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New at WE Fest: Songwriters talk about their craft -- and show it off onstage

Chas Sandford, left, performs 'Talk to Me,' a song he wrote that eventually became a hit for Stevie Nicks. At right is Storme Warren, country music broadcaster.

There were many changes at WE Fest this year -- upgraded stadium seating in the VIP section, high definition jumbotrons for viewing throughout the venue, even a new management team to oversee operations -- but one of the most unique innovations took place on the Barn Stage, a secondary music venue across from the Soo Pass Saloon, north of the main concert bowl.

Not only was the Barn Stage rebuilt and the surrounding patio area remodeled and expanded, but the music offerings for festival patrons from that stage were upgraded as well, to include a songwriter's showcase.

The Barn Stage has traditionally been the site for an "after party" of sorts, following the main stage action on each night of the festival. A popular regional act would perform on that stage after each night's headliner had concluded their performance on the main stage.

That tradition has been kept, but the stage also played host to performances from the top three finishers in the annual WE Fest Karaoke competition, who performed on the Barn Stage during the dinner hour between the late afternoon and early evening acts on the main stage.

And each evening of the festival, between 7:45 and 8:30 p.m. -- between the evening's two featured acts on the main stage -- the Barn Stage was the site for the first-ever Singer-Songwriter Showcase.

Featuring renowned Nashville songwriter, singer, musician and producer Chas Sandford and hosted by radio and TV host Storme Warren, the show also allowed some special guest songwriters, plucked straight from the WE Fest music lineup, to perform some of their original songs and talk about the craft of songwriting.

"I've known Rand (Levy, owner of WE Fest) for years and years," Sandford said, explaining how the new WE Fest event came about.

One day, a little over a month ago, the two were talking about WE Fest, and Levy said, "I'd like to try something different."

The idea, which was "literally pulled right from his brain" that day, was to make the Barn Stage into a venue for songwriters to perform and talk about their craft, in the manner of a Nashville-style "guitar pull."

A "guitar pull," as described by Storme Warren during his introduction of Sandford Tuesday night, is an informal gathering of songwriters who take turns performing their original material and testing out the songs on a receptive audience.

Unfortunately, Thursday's gathering at the Barn Stage was small, as few people knew about the late addition to the WE Fest lineup.

"It's humble beginnings, but we're hoping to build this into something bigger," Sandford said. "We'd like to make this into a songwriter's stage."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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