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Gather 'Round the Gazebo

Esotrica hosts annul Lillypalooza music festival.

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Cassandra Syndrome performs at Esoterica in downtown Leesburg.

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The Gypsy Nomads will be one of the co-headliners at the store's Lillypalooza music festival, Aug. 23.

It started simply enough. "It was August. We were hot. We were bored and didn't have any festivals scheduled and it was my birthday," Lilly Edens, co-owner of Esoterica, said in an e-mail of the creation of Lillypalooza, a daylong music festival held at the store. "And since I'm such a Leo, I love to celebrate birthdays and have a big fuss and party made around my birthday."

The yearly August festival is one of two self-proclaimed "New Age Superstore" holds; the other is Brigid's Faire in February.

"We look at it as a way to bring activity to downtown Leesburg and some much needed vibrancy and evening activity as well," Edens wrote.

This year's event takes place Saturday, Aug. 23, beginning at 2 p.m., and features seven regional bands. In addition, the store offers coffeehouse concerts most Saturdays.

THE VENUE is not a typical concert stage. Instead, Estorica has a large gazebo in the center of the store, which gets emptied out of its merchandise so the musicians have a place to play.

"You can hear the music from anywhere in the store," Irene Jericho, lead singer of Cassandra Syndrome, this year's co-headliner, said. "For Brigid's Faire in the fall, we sat 200 people."

Playing in a gazebo while people shop "isn't as strange as you would think," Jericho said. "If you go to a club, you have maybe 20 people at the front of the stage there for the band and you have people who will clap after every song, then you have people who are having conversations and have no idea a band is playing."

And unlike a bar setting, all the acts are family friendly and the decibel levels are not ear splitting, Jericho said.

The lineup for Lillypalooza features bands that are Edens' favorites from the regular after-hours coffeehouse concerts. The acts are as eclectic as the store itself, which sells incense, herbs, oils, statuary, ritual items, candles, jewelry and clothing, among other things and offers various classes and tarot and palm readings.

"Esoterica strives to support local, and/or often unsponsored, talent that don't often have venues where they can play their own music," Edens wrote. "While many of the bands will also play a couple of cover tunes, most of our musicians play original pieces — from folk to bluegrass to Goth and metal sounds."

"PEOPLE COME IN, circle around the store, smile at you and leave and there are other people who come in, circle around the store and stay and listen," David LaFleur, a folk and bluegrass singer and songwriter, said of playing at Lillypalooza. LaFleur has been performing at the store for four years and as part of the festival for three.

"It's very nice. It's a new age superstore and it’s got crazy people that run it. It's always fun," LaFleur said when asked to describe Lillypalooza.

For Scott Helland of The Gypsy Nomads, the event's other co-headliner, the venue is par for the course.

"For us, we actually play a lot of stores. That's big now," Helland said. "Our music appeals to the new-age crowd."

He described the duo's sound as "French gypsy-inspired and Celtic-inspired rock" with 90 percent of it being sung in French.

Playing in the store's gazebo is no different than playing at a coffeehouse, Helland said.

"Actually it's fun paying there … you're a little more closer to the people. It's an intimate atmosphere. You can talk to people between songs," Helland said.

It's that intimate feeling that helped performer Lauren Kendall when she was starting out as a solo act — Kendall now performs with her husband, Blake Methena. She admits her performances were lacking at first, but now returning to Estorica is like a family reunion. This will be her second time performing at the festival, even though she is a veteran of the coffeehouse concerts.

"I feel like Estorica is our home. Back when I was a solo performer, I wasn't really good. I had a lot of stage fright, but they kept asking me back and it was the same people every time," she said. "I learned and got better and had the same people coming up to talk to me after, encouraging me. I feel a great loyalty to them and a great love."

She said the venue caters to her sound and likes the closeness with the audience.

"My sound is kind of a softer sound anyway. A lot of the songs are very intimate, like a diary," Kendall said. "So I like the intimacy of it. I like looking out and seeing I'm connecting with people and seeing their reaction."

THERE IS A $5 charge, which helps cover the bands' expenses, however, visitors will receive a hand stamp, that will allow them to come and go throughout the day. There will also be limited seating available around the gazebo and some treats as well. The live music will be piped outside so shoppers on King Street can hear the bands while visiting the downtown area.

"Since it is an all-day event with 15- to 20-minute breaks between bands, we also hope to encourage shopping in the other local stores for as long as they stay open," Edens wrote. "It is a synergy I have been trying to maintain since my partner, Jane Harmon, and I bought the shop back in October of 2001."