Saturday, August 25, 2007

(08.25.07) Recommends:

Remaining Professional While Flying Your "Indie" Flag.

Okay, so I've got a rant pent up in me. I don't like to use this space to be negative as I prefer to focus on things that inspire me. But today I had a pretty horrible experience, and because I presume that I was the target audience of the event, some constructive criticism might be useful.

So. Today I headed out to the 2007 Bay Area Indie Music Festival. The gist of the festival was simple and enticing: 20 up-and-coming Bay Area bands on two stages from noon to 10pm, all for ten bucks. Sounds great, right? That's what I thought, too.

I rolled up to the venue in Martinez a little after noon. No band anywhere in sight. Like one sound dude. I thought this looked awkward, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt, after all it was a beautiful day and I was thinking I was in for a cool afternoon of music. But the minutes kept passing without a noticeable sign of getting the festival started. So I went and used the journalism skills I gained in high school. What I found out wasn't hopeful: the sound crew had apparently quit the night before, and they were also now down to just one stage. By 1pm there was still no sign of progress, so I left to explore Martinez. The highlight of the afternoon was walking around downtown Martinez in a KU shirt and running into a KU alumni and chatting for about ten minutes about Lawrence.

I arrived back at the venue at about 2:15 to hear the last few songs of the first band of the day. Now, using the word "Indie Music" in the name of your festival is a gutsy move because if the music turns out to be crap then lots of people like me will think you've used the word to try to get people like me to give you my money. And that's pretty obnoxious, right? So, this first band was completely completely cheesy. Something I would expect to see playing at a barbeque joint in Kansas City on a Thursday night. Completely cheesy rock 'n roll blues blah blah blah music.

The second band had a lead singer who was desperately trying to look like Pete Wentz. Pete fucking Wentz? Give me a break. Consulting my show program, it looked like anywhere between 1/5 and 1/3 of the bands had lead singers desperate to look like Pete Wentz. My god. Is Fall Out Boy considered indie music? Last time I checked they were considered, er, "shitty music." That is, unless you're like a 16-year old girl. Attention Organizers of the Bay Area Indie Music Fest: are you trying to go after people like me, or 16-year old girls? Here's the thing: 16-year old girls have every right to have a music scene that they can get behind. But so many of the bands on the venue were billed as, e.g., selling out the Independent, or selling out Bottom of the Hill. These are 21+ venues, though, so it must be that you are catering to fans like me, right? So then, why all the FOB lead singers? I don't like FOB. None of my friends like FOB. Nobody with whom I've seen a show in the bay area likes FOB. So what was the point of the festival?

The organizers might say, well, if you go to so many indie shows in the bay area, then you have no doubt dealt with long delays before the headliner came on stage. And this is a valid point. But I'm not at a rock club. I'm at an amphitheater in Martinez. It's a hot Saturday. We live in the Bay Area, which means there are almost limitless opportunities to spend my day. So have the decency to get on the PA and explain to me the hold up.

Either way, if you are aiming for the teen crowd, or for me, couldn't you have been professional enough to get somebody on the PA to explain to the crowd why everything was so damn behind schedule?

So, after the second crappy band of the day I went exploring around the venue. I picked up a $5 plastic cup of Bud Lite, apparently the Official Beer of Indie Music. I tried to drown my sorrow over this experience in that 8 ounce cup of beer. Is "indie music" really this lame? Is it just "Bay Area" "indie music" that is this lame?

I consider "indie rock" to be the current musical epoch in which we find ourselves. It supplanted "alternative rock/grunge rock" which supplanted "hair metal" as the previously prevailing musical epochs. Now, the "alternative rock" epoch officially became irrelevant when bands like Stone Temple Pilots got big, because they were like knock-offs of the bands like Nirvana who defined "alternative rock." Nirvana itself knocked off a lot of music, but managed to be creative in its derivativeness. Meanwhile shitty bands like Stone Temple Pilots were just derivative without adding anything interesting to the mix.

Are we now at the tail end of the "indie rock" epoch? Because the bands I saw today were just rehashing played stuff, and it was kind of embarrassing and sad. I sat through one more band, some screamo, emocore, yadda yadda whatever stuff. By that time it was 4pm. Three bands had played by 4pm, and 20 were on the bill. Not wanting to camp out in Martinez until Wednesday afternoon, I left.

The whole ride home, I listened to my new Meiko CD, wishing I was back watching her play at the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. To recap this week's culture war:

Los Angeles: 1
Bay Area: 0

End Note: The festival organizers should not put on a 2nd Annual event until they (a) fully articulate the point of having this festival; and (b) are professional enough to pull off something like this.


John said...

When you say "Something I would expect to see playing at a barbeque joint in Kansas City on a Thursday night" you don't mnean John Paul and the Hellhounds do you?! Or maybe John Paul and his Flying Circus?! How dare you denigrate our upbringing Mr. JMB?!

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog and was struck by how bitter it was. My name is Joshua and I was the Festival Director. I'm sorry you felt cheated but all the other folks that stuck around enjoyed themselves. I did get on the stage more than 4 times to explain that we lost our sound company the day before the event and that the sound company that was there didn't get a chance to pre-field everything. Basically it was 8 months of planning out the window. I'm sorry if you felt as though we misrepresented what the Festival was about. We intended to bring great live music to a city that otherwise wouldn't have something like this. What we found out is the citizens of Martinez could care less. We are already working on next year which will be at Golden Gate Park on Aug. 23rd. You have my word it'll be 10x better than this year. If you wanna respond, feel free to email me at