Despite some significant strides in recent years, Sanford hasn’t historically been known as a hub for live music.

And while live music isn’t happening anywhere right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s obviously something that will change as more and more folks are vaccinated and the restrictions begin to ease. And Sanford is set to change with it, as a free, two day, three stage music festival that will feature at least 36 acts from across the country is now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19 in and around Hugger Mugger Brewing.

Carolina Indie Fest is a project spun up by Hugger Mugger’s Tim Emmert, and Jeff Popka of Indie on Air, a record label which hosts similar festivals in Texas, Colorado, Delaware and several other states. Emmert met Popka through Cliff Wheeler, a Lemon Springs-based country musician who frequently performs at Hugger Mugger and is signed to Popka’s label.

“We’ve had lots of acts play at the brewery, but it can be hard to capture or attract people for just one or two bands,” Emmert said, explaining that the idea of a multi-day festival with a variety of acts might provide a better foundation for spinning up an atmosphere for live music. “Cliff told me about Jeff, who has experience doing these festivals around the country.”

Popka is based in Evansville, Indiana, and first visited Sanford in July. He said he immediately recognized downtown as an ideal place for a music festival.

“The location is very appealing, and it’s a place where we feel like we can start out and grow a little bit every year,” he said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

The festival will feature an acoustic stage inside Hugger Mugger, a stage near the brewery’s beer garden and a main stage on Steele Street. There will also be “busker stages” throughout downtown offering open mic opportunities for attendees.

Popka and Emmert have worked hand in hand with the new Sanford Tourism Development Authority, and Emmert said he expects between locals and those who travel from out of town that several thousand people will attend. And while the name – Carolina Indie Fest – might suggest a roster of up and comers, Popka says many of the acts will be national.

Paleface performing live.

One such act has already been announced. Paleface, a singer-songwriter who has been touring nationally and internationally since the early 1990s and has at least 18 albums under his belt, will serve as one of Carolina Indie Fest’s headliners. For those looking for a sonic comparison, Paleface has musical connections to acts like Beck, and North Carolina’s Avett Brothers. He was “discovered” in 1990 by a former manager of The Doors and The Ramones.

Other announced acts include:

ADDIE TONIC (Denver, Colorado): 90s inspired alternative rock described as a cross between Slash and The Cranberries.

THE ACCIDENTALS (Traverse City, Michigan): Female-fronted multi-instrumentalist power trio which has drawn comparisons to artists like The Beatles, the Decemberists, Niko Case and more.

CLIFF WHEELER BAND (Lemon Springs, N.C.): Lee County’s own were named the 2020 vocal group of the year by the Carolina Country Music Association and entertainer of the year by the International Singer Songwriter Association.

WILLOW HILL (Nashville, Tennessee): Husband and wife pop country duo named a “band to watch” by Rolling Stone Magazine.

TOUGH ON FRIDAYS (Georgetown, Texas): Alt rock trio which mixes “charm and innocence with street smarts and garage band swagger.”