New Music Festival Debuts at Cain Park

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Three local independent entrepreneurs have joined forces to present the first annual Big Cool Cats Music Festival, taking place at Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheatre ifrom noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 20.

The event is the brainchild of Steve Presser (owner of the Big Fun toy and novelty store on Coventry Road) and Denis Devito (founder of busy roots-rock/county band Cats of Holiday), who then put in a call to Tom Mulready of e-mail newsletter, an experienced festival promoter who was involved in the Cleveland Performance Art Festival and the formation of the Ingenuity Festival. Each lent the festival part of its name: Big (Fun), Cool (Cleveland), Cats (on Holiday).

“It started with me and Steve,” says Devito. “We call ourselves brothers of different mothers. He’s Jewish from the East Side; I’m Catholic from the West Side. We got together and then we called Tom. We thought about involving both sides of town, and we might try to build into that next year. But Cain Park is the best summer venue in Cleveland. We went to them and they were so embracing to us it was frightening.”

The trio flirted with the idea of booking some national acts but decided for the first year to focus on an eclectic roster of old and new local acts — probably a wise choice given the number of events that sink from an excess of unrealistic ambition.

It’s an eclectic lineup of mostly rootsy Americana and world-music-oriented acts. Popular ’70s-’80s reggae band I-Tal will reunite for one more go-around to headline the show. Electronic Afrobeat ensemble Mifuné, folk-rockers the Magpies, zydeco-Cajun-blues ensemble Mo’ Mojo, Devito’s Cats on Holiday (who will be joined for this performance by Mifune’s horn section) and young progressive pop-rock quartet 70 Lewis round out the bill.

There will also be an acoustic side stage which will be programmed by the nonprofit education group Roots of American Music.

Tickets are $20 $40 and can be purchased at the website. —Anastasia Pantsios

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