Curating the Vibe

Even if you’ve never met Kari Leigh Ames personally, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered some of her handiwork around town.

A real estate agent by day, Ames spends her free time as a fierce advocate of Nashville’s music scene: She co-founded Far Out Fest, a psychedelic music festival that launched in 2017, and started ”multimedia kinetic light show” Labrys, performing at venues across the city and touring with acts like local band Ttotals. She also DJs at Nashville’s freeform community radio station, WXNA, and volunteers at the Tennessee Teens Rock Camp.

Though Ames, who was born in Michigan but moved to Nashville during her formative years, is a trained visual artist, her heart keeps leading her back to work in and around music. It’s a passion she in part attributes to her family: Her father, Mike Waldron, is a successful local bandleader who has worked with Lee Ann Womack and Martina McBride, while her stepmother, Marcia Ramirez, currently sings backup vocals for Christopher Cross.

Kari Leigh Ames, photographed by Travis Commeau

”I never really was interested in being in the music industry as a professional musician, the way my parents and most of my friends are,” Ames says. ”But I felt I had a unique understanding of the industry, and felt very comfortable in those scenes because I grew up watching my parents backstage at concerts. ” I think I like to be curating the vibe, but not necessarily the center of attention.”

Ames gets ample vibe-curation time with Far Out Fest, created alongside Brianne O’Neill. The festival draws musicians and visual artists from around the country, and along with offering psychedelic music, art installations, and more (Far Out’s second iteration, hosted earlier this year, featured an accompanying film festival at Third Man Records), the team also uses the event to promote the potential healing properties of properly used psychedelic substances. Ames says they’ll introduce a recycling component to the festival in 2019, too.

”Since Far Out Fest is run primarily by women, we’re tuned in to the hospitality vibe really hard,” she says. ”We really try to make it worthwhile for the guests and make the venues really happy, but also treat the artists really well. From my time in the music industry, I’ve seen a lot of mistreatment of artists. I’m really trying to bring a platform to all of these people.”

Ames also donates five percent of her real estate commission earnings to Tennessee Teens Rock Camp, which she says ”encourages kids to be themselves,” and reminds her to ”destroy the cool,” a catchphrase the camp uses to encourage teens to follow their passions without fear of how others might perceive them.

”I don’t like dealing with people who are too cool for school,” Ames says. ”I like people who are authentic and genuine and passionate, and aren’t acting like you’ve been bestowed with a gift from God by having their presence as part of your event. I don’t dig that.”

Follow Kari on Instagram at @karileighames.

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