Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thoughts on the Montauk Music Festival 2012

Of course it's always better to get paid for performing music, and hopefully the Montauk Music Fest can get to that point, but right now it's really a showcasing event, designed to give up-and-coming bands a shot at new business / paying gigs. Some established area acts seem to feel threatened/left out by this arrangement, but I don't think they need to take a position of provincialism.



PHOTO (Megan Collins, L to R): Brandi Hart (Dixie Bee-Liners), Mick Hargreaves, Chris Mehos (Ghost Rockets), Pete Mancini (Butcher's Blind) perform in their super-group "Crucifix Hovering Over 12-Point Buck"

I booked one showcase at the fest this year (at 668 The Gig Shack, an  establishment I have a good relationship with) so that I could host a few outta town acts (Butcher's Blind, Jeff McLary, Brandi Hart of the Dixie Bee Liners) that I'm currently producing. They get a shot at new business, I get to promote my recording rig. I wound up playing a grand total of five of my songs for free, solo acoustic style - oh the horror, I performed for FREE - then handed things over to the other artists. I wasn't about to ask my band (Mick Hargreaves & The King Guys) to haul all the way out to Montauk to play for no bread, in an area where we already have a periodic gig at the Stephen Talkhouse. What purpose would that serve?

Last year, I played two showcases solo, and got paying solo gigs out of it in an area where I had none before. The fest is the artist makes it - Established acts that are playing tons of gigs already and making good money... should wait until there's a real revenue stream involved and paid slots materialize OR come up with some totally outlandish, one-time only performace idea that will trigger a bunch of CD sales and garner new fans. Creativity is in order there. Have patience - It'll happen - this thing is only three years old, an infant, and still fraught with a list of challenges as long as your arm. I experienced them myself, but my reaction is to suggest, converse, debate, provide advice, not portray the MTK fest as something akin to "end of the world for local artists and we should fight back" as some are doing. We're lucky there's a fest at ALL. Thank you, Ken G.

It's Montauk, and a full awareness of the machinations of the "music biz" really don't exist there yet. At least everyone's eating with forks. Yeah, the fest needs to pay ASCAP/BMI/SESAC fees (they are minimal), but I'll GUARANTEE that a large number of the venues involved aren't paying those fees either, and some of the artists who are complaining this week have performed in those very venues. Yeah, clubs need to provide sound systems - but they have no idea how to do that, and don't seem to want to. Providing hotels free for out of town artists doesn't work - hoteliers need to make money, which was made very apparent when two rooms were sold right out from under my artists, and one had no choice but to drop out of the fest. Solving everything is daunting, to say the least.

But to paint the situation as "local bands" vs. "non-local" bands is unsavory, needlessly pitting people against each other. One East End musical "heavy hitter" has "defriended" me on Facebook because I pointed this out in the course of spirited on-line debate: The awesome Moto-Wrays (wreckless careening Surf instrumentals) are from Hampton Bays, and I really enjoyed their brief set at the fest - would they qualify as a "local" or "non-local" band in this person's proposed caste system, where there would be a "special show for local artists only"? Very few of the bigger acts in the Eastern LI area are originally from these environs, and all were in the same situation once, doing whatever they had to do to get better, and more numerous, paying shows. And without the MTK Music Fest, I would have never seen the awesome Moto-Wrays.

The brand-new Montauk Project (a 100% "local" act", if Sag Harbor counts) played the situation nearly perfectly. They extensively showcased, got paying gigs for their effort, sold merch, and now they seem to be at a slightly elevated level. Guess what - now they don't need to do the same thing at the fest next year (I wouldn't) because they got what they came for. Besides, their future lies beyond the Shinnecock Canal, doing road dates, in my opinion, on the Jam-Band circuit. For them, the festival served its purpose, and it really seems that up-and-coming acts are the ones that benefit the most at the Montauk Music Fest.

Say no to provincialism. Your mileage may vary.

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