Friday, August 10, 2007

Nashville's indie showcase

More and more local communities are developing mini-SXSW's. Here's Nashville's.

Next Big Nashville: "Q&A with NBN creator and producer Jason Moon Wilkins: Q: What is the purpose of the event? A: 'The inaugural NBN was conceived and executed in three and a half weeks in 2006 as a way to celebrate what was a banner year for Nashville's rock/pop/indie community. It was originally meant to be just a one-night party, but it quickly grew into a three-day festival that drew nearly three thousand people. Obviously, this year has expanded exponentially, which is a reflection of how dynamic Nashville's music scene is at the moment. The basic reasoning behind it was that it seemed like we needed an event like this and the artists, the industry and the city as a whole have overwhelmingly agreed with that assessment. It's a truly exciting time to be a part of the music community in Nashville and to be living in such a vibrant and growing city. More than anything else, I wanted to build an event that echoed that excitement. Nashville is evolving and expanding beyond its former image into something more cosmopolitan and eclectic but still decidedly southern and I wanted to create a musical reflection of that.'

Is this a showcase/industry event or a public festival?
A: "It's both. It's an easy 'one stop shop' for any out-of-town or in-town industry professional interested in what is happening in Nashville's music scene at the moment. It's also a chance to showcase the growing community of industry professionals who work outside the Music Row mainstream but whose work helps tie Nashville to the international arena. And it's an opportunity for Nashville music fans to see their favorite acts play together in a festive and communal atmosphere and hopefully to be introduced to their new favorite band along the way.""

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is this a good scene?

Here is a review of an underground music festival in Baltimore. I'm not really sure if it is meant to be a good review or not. You decide.

Pitchfork Feature: Live: Whartscape Music Festival: "But enthusiasm is one of the only real unifying factors at Whartscape: Performers ranged from the folk and lo-fi beats of Lizz King (who hopped around on a sprained ankle as big as an orange) to the shoegaze synth-punk of Videohippos (who played in front of three projection screens) to West Coast spazz legends xbxrx to, well, a band like Santa Dads, who wallowed in a 20-minute prog-folk number with a whole faux-liturgy to go along with it; it was like a nursery school doing a rock opera. Dig a stroke deeper though, and the connections are clear: Baltimore's foreboding landscape and rotted-out, no-bubble depression is just the place for a bunch of wayward kids in neon avoiding the bodice of career, pulling shifts at Whole Foods between their self-directed studies in the occult. The filmmaker Jimmy Joe Roche, who screened videos on Friday night, told the Baltimore blog Butter Team, 'The wizards of Baltimore and Wham City deal powerful magic, we'll need it soon, the dawn of this post-postmodern age is upon us.'

There's no sense of cool, there's no spiritual sobriety. There are a lot of very bright colors. There are machines modified to blare industrial light at changes in synthesizer frequency. "

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The economics of a folk festival

Folk festivals spin off profit for both artists and venues -- Vancouver Sun, 7/13/07: "Though Canadian folk festivals are grassroots affairs where lots of patrons reflect the ideals of the 1960s, they nevertheless generate big dollars.

The Edmonton Folk Festival, largest in Western Canada, attracts 85,000 people for a box office of $1.4 million. It has sold out all its tickets in 11 of the last 13 years. The smaller Winnipeg Folk Festival draws 60,000, but 40 per cent of the audience comes from the United States, resulting in an economic spinoff to the area of about $20 million.

The three-day Vancouver Folk Music Festival, which begins today, attracts people from all over B.C. and the U.S. (Americans make up 30 per cent of the audience), and even some from Europe and Australia. Smaller than events in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary, last year's Vancouver festival operated on a budget of $1.2 million, attracted 30,000 people and took in $551,000 at the box office.
Dancing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Dancing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Peter Battistoni/Vancouver Sun

One lucrative side business at folk festivals is on-site CD sales. Festival patrons prefer buying recordings directly from the artist or the artist's label on-site because more of their money goes to the music's creator. These sales won't show up on SoundScan or Billboard, but they nevertheless add up. At last summer's 17 western Canadian folk festivals -- which include events in Vancouver, Victoria, Salmon Arm, Duncan, Comox, Mission and Harrison Hot Springs -- CD sales amounted to $754,594.

At the 2001 Edmonton festival, the Waifs from Australia sold 1,000 CDs in a single weekend, a figure matched by Xavier Rudd one year at the Calgary Folk Festival.

CD sales at last year's Vancouver Folk Festival totalled about 15,000. A top artist can sell as many as 700 CDs in a single weekend at the Vancouver festival....


Attendance: 30,000

Box office: $551,000


Attendance: 48,000

Box office: just under $1 million


Attendance: 85,000

Box office: $1.4 million

Winnipeg Folk Festival

Attendance: 60,000

Box office: $1.3 million

All-ages venues doing well in Seattle

This article reviews a number of all age-venues in Seattle.

Entertainment | All-ages venues popping up all over | Seattle Times, 7/20/07: "The number of youth-friendly shows in Seattle has steadily increased since the demise of Seattle's restrictive Teen Dance Ordinance in 2002. The rules governing such shows became less severe with the current All-Ages Dance Ordinance, and a plethora of new venues are reinvigorating the scene.

While it is dominated by indie-rock and punk, kids can also get live doses of metal, hip-hop, ska, alternative, rap, jazz and open-mic nights.

There's also a thriving underground, do-it-yourself movement, including popular house venues like Camp Nowhere in the U District. Even bars that are normally off-limits for under-agers — like Chop Suey and Neumos — are hosting some all-ages shows. Nectar Lounge plans to start an all-ages lineup beginning in late August."

