SPRING LAKE — This time of year, the Sertoma Youth Ranch is the setting for tranquil, laid-back music gatherings such as the Will McLean Music Festival, the String Break Music Festival and, of course, the nonprofit organization's annual bluegrass festival. But this weekend, iconic Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM 88.5 is planning to turn up the volume a couple of notches.
The inaugural Rockin' the Ranch music festival, which runs today through Sunday, offers pretty much what one might expect from the station known for its eclectic, genre-bending programming.
"All over the map" is how WMNF station manager Randy Wynne describes the 21 acts that are booked for the station's first stay-over fundraising event. From roots-rock and blues to neo-punk and folk to world beat-inspired sounds, the lineup promises a dance-worthy party atmosphere that Wynne hopes will appeal to a wide age range.
Athough he admits that many of the festival's diverse musical offerings are geared toward a younger audience that the station works hard at courting, emerging acts such as He's My Brother She's My Sister, Black Taxi, Paper Bird, Hip Abduction, and Johnny Cakes and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso all cross over into territory that is familiar to audiences older than 30.
In addition to the more rocking acts, the festival will feature a quieter "living room" stage with noted songwriters Fran Snyder, Paul Sprawl, Paul Schneider, Heather Pierson, Jon Carroll and Natalie Gelman.
"Half the fun of putting on an event like this is seeing people getting introduced to bands and artists they may never have heard in another live format," Wynne said. "A lot of them end up becoming big fans."
Wynne, who regularly attends the music festivals at Sertoma, said he was inspired by the atmosphere there, which brings music fans together for more than just a couple of hours. So he and WMNF staff members wanted to create an event that ardent station fans would enjoy.
"We didn't want to duplicate what's already being done with the folk and acoustic-based festivals like Riverhawk and Willfest," Wynne said. "We wanted to go a little further and mix the music up like WNNF is known for."
Indeed, the 35-year-old noncommercial, listener-supported station built its core audience by introducing genres such as reggae, blues, punk, bluegrass and Americana to a region whose airwaves previously had been devoid of such sounds. Live benefit concert events such as WMNF's annual Tropical Heatwave and the Karib-b-Yan Music Kruze Festival have served as a valuable outreach to fans.
Wynne hopes that those who attend Rockin' the Ranch will choose to camp overnight and take in the entire scope of what the festival offers, including a variety of food and beverage vendors and local crafts creators.
Said Wynne: "We're excited to be bringing something like this to WMNF's audience, and we hope that it will grow into one of those must-attend events every year."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.