The festival, taking place throughout Astoria Park on Sunday, August 21, has 50 acts spread over six stages, including local bands, a comedy and dance group, a DJ and an art walk space.
For the first time, AM&A is also partnering with the Astoria Park Alliance for the Shore Fest, happening three Sundays at the end of August on Shore Boulevard.
When Astoria Park Alliance approached AM&A to partner up, they were glad to help since they needed the exposure.
“We’re grassroots, independently financed by local businesses and local organizations, so we can’t afford to get as much press exposure as we would like,” said Justin Finley, founder and director of AM&A.
Last year’s July heat wave hurt the festival’s attendance. Finley is expecting a higher turnout in the already mild August.
AM&A started four years ago, when Astoria was lacking a representative music scene, said Finley. At the time, Long Island City’s music scene was more alive, but Astoria was struggling to find its own.
Finley, who grew up in Astoria, was in the local band bliminal at the time. “We knew all these bands and rehearsal spaces and not enough exposure or not enough venues or no venues at all to have a thriving music scene. “
AM&A works as a non-profit to bring live music, spotlight local talents, and create a vibrant music community, something steadily growing in Astoria.
“If you just look at the lineup, we have six stages of almost entirely Astoria music,” said associate and “right hand man,” Josh Schulman. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent.”
Schulman, a high school teacher who is performing with Thunderbang! at this year’s festival, is dedicating his summer vacation to helping Finley organize and fundraise for the festival.
This year’s festival was contingent on local sponsors. Schulman worked with a small street team to round up sponsors, some of which he never expected to get. The rise in new business openings in Astoria boosted their sponsorship.
“Without the help of all those businesses we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.
AM&A received donations from local spots like Papa Gino's Restaurant. Many of these local businesses, including Bohemian Beer Hall, Bareburger, and Shillelagh Bar, received their own stage on which to advertise.
As for keeping the AM&A summer festivals free, it’s something the two are committed to.
“I don’t know if Astoria Park has ever had a paid event,” Finley said. “There’s never been a fence up. I don’t know if we want to change that. I think we could get a lot more resources by keeping it free.”
When asked if it was difficult to organize the Astoria Park Festival, Finley said, “it’s not hard, I have a wild imagination.”
“We’re hoping it’s going to get better and more radical, the ideas are getting more exciting, it can only improve,” he said.
For Schulman it’s all about putting Astoria on the map. “We have tremendous love for this neighborhood and we want to see it thrive,” h said.
Astoria Music & Arts festival will take place in Astoria Park on August 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. For a lineup check Astoriamusicandarts.org.