BarnJam moves to new location, retains spirit

By: Erin Callahan – Chief A&E Writer

BarnJam, a small-scale music festival held each spring and fall, is switching up tradition this year with a new venue, a fresh lineup and new sounds from returning artists.

The event will feature Dave Zup, a University of Dayton 2014 graduate, with his new band The Dress Code, along with Gem City, another band of UD alum and The Backporch Jam, a band of UD professors.

BarnJam got its name from the former venue, a barn owned by the late Eric Suttman. The event began with Suttman inviting his friends over on the weekends to make music and slowly evolved into a highly anticipated occasion with a strong UD connection.

Suttman, who passed last April, was a University of Dayton alumnus, faculty member in the Department of Communication and he managed live sound for many events on campus. He was intentional about connecting BarnJam to UD, Zup said.

“Eric wasn’t quiet about BarnJam,” he said. “He wanted people to get away from campus and just chill. It was just his way of getting people to realize there’s more than what’s in that UD bubble.”

Suttman’s way worked, and this year there is a committed group of former students determined to carry on BarnJam in his honor.

Andrew Kowalski, a UD graduate student and Colin McGrath, class of 2013, have organized this year’s event with him in mind.

“In everything we planned and every decision we made, we would consider ‘What would Ric want, what would he decide, what would he do?’” Kowalski said.

Though it won’t be held in a barn this year, it will still be the same BarnJam with the original stage and signs. It will be at a new location, Adventures on the Great Miami in Tipp City, Ohio. Camping is encouraged, but bring your own tent, beverages and instruments.

Zup emphasized the positive experience BarnJam can bring anyone – audience member or performer.

“There’s people that you might not have ever met in college or hung out with,” he said. “You sit down in a lawn chair by a bonfire and you don’t worry about making it to Tim’s. You can forget about college, you’re just there to have fun and be yourself.”

Kayla Mueller, a senior who’s attended several times, said BarnJam is one of her favorite events she’s participated in while at UD. She said she enjoyed the contagiously good vibes and described it as an opportunity unlike any other.

While there are usually UD students in attendance, there are other music lovers who follow the bands and some who simply heard about it and wanted to be a part of the experience, Zup said.

Bobby Trick, class of 2012, keyboardist for The Dress Code, pointed out the greatest thing about BarnJam: The common factor is music.

“As an artist, you’re not there to impress anybody, you’re just there to play,” Zup said about the performer’s perspective. “It’s not a perfect show, it’s just artists doing what they do. You’re being appreciated because you’re providing a soundtrack to a great night.”

He knows the experience well. He will return for his fifth time this year, though he can still remember his first performance.

“Eric asked me to play the fall of my junior year … it just meant the world to me,” he said, “for someone who was so nice and musically intelligent to compliment me, just this kid who never really had plans to be a musician. He took a gamble on me that year. It ended up being a success and I got a lot of love for my BarnJam shows, they were always some of my favorite ones.”

Zup plans to unveil some never-before-heard music this year, along with some new music from Gem City, who will return for their third performance.

As for the future of BarnJam, if it happens, it happens. As Trick put it, “It has it’s own legs, it doesn’t need much.” He said he believes too much promotion and planning and treating it like bigger music festivals like Lollapolooza or Bonaroo would cause it to lose its flavor.

Kowalski, Zup and Willie Four of Gem City all emphasized the continuation of celebrating the local music scene, a festival that students could call their own – thanks to Eric Suttman.

“I intend to thank him on stage, I’ve done it every year I’ve played there,” Zup said. “BarnJam … it’s not ours, it’s his. He gave it to us, so we have to thank him for it.

“Even if it doesn’t happen for a year or two after this, when people see a BarnJam poster, they know what to expect,” he continued. “Or if it’s not something they experienced in the past or it’s someone’s first time going, they’re still getting something different from the every day.”

BarnJam will take place Saturday at noon at the Adventures on the Great Miami in Tipp City, Ohio. Cost is $10 or $5 with a student ID. Camping overnight is welcome, but campers must bring their own tents. For more information, check out the “BarnJam 31” event on Facebook.