MMF plants The Wallflowers at head of 2024 line-up in early announcement

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Nov. 21—Dylan is coming to Somerset for Master Musicians Festival. Not Bob (probably) but rather his son, Jakob.

Usually it's shortly after the start of the year when Master Musicians Festival unveils its line-up for that summer's event but this year they gave the area an early Christmas present with an announcement that The Wallflowers, the rock band fronted by Jakob Dylan, would headline MMF 2024, to be held July 18-20.

"It just fell into place this year for some reason," said Tiffany Finley, MMF Executive Director, of the unexpected announcement. "We knew what we wanted to do at our first meeting. Sometimes it takes a lot of hoops to jump, but this year, it just fell into place."

Much like former MMF headliners Counting Crows and Blues Traveler, The Wallflowers is a name that will be familiar to anyone who regularly watched MTV in the 1990s. Their single "One Headlight" was seemingly everywhere on the air after being released on the 1996 album "Bringing Down the Horse," and they also had other hits like "6th Avenue Heartache," "Three Marlenas," and "The Difference."

However, fans are expected to be introduced to the group's newest material, from their album "Exit Wounds" from 2021. The Wallflowers return their signature sound even as Dylan has been working with a fresh group of musicians.

Finley noted that it was "cool" to think that just as MMF was getting started in the mid-1990s, so too was the band that will top the bill in year 31 for Somerset's multi-day outdoor music festival that has continued to grow in status throughout live music circles in the region.

"The Wallflowers is a band that we've been talking about for a couple of years now," said Finley. "It does seem that our fans have responded very well over the last decade to that '90s rock-type band (at MMF). We don't want to do that every year, but we feel like it's fun to sprinkle that nostalgia in over the years.

"I've seen a lot of comments on Facebook (about the announcement) like, 'My high school self is crying over my (Wallflowers) CD right now,'" she added with a laugh. "All the memories that it will bring back for people, it's really sweet to hear."

The Wallflowers may be the stuff of nostalgia for Gen Xers and elder millennials, but they're hot right now as well. Finley said that they're getting into a lot of bigger stops on the music festival circuit as of late.

Right behind The Wallflowers on the schedule this year are friends of MMF Sundy Best, the eastern Kentucky duo of Nick Jamerson and Kris Bentley known for songs like "Hindman," "Painted Blue," and "I Want to Go Home."

"Every year we honor our Kentucky roots and this year we are thrilled to do it during the golden hour on Saturday night with Sundy Best," Finley said. "They have such an incredible following and with new music out this year, it was the perfect time to bring them back to our stage. The rest of our lineup is rich with bands we can't wait to share with our fans — introducing you to your next favorite artist has become a trademark of our festival. And we can't wait to welcome with open arms some of our local favorites as well."

Indeed, every year it seems, there's a breakout artist unknown to many in the crowd who wins a lot of new fans. There are several candidates for that this year, in Finley's mind, having observed festival trends since 2010.

"We really decide this year to curate a line-up (built for that)," said Finley. "We have done our best to come up with a line-up of energetic, show-stopping acts."

They include Friday night headliner Mae Simpson, who brings a hot funky rock sound out of the cold Minnesota weather.

"I got to see her at another music festival that I attended this past August and she blew me away," said Finley. "She was so energetic, a full band. You've got trumpets and saxophones. She does everything — sing, I think a little, I saw her crowdsurfing. She's a wild performer. On Friday nights, we kind of like to have a party, so she will definitely bring that."

Another is Eddie 9V, a bluesy roots-style musician — "His name is how he is; an amazing guitar player," noted Finley, who pointed out that he's been opening MMF alum Grace Potter. So too is Jeremie Albino, a soulful rocker for whom Spooky Fox — a local act also on this year's roster — has opened.

In all, there are 27 acts scheduled over three stages at Festival Field behind Somerset Community College on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20. But like last year, those two days out under the skies isn't all there is to enjoy of MMF — Thursday, July 18 kicks things off with Classical Night.

Last year, Finley and the MMF board brought back the long-dormant Classical Night, an extra performance the Thursday before the festival featuring music by the masters. While the Louisville Orchestra made a huge impact on the local crowd at The Center for Rural Development, getting them back wasn't possible this year.

However, Classical Night is "back by popular demand," noted Finley, and this year's "classical" theme will take on a hint of jazz with the Somerset Big Bang performing at The Virginia in downtown Somerset, along with local opera singer Amanda Balltrip, who also appeared last year at the Mill Springs Studio tent, one of three venues at MMF.

"We're like, man, we have such a talented band right here in town with the Somerset Big Band," said Finley. "(Also,) Amanda's set was so beautiful down on that third stage last year. ... We were like, 'We have to have Amanda back in that capacity' (and) bring her to a bigger MMF stage at Classical Night, and I know that Somerset Big Band is excited about partnering with her as well."

Tickets to this year's Classical Night will be sold separate from the rest of the festival, and will cost $10 each. There are a limited number available and will go on sale on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, November 24.

Finley is excited about bringing back Hunter Flynn, another local talent who got noticed at MMF a couple of years ago after winning the "Take the Stage" competition to play a song at the event in 2022. He made a big impact, was the festival's featured visual artist last year, and in 2024 will be the Friday night headliner on the second stage; "I think it's going to be a really cool moment," said Finley.

Also on this year's roster are: The Ruen Brothers, Nigel Wearne, Abe Partridge, July Moon, Cody Lee Meece, Spooky Fox, Noeline Hofmann, Lance Rogers, Bek and the Starlight Revue, Rob Dread, Shelby Lore, Gravel Switch, Lucas Wayne, the Young Songwriter Panel — featuring Emma Greene, Brice Craig, Laurah Louisa, Adalyn Ramey and Draken Asher — and the beloved kids' music set from Australian Nigel Wearne: Nigel's Aussie Kids Extravaganza.

Tickets for the 2024 Master Musicians Festival, presented by Lake Cumberland Tourism, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, November 24. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with a ticket-holding adult (excluding Classical Night).

For more information about the line-up and to buy tickets, visit online.