By Rubin E. Grant
Alec Bolton is beyond excited.
“I’m stoked,” he said.
What has Bolton so enthused is Mason Music Fest 2022 on Saturday at Avondale Brewing Company.
Bolton and the band he co-founded, The Brook & The Bluff, will be one of the headliners during the music fest, which coincides with Mason Music’s 10th anniversary.
The Brook & The Bluff features musicians from the Over the Mountain area and is now based in Nashville. Bolton (guitar/vocals), a graduate of Mountain Brook; and Joseph Settine (vocals/guitar), who grew up in Bluff Park and attended Hoover, started the band. They met in college at Auburn University and played for a band called the The Freewheelers.
In 2015, they formed a duo and later added two more Mountain Brook High alums to the band – John Canada (drums/vocals) and Fred Lankford (bass/vocals) – transforming the group into a dynamic live act.
Each of them worked for Mason Music as teenagers. Settine, Bolton and Canada worked as Mason Music teachers for students in traditional lessons, and Canada and Lankford coached in the Rock Band League before they relocated to Nashville.
“We did that for several years while starting our band,” Bolton said. “We’re honored that they considered us for their first music fest. Mason Music has always meant a lot to us. When I got the call from Will Mason (Mason Music founder) and he told me they were putting on a concert in our hometown in Avondale and they wanted us, that was a really cool day.
“I remember going to watch Will Mason when he was playing in a band and I thought it was wonderful. I wanted to be like him. He was like my idol.”
Will Mason said The Brook & The Bluff were one of the first bands they contacted when they decided to put on a music fest.
“We wanted to get one of our alums involved,” he said. “I’ve watched them over time grow and mature and in a lot of ways that’s what we want for all of our students.”
The Brook & The Bluff has been based in Nashville for 4½ years and has quickly become recognized for its blend of vocal harmony, soulfulness and grooviness.
“I feel like we play four different genres, with some indie rock, some folk music and some soul, too,” Bolton said. “We’re just a band with instruments we play, and we sing and we try to make it sound good,” he added with a laugh.
Recently, the band added Canada’s older brother Kevin Canada to the mix on keyboard.
“He’s one of the best keyboard players I’ve ever seen,” Bolton said. “He’s pretty much full-time now. The band is much better because of him.”
The festival begins at 1 p.m. Saturday and is an open format with a main stage as well as an outdoor educational area and VIP lounge. In addition to The Brook & The Bluff, live entertainment will be provided by national, regional and local artists, including Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Gatlin, Lady Legs, Jahnah Camille, and Shaheed and DJ Supreme.
“I think it’s a pretty unique variety of acts,” Mason said. “It might not be something for everyone to like, but I think it’s something everyone can enjoy. I think this will be a show people will remember for a long time.”
Along with musical performances, there will be a variety of food trucks as well as education-focused activities, face painting, a photo booth, drum circles, student performances, and a youth-interactive hip hop exhibit hosted by Shaheed and DJ Supreme.
General admission tickets cost $25, $125 for VIP tickets. All proceeds will benefit the Mason Music Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to changing lives by providing scholarships for music lessons to families that qualify for financial assistance.
All ages are welcome, but all attendees, including children, must have a ticket because of capacity restrictions.
“The Mason Music Fest is our way of bringing people together around music to give back to the community,” Mason said. “As funding for the arts in public education continues to decline, we are stepping into the gap to raise money for music education scholarships with Mason Music Foundation.
“We want our guests to have a blast at the event and feel good knowing their ticket is helping to pay for someone else in Birmingham to have music lessons.”
Since opening in 2012, Mason Music has offered private lessons in guitar, piano, voice, drums and violin to thousands of students of all ages and skill levels, along with music camps, group lessons, and Rock Band League.
Mason Music has studios in Cahaba Heights, Mountain Brook Village, Bluff Park, Greystone and Woodlawn.
Additional details about Mason Music Fest and tickets for the event are available at masonmusicfest.com