Just one day away from IronFest VI, we checked in with the festival founder and tireless organizer, John Gerhardt for some insight and back story on the yearly event.
Ironfest seems to get bigger every year, growing beyond the circle of friends and acquaintances who knew Iron Mike. How would you describe Mike to bands and audience members who never got the chance to meet him?
John: He was a big scary looking man who was just a big teddy bear. He was unpredictable and funny and very popular with the ladies. He played with Dandelion Death, Horns to the Heavens, Hekura and Oxboard Drain.
What made you decide to honor his memory with a music festival?
John: At the time of Mike’s passing he was my roommate. I was touring with Against Me! 300 days a year and seldom home, but when I was we typically hung out late into the night listening to music and drinking. That's when we both agreed that if anything ever happened to one of us, the other would just throw a big party--set up a show with too many bands and keep it super cheap. Before IronFest there was a festival called Nachofest. That Fest took place a few times at Top Cats and once at Bogarts. I actually had a hold date at the old Southgate House for another Nachofest when Iron Mike Davidson passed away. That's when I decided to change the name of Nachofest to IronFest. I never planned on having IF become a yearly event but once I decided to take it in that direction, I knew it couldn't always remain a straight up benefit. That's why I like to refer to IronFest as a ‘tribute’..to keep Iron Mike’s name alive, so that when people ask about Iron who didn't know him they can hear the tall tales and endless stories.
The shows are benefits for his family, right? Have you been happy with what you've been able to raise?
John: The shows are a benefit after expenses. The first few IFs helped cover funeral expenses etc. Mike’s wife and I decided we should give back as much as possible, so we have donated money to others in need, such as the passing of local musician Jason Mays’ family and to Lauren Hill. This year we will most likely give to an animal shelter and Teenage Bottle Rockets drummer Brandon Carlisle’s family.
What are some of your favorite memories from previous fests?
John: There are so many good memories from past IF weekends…from confetti showers to watching Dandelion Death dancing with strippers on stage to being introduced to new bands.
If Iron Mike could pick any band in the world to play, who would it be?
John: Mike liked all kinds of music but I think if he could have any one band or performer play IF I think it would be between Neil Young and Madonna.
Anything people who plan on attending should know?
John: IronFest is a huge party. There are all styles of music. It’s a big reunion of bands finally being able to play shows with their friends.
The event happens this Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14, 2015 at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY. The list of performers includes: Knife the Symphony, Bicentennial Bear, Ampline, The Story Changes, Calumet, Kill City, Straw Boss, Valley of the Sun, Love Crush 88, Smoke Signals, Boss’ Daughter, Cadaver Dogs, Honey Spiders, Dead Man String Band and 50 more amazing groups!