By Eileen Drennen

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the folks who brought you the Dunwoody Music Festival were thrilled to attract 5,000 to the first-time event, which drew raves for showcasing so much music in one place. This year, festival director M. J. Thomas expects four times that number – some 20,000 music lovers – to come out to Brook Run Park to see just how much the gig has grown. About 50 groups will perform Oct. 23-24.

Turns out, she said, Dunwoody was just waiting for something like this. “We got really positive responses,” Thomas said. “People [just came in] off the street to say, ‘Wow, we just really enjoyed it. We’re so glad we went.’ ”

This year, expect more variety in types of listening experiences, from the crowded scenes at Brook Run Park’s three main stages and handful of smaller tents to Georgia Perimeter College’s concert halls for classical and choral music.

“I myself love different kinds of music,” Thomas said, “so I’ll be able to go from stage to stage and listen to Mike Marinelli, one of Atlanta’s finest jazz players, play [and then go see] Modern Paranoia, a contemporary rock band.”

Leery of making a direct comparison with Atlanta’s popular Music Midtown, Thomas said she believes that long-running event’s disappearance created an opening for a different kind of festival, one dedicated to what she calls “the universal language [which] touches people of all ages.”

Some names will be more well-known than others. Headliners Banks & Shane (who perform Saturday around 3:30 p.m. until dark) have been performing together since 1972 under the motto “We are the party.”

A pack of up-and-comers like Julie Gribble (Americana), Chris McCarty (acoustic soul) and Nick Edelstein (blues-rock) will draw crowds too.

And at perhaps the other end of the fame spectrum, a group of Dunwoody kids will make its professional debut on Sunday as Already Taken (as in, that’s what every other promising band name turned out to be).

Two pairs of siblings – Jack and Matt Haidet and India and Nolan Bennett – and 10-year-old Mary Frances Kitchens share a music teacher and a love of composition. Most of them play more than one instrument and quickly discovered they preferred writing their own songs to doing covers. In fact, says band dad Keith Bennett, they put together a little EP of their work in the basement studio.

The kids come by it honestly, Bennett said. They’ve been around it all their lives. Bennett just messes around on guitar and piano – but his wife is Cindy Wilson, founding member of the B-52s. (“Dunwoody housewife by day,” he laughs, “international superstar by night.”)

Will she be on hand Sunday for the young ones’ gig? Oh yes, Bennett said. “We blacked out that weekend from the B-52s’ touring schedule so she could be here.”

As the festival’s youngest performers, Already Taken will perform Sunday at 1 p.m. before the 20-and-under crowd takes the stage to duke it out in a Battle of the Bands. The winner gets a recording studio/demo CD package prize valued at $1,000.

And since all that music and dancing will sharpen the appetite, expect to find food booths, and no shortage of chili. Some 45 cooks will be fighting it out in a chili cookoff.


Dunwoody Music Festival
  • Oct. 23-24. 10 a.m.-6:30 Saturday (fireworks after dark); noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
  • Brook Run Park, 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Free shuttle and parking at Georgia Perimeter College.
  • Free for children under 11; $10 admission per day; Web special of two-day pass for $15; VIP passes, which include food, beer and wine, for $50.