More Free Music: Fourteen of the record 15 Musikfest stages in 2012 will be free. That includes shows inside the Musikfest Café at SteelStacks, which was a paid venue in its first year in 2011. You only need to pay to get into shows at the Sands Steel Stage at PNC Plaza or the late night comedy shows at the Musikfest Café, which return this year.
Two Venues: The KNBT Jazz Cabaret Stage provides Musikfest with its first full-time jazz venue in the larger of the two theatres (200 seats) in the Frank Banko Alehouse at SteelStacks. Martin Guitar Lyrikplatz, an acoustic stage for singer-songwriters, isn’t exactly new, but it has been relocated from the North Side next door to Handwerkplatz to the smaller (100 seats) of the two Frank Banko Alehouse theatres.
Food: More vendors will be located at the SteelStacks campus around Americaplatz and the TD Bank Community Stage, including the new Mack Truck Stop concession stand. There will be six food vendors at the Sands Steel Stage, up from four in its debut a year ago.
Expanded, Yet Fewer Hours at Banana Island: The family-friendly kidplatz at Musikfest is extending the children’s programming until 8 nightly, but then shutting down. In years past, jazz or cabaret programming took over from the early evening until fest closing time at 11 p.m. There will be more rides and activities for children, but no beer stand for mom and dad.
Project M: It isn’t an official part of Musikfest, but it will be a sanctioned place for teens to gather and have a good time. There will be skateboarding demonstrations by Homebase Skateshop, a dance competition and a dance party with DJ Cap Cee from 5 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 4 and 11 at Payrow Plaza next to City Hall – once the home of Americaplatz. Organized by the Bethlehem Area Youth Council, the hope is that the new venue will divert teens from Main Street, which many fest-goers have complained has become an increasingly intimidating place to be at night.
The Musikfest App: For iPhone and iPad users, ArtsQuest says the app includes everything you need to know to enjoy the festival’s 500-plus musical performances, 60 food vendors, 40 artisans and wide variety of family activities. It also includes contests, promotions and discounts available only to app users.
Less Sonic Interference?: In the first year of South Bethlehem venues a year ago, visitors to the Sands Steel Stage and the new Americaplatz at the Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks found that sound from the neighboring stage was interfering with the concert they intended to hear. This year, Americaplatz will host only two shows a night at 6 and 9:30, leaving a two-hour window for the height of the main stage shows and, presumably, providing for less sonic interference.
WDIY Conversations with Songwriters: Nightly at 7 on the Lyrikplatz stage, regional songwriters will talk about their craft with an on-air host from the Bethlehem Public Radio station. Mike Krisukas of Zen for Primates and Sarah Ayers are among those scheduled to participate.
Interpretive Dance: Excerpts of choreographer Nicholas Leichter’s modern adaptation of The Wiz, The Whiz: Emerald City, will be performed nightly at the ArtsQuest Creativity Commons at SteelStacks from Aug. 10 to 12. On Aug. 6, Plaza Tropical will host a daylong Dance Expo featuring the talented students of local and regional dance studios.
Tibetan Monks: Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are having a four-day artists residency at the festival. They have already begun preparing a sacred mandala sand art painting, beginning with a ritual at Handwerkplatz on Thursday. The mural in progress and completed will be on display at Handwerkplatz through Aug. 6. Public meditation sessions are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and “Sacred Music Sacred Dance” performances are scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, also at Handwerkplatz. In addition, a special photography exhibition -- “Tibet: Magical Land of Spiritual Wonders” – will be on display at the ArtsQuest Center from Saturday through the end of the festival on Aug. 12.