Live music in a small Texas town

A small town in Texas Hill Country, about 30 miles from San Antonio, is seeing an expansion of venues, which might make it a significant stop for Texas music lovers.

'Cowboy Capital' could be a new Branson -- San Antonio Express-News, July 22, 2007: "... the self-proclaimed 'Cowboy Capital of the World,' long known for live country music in rustic venues and a picker's paradise for its come-one-come-all jam-session attitude, is busting out all over....

While Bandera County is one of the fastest growing in Texas, the farm and ranch community's official population is 957 ..."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where did rock start?

Cradle of Rock? Two Towns Stake Their Claims - New York Times, 7/10/07: "... officials and residents in Wildwood, which in recent years has put a high polish and a healthy dose of kitsch on its 1950s- and ’60s-era motels to promote tourism, are saying that their town near the southern tip of New Jersey in Cape May County is the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll.

After all, for a few summers Dick Clark held record hops in Wildwood while he was the host of “American Bandstand.” And there are plaques where the HofBrau once stood, as well as the site of the former Rainbow Club (now a nightclub called Kahuna’s), where Chubby Checker first performed “The Twist.”

But Gloucester City, another New Jersey town, about an 80-mile drive northwest of Wildwood, wants to cut in right there. And on Saturday, Mr. Richards and other Comets plan to headline a show in Gloucester City, in Camden County along the Delaware River, to commemorate an 18-month span in the early 1950s when Mr. Haley led the house band at the Twin Bar."

The piano bar as neighborhood hangout

This venue is closing, a victim of rising real estate and fewer people stopping in, but places like this are still needed.

Singing a Sad Song for Their Piano Bar - New York Times, 7/19/07:There was the story, for example, from about 10 years ago, where a glassy-eyed gentleman wandered in, steadied himself against the bar and with little ceremony unburdened himself with the force of a racehorse.

Kristine Zbornik, a professional singer and actress, was at the microphone at the time. When the gentleman’s stream advanced toward her, she raised her left foot and switched songs midway through and started belting out, “Cry Me a River.”

When news of the closing of Rose’s Turn spread last weekend among the bar’s longtime patrons, many say they felt devastated. Susan Finkelstein McElroy, 50, a regular patron who lives in North Babylon, on Long Island, received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004. She credits song-filled nights at Rose’s Turn with helping her endure the rigors of chemotherapy.

When she read the bad news in an e-mail message on Saturday, Ms. Finkelstein McElroy wept.

For 56 years, since it opened during the Truman administration, 55 Grove Street in the West Village has been a piano bar, cabaret and comedy club for the quick-witted and full-throated. First it was Upstairs/Downstairs, then the Duplex (which remains open at another location), and finally it became Rose’s Turn."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Travel lightly or not at all

This article criticizes Live Earth, and particularly the stars appearing in it, for by hypocritical by wasting so much energy to get to these events. It does mention what some of the venues are doing to offset the carbon emissions and trash, but overall it does not consider this event to be environmentally friendly.

There's something to be said for keeping live music local -- going to see local bands who don't tour, and using public transportation, to see them. Now we just have to get the local music press and the fans on board to give props to bands that refuse to tour.

Live Earth is promoting green to save the planet - what planet are they on? | the Daily Mail, 7/07/07: "A Daily Mail investigation has revealed that far from saving the planet, the extravaganza will generate a huge fuel bill, acres of garbage, thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions, and a mileage total equal to the movement of an army.

The most conservative assessment of the flights being taken by its superstars is that they are flying an extraordinary 222,623.63 miles between them to get to the various concerts - nearly nine times the circumference of the world. The true environmental cost, as they transport their technicians, dancers and support staff, is likely to be far higher.

The total carbon footprint of the event, taking into account the artists' and spectators' travel to the concert, and the energy consumption on the day, is likely to be at least 31,500 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to John Buckley of, who specialises in such calculations."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A film about classical music in unusual venues

The End of New Music - Free Speech Zone - Music - Column - New York Times, 7/04/07: "The film ['The End of New Music] documents a 2005 tour of rock clubs and alternative spaces by Free Speech Zone, a collective founded by Mr. Greenstein, David T. Little and Missy Mazzoli. In it, these three busy, highly regarded composers, whose boisterous, attractive music is influenced by neo-Romanticism, Minimalism and rock, forcefully reject the standard conventions of concert halls and academia....

“The main thing is understanding that you can actually take control over the way that your music is heard,” Mr. Greenstein said. 'Once you see that you had that power all along, then it suddenly doesn’t become ‘you versus the system’ anymore. It’s just you behaving as an adult, going out and making decisions in the world.'"

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

San Francisco's Music Scene in the 1960s

Rolling Stone : San Francisco: The Start of the Revolution: "In San Francisco in October 1965, some Red Dog veterans, now calling themselves the Family Dog, staged an evening of bands and dancing at the Longshoremen's Hall; billed as 'A Tribute to Dr. Strange,' it featured the Charlatans, Jefferson Airplane and the Great Society. The event spontaneously fused the lenient spirit of the Acid Tests with the Red Dog's focus on dancing and proved a pivotal occasion in the psychedelic scene's history. Over the next two years, San Francisco dance ballrooms--primarily the Avalon and the Fillmore--became not merely a central metaphor for Haight-Ashbury's reinvention of community but also a fundamental enactment of it.

The bands that emerged in this setting were made up largely of musicians who had come up playing in the Bay Area's folk-music venues. The folk crowd had been notoriously dismissive of rock & roll; they saw it as unserious and decadent, not at all committed to social or political concerns. But after the arrival of the Beatles in 1964 and Bob Dylan's transition to electric music in 1965, Bay Area folk musicians began to see how electric music could incorporate substantive themes and poetic language."