 2019’s keynote speech. With a coffee in her hand and our hearts and minds in her sights, Giddens delivered an address full of grace and determination.
“I don’t know what Americana is,” she said. “But I do know that American music doesn’t exist without immigration.”
The conference room – full of artists, bookers, managers and supporters from all over the world who all play or promote this music that takes a little bit of everything to create something startling – stood up as one and gave her a standing ovation.
It was a beautiful moment confirmed during another ovation an hour or so later at the ‘Women In Americana’ panel: Black Deer’s Gill Tee was asked about the challenges she has faced during many years in the music business and what she has learned from them… her answer?
“Just be kind to people.”
AmericanaFest 2019 was living proof of all you can build when only kindness remains.