Aaron Stone Credit: Jack Nutter / Nutter Photography

RoachFest, a local music festival that has become a stronghold for the metal and original music scene in Southern Maryland, continues to gain popularity and draw in larger audiences. Founded in 2020 during the pandemic, RoachFest has grown steadily, providing a platform for local and national bands to showcase their talent. We had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Stone, the festival’s organizer, to delve into the origins, growth, and plans of RoachFest.

The inception of RoachFest was a response to the limited opportunities available for original bands in Southern Maryland. Aaron Stone, the driving force behind the festival, seized the opportunity presented by Governor Hogan’s allowance for outdoor events and organized the first RoachFest in his own backyard. Stone recalled, “We booked it as fast as we could and did it in our backyard.”

From its modest beginnings, RoachFest has expanded, attracting bands from Maryland and other states along the East Coast. The festival’s inaugural edition featured 10 bands, and subsequent years boasted 20 bands each. This year’s headliner, Alukah, a national act from Waldorf, MD, marks the first time a national act has taken the spotlight at RoachFest.

While RoachFest operated as a DIY event in its early years, relying on community support and participation, this year, the festival secured a sponsor, H.D. Kidd Enterprise Incorporated, an exterior design and renovation company based in Dunkirk, Maryland. Despite the additional sponsorship, RoachFest remains committed to its community roots and the spirit of bringing people together.

RoachFest has become known for its diverse lineup, attracting bands from various states, including New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and North Carolina. While the festival primarily promotes local talent, it is open to bands nationwide. Stone assured, “If there’s ever in the future where anybody nationally wants to come down, we will take care of them.”

One of the challenges RoachFest faces is the predominance of country music in Southern Maryland. Stone emphasized the festival’s commitment to promoting all genres of original music, providing a space for metal, indie, punk rock, hip-hop, and other styles to flourish. RoachFest is a testament to the power of grassroots initiatives and the unifying force of music in a region known for its affinity towards country music.

As RoachFest grows and attracts larger audiences, questions arise regarding the festival’s future plans. Stone acknowledged the possibility of venue changes to accommodate the increasing numbers but expressed gratitude to the current venue, VFW, for their support over the past three years.

Admission to RoachFest this year was priced at $15, marking a modest increase from previous years. The festival’s inaugural edition was free, while subsequent years saw a $10 entry fee. Despite the slight rise in cost, RoachFest remains accessible and committed to delivering an unforgettable experience for attendees.

Jen Dorsey, a talented local photographer, has been capturing the essence of RoachFest through her lens for several years. Her passion for photography and commitment to documenting the festival has made her a beloved figure among festival-goers.

Dorsey’s presence at the festival has been unwavering since 2020, diligently photographing every moment of the event. She described her approach: “I just keep shooting and ask questions later.”

Over the years, Dorsey has witnessed the festival’s evolution and impact on the community. She stated, “It showcases hard work and gathers families.” Her photographs serve as a visual record of the event and capture the spirit of unity and celebration that permeate the festival grounds.

Dorsey acknowledged the festival’s growing popularity and thanked the locals who warmly welcomed her. She believes that the sense of community and support for local artists should always remain at the heart of the festival, even as national acts take the stage.

Dorsey describes the crowd that gathers at RoachFest each year as faithful and dedicated. Their unwavering support has become a defining characteristic of the event, drawing in both local community members and visitors from afar.

As our conversation concluded, Dorsey expressed her gratitude to the community and eagerness to continue documenting their stories. Her commitment to preserving the festival’s legacy and celebrating the community that makes it all possible is evident in her words and work.

Jen Dorsey’s photographs chronicle the festival’s evolution and embody the unity and joy that define this annual event. Her dedication to capturing the essence of RoachFest has made her an integral part of the community, ensuring that its vibrant traditions and cherished memories are immortalized for generations to come.

RoachFest thanks Nutter Photography, Bert Hindman Photography, and Dingas Has a Camera for their contributions, recognizing their instrumental support in shining a light on the festival and its impact on the community. With RoachFest 2023 now concluded, anticipation builds for another memorable celebration of original music in Southern Maryland.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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