Bringing music to Murray

Zachary Maley/The News
Local bands took to the stage last weekend at the annual Harper Festival, sponsored by Harper Guitars, Lovett Auditorium, Tap 216 and the Murray State chapter of Phi Mu Alpha.Zachary Maley/The News Local bands took to the stage last weekend at the annual Harper Festival, sponsored by Harper Guitars, Lovett Auditorium, Tap 216 and the Murray State chapter of Phi Mu Alpha.

Tap 216 and Lovett Auditorium host annual Harper Fest

Story by Kelsey GrapperhausContributing writer

Zachary Maley/The News Local bands took to the stage last weekend at the annual Harper Festival, sponsored by Harper Guitars, Lovett Auditorium, Tap 216 and the Murray State chapter of Phi Mu Alpha.

Zachary Maley/The News
Local bands took to the stage last weekend at the annual Harper Festival, sponsored by Harper Guitars, Lovett Auditorium, Tap 216 and the Murray State chapter of Phi Mu Alpha.

Hosted by Harper Guitars, Lovett Auditorium, Tap 216, and the Gamma Delta chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, Harper Fest 2015 was a success Saturday.

The 11-hour day was filled with axe slingers, great musicians and the ‘Harper Family.’

Harper Fest is an 11-hour music festival that converges musical talent from across the country into one ‘axe slinging’ day.

This year the band line-up consisted of a unique combination from a variety of different locations including Nashville, Louisville, Murray, Paducah, and even Denver.

The headlining bands included Jaden Carlson Band, John Sutton Band, Murr-Vegas All-stars, Ben Miller Band and several other artists that rocked the second Annual Harper Fest.

Although this is the second music festival hosted by Harper Guitars, it was the first one held in Murray.

In a recent interview with WKMS-FM, Murray State’s National Public Radio Station, and Jacob Harper, owner of Harper Guitars, Harper stated that the change from the previous Harper Fest in Paducah last year to Murray this year was expected to boost attendance and add more artists to the line-up.

Not only is Harper Fest an event for showcasing music, but it also has a much deeper focus.

Most artists that performed on stage at Lovett and Tap 216 were connected by one thing: their guitars.

Harper, a Murray State Alumni, began building guitars in 2007. Every guitar is completely handcrafted by only the highest quality woods, and their superior tone is customized for every artist.

In 2013, Harper Guitars became a limited liability company (LLC), with the help of others, most of whom are also Murray State alumni from Western Kentucky.

Harper Guitars isn’t just another guitar retailer though; Harper Guitar’s prides themselves on treating their close friends as family.

“This is a company that was built on the ‘Harper Family,’” Scott Hamrick, event coordinator and main organizer for Harper Guitars, said, “Harper Fest is more like a family reunion and everyone was invited.”

John Sutton, lead singer and guitarist of John Sutton Band (JSB), is also a part of the ‘Harper Family’ of guitarists.

Sutton plays an artist signature model guitar in the ‘Nashville Series’ that Jacob Harper personally customized by putting a double coil Humbucker pickup on the neck and adding weights at the body.

Even after playing guitar for 21 years, Sutton loves this guitar the most due to its customization.

As for the music festival, Sutton states he “loves playing festival style events.”

Sutton enjoys seeing and meeting other bands at festivals, such as Harper Festival.

He especially looked forward to Harper Fest 2015.

“Harper has some amazing artists lined up who are doing a lot in the biz,” Sutton said.

The John Sutton Band also performed in Florida and Tennessee last week before making a stop in Kentucky for Harper Fest.

JSB’s line up consisted of John Sutton on guitar, Keith McLaughlin on drums, Matthew Harper on bass, and Eric Allen on saxophone.

Plans for Harper Fest 2016 have been made but nothing has been set in stone yet, Harper ‘family member’ Scott Hamrick said.

Harper Guitars plans to continue the annual music festival for as long as possible, hoping each year for a larger turnout.