June 2012 is officially Chris Mann month in Wichita. So says Mayor Carl Brewer.
So it’s only fitting that Mann should return to his hometown and perform in front of friends and family for the first time since he came in fourth on the NBC singing competition “The Voice.”
Mann is among the headliners at this weekend’s LIV Fest, a two-day music and art festival at the Orpheum Theatre that’s now in its third year.
“I came back, and the mayor gave me the seal to the city,” said Mann, calling from his Los Angeles home earlier this week.
Not the key to the city?
“That’s what I’m curious about is if there’s another level of access,” Mann said with a laugh.
Mann, who was about to rush off to lunch with Paul Anka when he called, said that his career has been on fast forward since the singing competition wrapped in early May.
Though he’s not yet able to say exactly what he’s up to, he said that he was recording an album and that very soon he’d be able to announce the label that had signed him. The album should be released this fall.
Mann was meeting with Anka to discuss a project they might team up on, and he’s been traveling all over the country, performing at benefits and fundraisers.
“It’s such an amazing sort of aftermath,” he said. “After the show, so much support has come from everywhere.”
Mann’s LIV Fest performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday. He’ll sing on the Orpheum stage, and tickets are still available.
He’s been rehearsing for the show this week and says it will include a combination of songs he performed on “The Voice,” songs he’s recorded and “songs that I just love singing.” Family members and friends, including some from his days at Wichita Southeast High School, will be in attendance, Mann said.
“It’s going to be a really fun, beautiful evening for sure.”
The LIV Fest is an event that will include more than 30 bands, both locally and regionally recognizable.
It’s staged both inside the Orpheum and on the street in front. The festival shuts down First Street between Broadway and Topeka. This year, it also will include a free art market from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, plus special screenings of short films presented by Tallgrass Film Festival. Food and drinks also will be offered by local vendors.
Mann is one of the headliners, said the Orpheum’s Adam Hartke, but other big names include Y La Bamba, a Portland indie band, and The Appleseed Cast out of Lawrence. Both bands will perform outdoors Friday.
The festival was put together in 2010 as a way to promote independent music, said Hartke, who also was one of the founders.
“Wichita does have so much great independent music,” he said. “We felt like celebrating it in a complete two-day event.”
The LIV Fest averages around 1,000 attendees each year, Hartke said.
Most of them are music fans who leave with new favorite bands they may never have discovered otherwise.
“Chris Mann is the closest thing to a popular act we’ve ever had,” Hartke said. “It’s a very independent, really grass-roots festival. People really like that they can go to a music festival and see bands of all different genres and possibly discover new music they’ve never heard of.”