Viva el Spaghetti: Local music fest celebrates eighth year

Jeremiah Knupp -- September 21st, 2010

As a rising senior music major at JMU Mickey Glago asked himself the question that every artist faces: “How can I make my work matter?” For Glago the answer was to shift his focus from solely performance and move into the business side of the entertainment industry. His new major required an internship and Glago had little interest in becoming your typical intern office boy.

Mickey Glago

“Growing up in Northern Virginia I had already worked in the industry at places like the Patriot Center,” Glago said. “At a typical internship you spend most of your time proving yourself before you can move on to jobs where you can learn something new.”

So Glago decided that he could best learn the industry by diving straight in and how better to do that than design, plan and pull off his own music festival? The result was Spaghettifest, a three-day outdoor concert of independent regional and national musicians that was held at Natural Chimneys. The fledgling festival was a success and what was supposed to be a one time deal will enjoy its eighth incarnation this weekend. Along the way attendance has grown from a few hundred to over a thousand. Glago noted that this year’s venue has a capacity of up to 2,000.   

Spaghettifest gets its name from the band of which Glago is a member, Midnight Spaghetti & The Chocolate G-Strings, a self-described “funk mob” that formed at JMU. Midnight Spaghetti headlines every festival and Glago says the concerts’ line-up is in some respects the band’s touring year-in-review.

“It’s a statement of who we’ve met and what we’ve done in the past year,” he noted. “It’s also our way of showing gratitude to the bands that we’ve been performing with.”

This year’s line-up includes 37 bands that have already been announced, among them legendary musical pioneers Shock G and the Digital Underground and Michael Glabickiof Rusted Root in a solo performance. As in previous years, Spaghettifest 8 will create an eclectic mix of sounds from funk and jazz to electronica and acoustic.

“We’ve made our own niche and we’ve gotten to a point that there is a level of trust with our fans,” Glago explains of Spaghettifest attendees who he says “form a community over those three days.”

After its first year at Natural Chimneys, Spaghettifest moved to venues outside the area for two years before returning to the Mount Solon campground for a four year run. This fall it again ventures outside the Harrisonburg area and will take place at a campground in West Virginia right outside of Winchester.

All the changes match the “outer space” theme displayed on art work and promotional material for this year’s festival, Glago said. The result will push boundaries and exploring new frontiers, building on lessons learned.

But even as the festival has grown its roots have remained firmly planted in Harrisonburg and the central Shenandoah Valley. Glago still looks to area businesses to provide products and services for the event and several bands in every festival’s line-up are Harrisonburg-based.

“Like teaching, it’s another way to give back to the community,” said Glago, who is a part-time instructor at JMU’s School of Music, as well as a private music instructor. “It also makes people aware of local talent and displays the Shenandoah Valley’s presence in the East Coast’s artistic scene.”

Each year the proceeds of Spaghettifest are donated to charity. This year’s recipient will be the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Spaghettifest 8 will be held September 24-26 at the Buffalo Gap Campground in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. 

Photos of Mickey Glago by Holly Marcus. Photos of last year’s Spaghettifest are by Chris Neam, courtesy of Midnight Spaghetti Productions.

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