The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on bringing national talent to Weberfest last year as few musicians were traveling and performing live, but rising national acts are back on the bill this year.
Rock-and-roll/rockabilly artist JD McPherson will headline Weberfest on July 10, joined by special guest and quickly-rising talent Aaron Lee Tasjan. TA Weber, founder and organizer for Weberfest, said he’s excited to introduce the community to the artists as he always works to bring in lesser-known talent that he expects to become big-name stars.
“In my show over the years, I have tried to get someone here that maybe people have never heard about. They’ve never heard their songs or anything like that, but I have elsewhere — California, Louisville, wherever I might be, Bonaroo, Lollapalooza — and get them early and get them in here just so people can have that exposure of, 'Oh my goodness, there’s other music out there other than what’s on maybe the local radio stations or whatever else' and to maybe cause them to explore a little bit of different genres of music,” Weber said.
Weber is also the president of Weber Speakers, and his speakers are used by countless musicians across the country and beyond. Because of his connections to the music world, he’s able to meet and get to know different artists often, and that’s how his story began with JD McPherson.
About five years ago, Weber met him at Forecastle Festival in Louisville. Weber had an all-access pass and was on stage looking around.
“I was looking in the back of amplifiers just to see what speakers are being used, and I looked in the back of one and saw one of ours. I thought, ‘Well, who is this? I don’t even know who this is.’ So I just kind of hung around a bit, and this guy starts walking on stage and starts messing with his gear. I introduced myself, and he just kind of looked at me like, ‘Are you serious?’ He was like, “Dude, I’ve been using your speakers for years.’”
Weber stuck around longer to see McPherson’s set, and he was “absolutely blown away.” They two have stayed in contact over the years, and Weber has attended several of his shows, including when he performed as part of Willie Nelson’s show in 2019. So when Weber needed a headliner for Weberfest 2021, he called on McPherson.
Weber described JD McPherson as a little bit rockabilly and a little bit R&B but still rock and roll.
“It’s great energy. He’s a funny guy on stage, but he’s this singer/songwriter type of guy with a great backup band and just good rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly,” he said. “He was one of those guys who started bootstraps on the ground and going around and around and around just trying to get his name out there. I’ve seen him at a lot of music festivals, so he gets thrown on all these bills because he’s great. He just doesn’t necessarily have any radio hits.”
Then, opening for JD McPherson is Aaron Lee Tasjan, who Weber said could be a headliner himself. Rolling Stone Magazine called his latest album, “Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!” the best album of the year, Weber said. Weber secured Tasjan to play as part of the Kokomo Summer Concert Series in 2019, and despite his rise to fame since, he’s still on the bill.
“We still have a contract with him, so he agreed to come and play and be the opener which, you know, it’s probably getting to a point where it can’t even be justified for him being an opener because he is going to, I think, make so many waves out there with his music,” Weber said.
A Rolling Stone article called Tasjan’s latest album a “tour-de-force” that’s “marked by stammering synths and swirling glam-rock” and “his most compelling to date.”
Weber said it’s always fun to bring rising stars to Kokomo.
“Every once in a while we get someone here that in a couple of years it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, can you believe we had such and such here?’ It’s nuts,” he said.
Along with the music, The Coterie will be selling alcohol and burgers, and Hawg Heaven will be dishing out barbecue. New this year, the Quac Box food truck will be in the park serving tex-mex.
The 11th annual Weberfest is free and takes place in Foster Park on Saturday, July 10, from 6 to 10 p.m.