HARD ROCK, RED DIRT AND CLASSIC COUNTRY MUSIC FESTS COME TO KEY WEST THIS MONTH

Mike and the Moonpies

RokIsland Fest. Mile 0 Fest. Key Western Fest. 

It’s all music all the time in Key West this month, with festivals filling three consecutive weekends in Key West. 

And Kyle Carter is the man behind the music as founder and producer of all three events. 

It started back in 2018, when Mile 0 Fest was the first music festival, indeed, one of the very first shows, to take place at the then-new Key West Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront.

“The timing for that worked out perfectly, because when I had started planning Mile 0 Fest — a tribute to Red Dirt and Americana music — the city of Key West had just approved construction of the amphitheater. So by February 2018, both the venue and the festival were ready to go.

Mile 0 Fest returns to Key West Jan. 24-28  — and brings legions of Americana and Red Dirt music fans with it.

“It’s a very specific genre, but one that has been growing exponentially in recent years. The music and its people come from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas because that’s where the music grew up,” said Carter, who grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma. (“Home of Garth Brooks,” he added.)

“While mainstream country is meant for the masses, Red Dirt and Americana music are very rootsy, more in line with folk and storytelling. The people singing the songs at Mile 0 Fest actually wrote them and lived them,” Carter told the Keys Weekly. “I knew this genre of music was lacking a warm-weather music festival in the wintertime. Most of the places where these bands and their fans come from are cold in January,” Carter said.

Though he grew up in landlocked Oklahoma, Carter was a diehard Jimmy Buffett fan, memorizing all the lyrics to Buffett’s iconic “Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballads” boxed set. 

“We wanted to put together a festival where people could enjoy both the weather and the city. Key West seemed perfect,” he added.

Now in its sixth year, Mile 0 Fest remains a huge hit, and it’s now book-ended by two other music festivals on the preceding and following weekends.

Carter and his crew first kick things off and crank up the volume with RokIsland Fest on Jan. 17-21.

Now in its second year, RokIsland salutes hard-rock hair bands of the ’80s and features Styx, Tesla, Loverboy, Vince Neil, Extreme, Queensrÿche, Quiet Riot and more.

“Regardless of where you grew up in the ’80s, you were exposed to these bands and their songs,” Carter said. “Even if you don’t know who sings them, you’ll know all the songs. They’re definitely anthems from that era.” 

The music continues Jan. 31-Feb. 4 with the inaugural Key Western Fest, described as a “one-of-a-kind convergence of country music superstars from an era that solidified the genre as a cultural touchstone and global phenomenon.”

Artists include Clint Black, Sara Evans, the Oak Ridge Boys, Clay Walker, Sawyer Brown, Deana Carter, Neal McCoy, Blackhawk, Mark Chesnutt, Pam Tillis and many more. In addition to the four-day festival, Key Western Fest will have a free kick-off celebration that is open to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 31 featuring performances from Little Texas, Ricochet and more (location TBA). Packages and passes on sale now.  All ticket info is available at https://keywesternfest.com/

The Instagrammable sign welcomes all to RokIsland Fest in Key West, taking place this year Jan. 17-21.
Rock fans fill the Key West Amphitheater for a Steelheart concert during RokIsland Fest in 2022. The festival returns Jan. 17-21. CONTRIBUTED
Mile 0 Fest started in 2018 and grows each year, bringing Red Dirt & Americana music to Key West Jan. 24-28.
Shane Smith & The Saints perform at Mile 0 Fest in 2022. CONTRIBUTED
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.