Ken Kearns has always had a distinct vision for the Wayne Music Festival. “We want musical diversity that appeals to a broad range of people,” says the event’s co-director, who’s also a real estate exec and co-owner of Wayne’s 118 North live music venue. “This festival is never boring, predictable or packaged. It’s a curated lineup of excellent music from well-known artists.”
Kearns has nailed it with the lineup for this year’s event, which is expected to attract thousands to downtown Wayne on June 8 from noon to 10 p.m. Reggae legends the Wailers—of Bob Marley fame—headline the festival, with multiple additional acts performing on three stages, including Conshy-bred rockers Marah, New Orleans groovers Bonerama, eclectic singer/songwriter Mutlu, bluegrass loyalists Man About a Horse, hip-hop ace Kuf Knotz, and more.
The event first came together five years ago, when a group of business owners were looking to inject new life into a long-running jazz festival. Chris Todd, co-owner of Christopher’s restaurants in Wayne and Malvern, thought Kearns was the man for the job. A member of the much-loved regional band Rugby Road, Kearns has deep roots in the local music scene and beyond. “I met with Kenny and asked, ‘Do you want to be part of it?’ Meaning … Do you want to run the whole thing?” recalls Todd, who’s also president of the Wayne Business Association.
Since then, the festival has only gotten bigger and more elaborate, bringing in WXPN and other sponsors to fund its growth and ability to attract more impressive acts. Christopher’s, Theresa’s and the Goat’s Beard partner with local breweries La Cabra, Tröegs and Conshohocken Brewing Company to create sidewalk beer gardens, and music fans can freely stroll the festival, adult beverage in hand. The festival has been such a boon that Kearns and co-organizers created the charitable organization Music Is Love, with CHOP as this year’s beneficiary. “We ask sponsors to open their wallets a little wider, and everything we don’t spend on the festival goes to the foundation,” says Kearns.
Last year, a crowd of more than 10,000 packed North Wayne Avenue to see headliner Joan Osborne—and Kearns and Todd think this year will top that. “This is the first time I didn’t have to YouTube the bands to see who they are,” says Todd with a laugh. “Although I keep reminding Kenny that Taylor Swift is from the region and we should reach out to her.”
Kearns rolls his eyes. “Hopefully, people will discover new bands to like,” he says. “They’ll also see the great merchants and restaurants Wayne has to offer.”