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Whiskey War Festival celebrating Americana, rock and blues turns 5

Provided by The Maness Brothers
Provided by The Maness Brothers
Whiskey War Festival Poster

The Whiskey War Festival, a homegrown day of music celebrating contemporary Americana, blues and rock groups from the Midwest, turns 5 on Saturday.

This year the festival is moving from its home base in St. Charles to the South Broadway Athletic Club in the Soulard neighborhood. Jake Maness, who founded the festival with his brother David, said the show is a chance to share the music they’ve found while touring the Midwest.

“It’s almost kind of like our year end cap where we get any new friends we’ve made on the road, bands that we love and met, getting them into St. Louis for a big show,” Jake Maness said.

Five years ago, the Maness Brothers were just hoping to book a show celebrating their friends’ music at a St. Charles Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Quickly three bands became 15. They made a poster, and the group had a full-day festival on their hands. Since then, the festival has grown to include 30 bands, four stages, sponsors, food offerings and art exhibits.

Members of the rock band Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery, of Indianapolis, met the Maness Brothers while out on the road. The two bands had been double booked to play a venue at the same time. Instead of fighting over the billing, both groups played that evening and the musicians became friends. Powell said that friendship, and the Whiskey War Festival, is part of a broader push among Midwest musicians to elevate and support their craft.    

‘What I’m trying to do in Indianapolis, what The Maness Brothers are doing in St. Louis is purposefully creating these stages, these platforms, for artistic collaboration among bands to come and support one another," Powell said. "And to yank their friends off the Netflix couches of America and bring them back to live music, live art.”

This year, Al Kraemer and his band Calliope, of Milwaukee, will perform at the festival for the third time. Kraemer is as much of a fan of the Maness Brothers and their festival as he is performer. He said the festival has exposed his group to new fans and helped him book gigs in other cities.

“Met a lot of good people through them and the fest itself,” Kraemer said. “I would honestly go down there even if we weren’t playing, just because it’s a good time.”