Wednesday, 08 July 2015 07:56

Barnstock booms with a back beat of benevolence

Written by  Lee Sullivan
The Brown siblings (from left) Miles, Julia and Daniel in front of the family barn where Barnstock originated. The Brown siblings (from left) Miles, Julia and Daniel in front of the family barn where Barnstock originated. Lee Sullivan

DAVIDSON, N.C. -- In the shadow of the bright red building where it all began, on a covered outdoor stage that stands as a testament to its growth, members of the Davidson family who have made Barnstock an annual celebration of good will and great times take turns deflecting praise.

Daniel Brown credits little brother Miles for transforming their community service school project into a local musical tradition; Miles praises baby sister Julia’s efforts in enhancing Barnstock’s impressive charitable footprint; and even dad Tony, while proudly pointing out the persistence his three children have displayed in establishing and expanding Barnstock’s philanthropic popularity, emphasizes that mom Kathy deserves all the acclaim. And they all say without staunch support and steady involvement from friends and local sponsors, Barnstock could have faded into silence years ago instead of becoming a red-letter date on the north Mecklenburg calendar of can’t miss benefits.

On the verge of its seventh happening on Saturday, July 18, Barnstock has already contributed more than $50,000 to a variety of local, regional and national organizations and charities. And building on a pattern of growing attendance and increasing contributions, the Browns have set a lofty fundraising goal of $25,000 for this year’s festival.

“That’s a big target,” Julia says, “but were hoping to get there and beyond.”

And considering the milestones the Browns and Barnstock have passed since 300 teenagers gathered in and around the family’s recreational barn in Huntersville for the first Barnstock jam in 2009, reaching any objective seems like a forgone conclusion.

The vision for Barnstock evolved from an environment of emphasized community service Daniel and Miles absorbed as students at Cannon School. As a project to raise money for the Davidson Fire Department and the school — and tapping their appreciation for music and a keen awareness of the wide range of young musical talent in north Mecklenburg and beyond — the brothers planned what they thought would be a one-time music and fellowship fundraiser at the family’s home.

But for a variety of reasons, mom Kathy figured the barn and four-acre site off Black Farms Road, family property that had served as a clubhouse, playground and ballfield for the children for years, would be a more suitable site. And a legend was born.

Almost before the first one ended, friends and musicians were asking about the dates for the next one. Through word of mouth and an ever-increasing social media presence, Barnstock’s popularity grew. The second year, 500 teenagers and a few curious parents attended. By year three, attendance exceeded 700 and the average age of Barnstock patrons continued to rise. The last two years, attendance estimates have been in the 1,000 to 1,200 range, and the benefit born as a high school gathering has now matured into a 21-and-over, BYOB celebration featuring a full day of local, regional and national acts performing on multiple stages.

“It began as a school service project geared toward young people,” Miles says, adding that 50 entertainers are part of this year’s seven-hour, four-stage show, “but it has definitely evolved. Now it’s a tradition and there is a commitment — not just from us, but from people all over — to keep it going.”

Miles, 23, now lives, by design, in music-centric Austin, Texas, and Daniel, 25, is moving there soon after spending the last few years in Australia. Julia, a middle schooler when the first Barnstock was held, is now a rising sophomore and volleyball player at North Carolina State University. But at their various locations and varied stages of their individual lives, Barnstock is still a primary focus for each of the Brown siblings.

“Sometimes, we can get bogged down in the X’s, O’s and logistics of making this happen,” Miles says, “but when we sit back and realize that we created this, and this is what everyone else has helped it become, it is a good feeling.”

Daniel, who copied the Barnstock formula in Australia by leasing a pub and hosting “Aussiestock,” a multi-band performance to raise money for the Fireflies preschool program in the Kampot province of Cambodia, says he has been contacted by friends he hasn’t seen in years who say they want to be part of the Barnstock effort.
“It has become a kind of reunion,” Daniel says, recalling his own journey back from Australia to attend Barnstock two years ago.

“People come back each year,” Miles says. “No matter where they are, they make the effort to be here.”

And others can’t wait to experience it, as Julia says she expects friends and teammates from N.C. State to be first-timers at this year’s Barnstock.

“It’s a unique setting,” Miles says. “I think the only way to understand it is to be a part of it. It’s a gathering, an event, a festival and a reunion with great music as the background. And it’s like everyone who takes part realizes just how special it is.”

“It celebrates diversity and togetherness,” Tony says, “and these kids are passionate about it and committed to doing what they can for the organizations and charities. It boils down to just people helping each other.”
This year, Barnstock will benefit the Davidson Fire Department, Cannon School and will also contribute to A Giving Spirit Foundation, a Davidson-based organization that supports ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research and helps families coping with health-related adversity.

The family of Levi Mayhew, a five-year-old boy from Indiana who has garnered nationwide attention for the way he is coping with a terminal illness, will also be supported by Barnstock proceeds. Levi, with a rare genetic disorder that severely limits his mobility, gave a classmate his “Make-A-Wish” trip to Disney, a gesture that ignited an online movement where people show support by posting traveling gnome-like photos of a Levi cut-out in various parts of the world.

That sharing, supportive spirit blends perfectly with Barnstock’s origins, and odds are a Levi poster will make the rounds at next Saturday’s event. And, odds are, nobody will take credit.

Wanna go?

The 7th annual Barnstock festival will be held Saturday, July 18, from 4 to 11 p.m. at the Brown family property, 15503 Black Farms Road in Huntersville. The BYOB event (no glass) is for those 21 and over and the festival is a “green” event with recycling encouraged. Food vendors will be on site. Barnstock will feature an eclectic mix of national, regional and local entertainers on four stages. Tickets are $30. Ticket purchase details, a list of performers and additional festival information is available at

Sponsors play a large role in helping Barnstock contribute to charity, and businesses contributing to this year’s event include Kidnice Entertainment, ShomoLive, Guitar Center, Silent Storm Technology, Elevate Lifestyle, ZICO Coconut Water, Red Bull, Knockout Lighting, Charlotte Stage & Sound, Sunn Enterprises, Cannon School, Altamont Capital Management,, VisionQuest Wealth Management, LobbyGuard Solutions, LLC, Kayak Construction and The Wadsworth Group.

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