On Feb. 24, Florence High School senior Jason Wilson, 18, will host the Free Expression Exposition at Hemphill Park in Florence. The music and arts festival, which features eight bands for a general admission of only $2, will encourage audience participation in collective art and impromptu musical performance. Several bands will play at the festival, including Wilson's own band, The Reggae Tribute. The JFP talked to Wilson last week about why he decided to plan a large festival, as well as signed on as a sponsor to help promote his event.
How did you come up with the idea for the festival?
We have to do a community-based senior project to graduate. We always talked about how cool it would be to have a music/arts festival in Florence. We called it Florencestock, and just played around with that idea. As it got closer to the senior project, I thought that would be a perfect way to get the festival done.
It reminds me of Waynestock in "Wayne's World 2."
One of my friends, for the longest time, was really big into music, and he got me into a lot of things. Since 9th grade, he talked about Florencestock as a joke. Not a lot goes on in Florence, but there's a lot of artistic people there. We all have to come out to Jackson or Madison to see anything or hear anything. That's why the community responded to it, because people are eager to see something. We have two bands from Florida that are coming up, sharing a spot. That's really exciting. We have people from Oxford and Hattiesburg coming up. It's really blossomed.
The point of it is it's just a whole day where you can come out and do anything to express yourself artistically. You've got your outlet, and you don't have to pay for your spot. You don't pay to look and listen. I want everyone to play a part, in some way, which is what kind of makes it different. Plus, the price is only $2. I tried to make it as cheap as I could. We have a thing for the senior project, where we have to make at least $250 and donate it.
Where will you donate the money?
The Mississippi Arts Commission. I have photographers and artists lined up to set up tables and put up their art. I have some canvases that I'm going to put up, so if you feel like painting, you can paint. If you just want to leave it somewhere, someone can add to it. I'm just going to give those canvases away at the end of the day. Someone had an idea for a ping pong tournament, so we're putting that together. That's what I'm trying to stress—whatever ideas people have, I want them to feel free to get them done, as long as they're in the realm of possibility.
It's sort of art for art's sake.
That was the whole point, and I was just using the senior project idea to open the door to get it done. If it works out this time, I'm open to try to do it every year, especially with how big it seems to be getting.
How did you get into music?
It started out with my dad. I remember the first time I got into downloading music, nine years ago. He told me to download "Roundabout" by Yes, and I was blown away. Another band he's really into is the Moody Blues, and we've seen them in concert twice. All these bands from the '70s. I was just amazed by the difference in music then and now. That got me big into it, and some of my friends were getting into it, (and) bands like Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan. It was probably about 8th grade when I started getting exposed to music, and by 10th grade, I was addicted.
If you had to describe your band's style, what would it be?
It depends on who's writing the music. The kind of music I write is usually folk oriented. Mostly it's upbeat folk—like Donovan. But if I really were to have my choice, I'm big into symphony music, like Electric Light Orchestra. Our keyboard player, a lot of the stuff he writes is instrumental, epic. We'll also do love songs he writes. Wesley writes stuff that sounds anywhere from Modest Mouse to Wilco.
Tell me about the bands who are playing.
It's a good mixture of music. It's got everything from Anne Davis, a folk artist, The Weeks, who are in the indie pop scene, Scott Albert Johnson on harmonica, Electric Mudd, who play blues, Andrew Bryant—he's kind of modernized folk is the only word I can think of. And then TTOCCS REKARP, Questions in Dialect, whatever you consider them: experimental. I wanted to make it diverse, to attract a lot of different people. All the people who are playing are doing it for the music, for the sake of getting the festival going. They're all genuine artists who care about what they do.
Visit the Free Expression Exposition myspace page for more details on the event.