Love me some Big Sam. Press release:
The 25th Anniversary Season of Downtown After 5, presented by Harmony Motors, kicks off Friday, May 17 from 5-9pm with Big Sam’s Funky Nation taking the stage following local opener, Empire Strikes Brass. Taking place the 3rd Friday of the month from May through September, Downtown After 5 is located at N. Lexington Avenue and I-240 and is always free.
“Celebrating 25 years is a major milestone for Downtown After 5. A hard-working group of community members had the vision that a street festival could be instrumental in helping people rediscover downtown. That festival has grown from 100 or so neighbors and curiosity-seekers into one of Downtown Asheville’s biggest — and funnest — events. It’s now the official kick-off to summer,” said Chris Bubenik, events committee chair for the Asheville Downtown Association.
In keeping with tradition, May’s event is known as “Moonlight Over Downtown” and has a New Orleans/Mardi Gras theme. Festival-goers are encouraged to don Mardi Gras masks and beads and laissez les bons temps rouler.
A driving force of urban funk led by Big Sam on trombone, headliner Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s horn-heavy sound masterfully blends funk, rock and jazz. Big Sam has shared the stage with Widespread Panic, Elvis Costello, U2 and Green Day. Local opener, Empire Strikes Brass’ 10-piece stage band includes members from Squirrel Nut Zippers, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown.
The fun doesn’t end when the music stops. After May’s event Asheville On Bikes will host “Bright Light Biker,” a moonlight ride through downtown ending at Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Ave. Participants are encouraged to “light up” both their bikes and themselves and prizes will be awarded for best decoration and best costume. Plus, it’s the perfect way to wrap up Strive Not to Drive Week.
Thirsty concert-goers will find plenty to wet their whistle including local brews from Highland Brewing Company, Pisgah Brewing, Asheville Brewing Company and French Broad Brewing Company. Plus, regional favorites Sierra Nevada, SweetWater Brewing and Foothills Brewing as well as national brands from Budweiser and Empire Distributing will be on tap. Wine and water will also be available for purchase.
To purchase alcohol attendees will need to show a valid picture ID and buy a $2 wristband. Proceeds from wristband sales for May’s event support Asheville GreenWorks. An affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, GreenWorks is a volunteer-based organization working to achieve a clean and green Asheville and Buncombe County through community organizing, education and environmental stewardship.
Food vendors offer a something for everyone’s taste including: Rosetta’s, Rollin’ Stone Pizza Company, the lowdown, Tacos Tacos, Kettle Corn, Ultimate Ice Cream, The Lobster Trap and Nick’s Grill.