SCHENECTADY — The picture was somewhat incomplete when Jim Gilbert announced plans for NipperFest last November, but with the recent announcement of Sawyer Fredericks joining the one-day event’s lineup, the details are coming into focus.
NipperFest, a one-day festival showcasing local acts featuring original music, promises thousands to Music Haven in Central Park on Saturday, July 23. Music will volley between two stages — one acoustic and the other amplified — from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Fredericks, the Fultonville native who drew national attention while on his way to winning the 8th season of NBC’s The Voice in 2015, was announced last weekend to a lineup featuring 15 musicians paired with food vendors and services, including nonprofits advocating the local arts and mental health.
Albany’s Side-B earned the opportunity to perform on the festival’s main stage after winning Nippertown’s March “Music” Madness tournament two weeks ago. The four-piece alternative rock band will be joined by last year’s tournament winner, Delmar’s Glass Pony.
Gilbert’s first step towards organizing the unique festival was extending an invite to three bands, The Figgs, SIRSY and Super 400. Each are veterans of the local scene who have developed a strong following over the years. His initial hope was to persuade one of them to perform. His response lended a sense of affirmation that he was onto something.
“All three of them said, ‘Absolutely,’” he said. “It’s going to be a fun time. People are going to dance.”
The festival is named after Nippertown, the three-time Eddie Award-winning arts and music online publication. The Nippertown brand has served as a sounding board for local artists and musicians for more than a decade. Gilbert stepped in as publisher three years ago, and co-owns the website with his wife, Laura DaPolitio. Together, they carry Greg Haymes’ legacy with the help of a cadre of freelance photographers and writers.
The particular focus on original music from local artists is in similar design to the website’s music tournament from last month, which asked fans to vote for their favorite bands out of a field of 64, as each went one-on-one in a friendly competition for prizes.
The college basketball inspired bracket was sponsored by a dozen venues, studios and sound engineers tied to a regional music scene recently ranked among the best in the country by a New York City-based data resource group. In 2016, Value Penguin listed the Tri City area the sixth best scene in the country, one rung under Austin, Texas.
“I really do feel like we have the best local music scene,” Gilbert said. “We have such a plethora of talent that we could do our own festival and highlight our local scene, and it could be as good or better than all the other ones we see.”
Gilbert is filling a list of vendors who will provide food and beverages throughout the day. He’s also seeking more sponsors to help fund the event. An after-party hosted by event sponsor Frog Alley will happen once the music dies down at the park.
“I’m hoping that there’s going to be a lot of sunshine and a lot of fun,” Gilbert said. “I’m really hoping people walk away going, ‘My God, we have a lot of great talent in this area,’”