Our 10,000 lakes are being transformed into 10,000 streams -- made of digital music. Alan Bengston and Sam Brown have co-founded the first online Land of 10,000 Streams Music Fest which will launch this Friday at noon.

The three-day, live-streaming, crowd-sourced festival will feature nearly 60 performances, including some from heavy-hitters like Charlie Parr, Chastity Brown, Chris Koza, and Jillian Rae. The music included will range from the hip-hop of Heiruspecs to the folk-infused bluegrass of Mother Banjo.

Lately, its been impossible for these performers and their fans to gather in person. COVID-19 has created something of a musical crisis. While this has had a negative impact on the finances of performers, it’s also torn huge rips in the social fabric shared by all music lovers.

This gave Bengston, a website developer, the idea to create an online music festival to support the regional music scene.

"It’s like that old Don McLean Song ‘The Day the Music Died (American Pie)’ ... you know the one," says Bengston. "If we don’t support musicians through this pandemic, if we don’t help them persevere through this crisis, we probably won’t hear as much from them in the future, and that would be a shame. We simply can’t let the music die."  

Bengston had met Brown, the founder of the Big Turn Music Fest in Red Wing, a few years back. Since Brown had experience putting together fest lineups for the last decade, Bengston knew he would be able to help make the dream a reality. "I’m a person who really gets excited about big ideas like this, and it just made sense to me that it could be possible," says Brown.

Already sheltering in place when the festival planning began, Brown didn’t have steady access to a computer and had to plan from an iPhone -- but his knowledge about festivals was instrumental in shaping the event. "I have developed a relative flow for organizing events that really helped with getting this one off the ground," he says.

The festival also gained the support of some community sponsors. "The Current [Minnesota Public Radio’s popular music radio station] has been a big help," says Bengston.  "They are co-hosting and sponsoring the festival."

The festival will have a different time slot for each of the digital performances. They’ll be listed on the fest’s website at www.Landof10kStreams.com. Individual artists will be live-streaming through different platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Each artist will have their own pages where those attending the festival from the comfort of their own homes can donate directly to performers using online tools like PayPal or Venmo.

Amanda Grace, a rock and folk influenced singer-songwriter from the Winona area, is looking forward to performing.

"I hope the musicians can learn more about what people are going through, so they can take time to write the kind of music that the fans need right now," she says. "The best writing comes from the worst of circumstances." Grace sees the fact that anyone can tune into the fest as something exciting that makes it "unlike anything before."

Several Rochester acts will be part of the festival, including four who will stream on Friday. A long-time staple of Rochester’s music scene, Gabriel Holmes will be performing as Jaggedease at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon. Holmes is excited to share some positivity as part of the fest.

"Music really helps to lift peoples’ spirits," he says.  "It helps to keep everyone connected on a different level."

Megan Kleven, another Rochester-area performer, will stream a set at 5 p.m. after Holmes. Then Rochesterites Jeremy Jewell and Joel Ward will be taking the virtual stage at 7:30 and 8:30.

"I’m used to playing gigs two to three nights a week, so it feels like a big part of who I am doesn’t exist right now,"  Jewell says. Along with bartending, he normally generates a lot of his family’s income through music.

Since quarantine set in, Jewell’s performed a few other live streaming gigs, including one at Thesis Brewery. "I think a weekend of music will be a really healthy way for people to see some good that’s happening in the world," he says. "Plus, how nice will it be to go to a concert in your pajamas, with no lines to get a beer and no super-tall people standing right in front of you?"

Ward’s also been hit hard by his inability to perform publicly.

"The lockdown has taken away my livelihood," he says. He thinks the festival will be a way for him and other musicians to "reach out" and show what they’ve been working on in the down time. "Solitude can be great for writing music," he says. "It gives me a chance to really be selfish with my energy, musically speaking, without soaking up outside influences to create something that feels fresh." Ward anticipates playing some new tunes during his streamed set.

While the future of live music may be changing, one thing’s certain: this streamed fest and others will make lonely sheltering-in-place a little brighter.

"I think we are already rethinking the way we consume live music," Bengston says. "I think we’re seeing a lot of creativity and innovation." 

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What: Land of 10,000 Streams Music Festival

When: 12 p.m. Friday, April 24-Sunday, April 26

Link: https://www.Landof10kStreams.com

Cost: Make an online donation to support individual performers or the festival.

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