Skipping Stones RecordsA small indie label with big ideas.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Popfest! New England - Friday
Ahhh. Day off.
ACK! Popfest first day!!!!
I think I was pretty set as far as getting things ready. We probably should have packed up the backline earlier, but it didn’t take that long. The car rental place called us about the mini-van that we rented. I had forgotten that I had said that we would pick it up at 12 noon. We went over to pick up the van and had some difficulty figuring out our insurance coverage. The staff person was really nice and we had a pretty pleasant experience at the Enterprise in Waterbury, CT. Luckily we got a big van, not a Dodge Caravan, but a Ford “Freestar,” which we immediately nicknamed the “Threestar.” It was red. Damn I wish I got a picture of that! Here’s a fake pic:
I made the obligatory stop at Connecticut's fine chain of supermarkets, Stop & Shop, to obtain the obligatory snacks that Chris Mac had requested. Hey, it worked out great, as I will outline later (about the snacks, I mean). Locas in Love has an excellent interpretation of the Stop & Shop experience on their Locas in Love myspace page.
We packed everything up into ONE VEHICLE and left at 4pm. The drive was hell, with Columbus Day weekend traffic and everything, but we dealt with it and got there just in time at 6:30pm. It usually takes just a little over an hour. We drove home every night after the Popfest. Last year we stayed at the Motel 6 in Chicopee, which is nothing to write home about, and it took us almost 45 minutes to get there. So we saved a little dough and drove home. Although I didn’t sleep much, even in our own bed, it was nice to wake up to good coffee every morning.
The staff were already there at The Elevens in Northampton, MA. Bruce was behind the bar and he let us in. Bruce is an amazing soundman and a generally great guy. More kudos go to Don & Lisa.
William and Chris loaded in the stuff and I proceeded to organize myself for the night. Our helpers were Aileen, Stephanie and Joe. We had to take cash at the front and watch the back for weirdness (stay tuned).
A week earlier, Ponies in the Surf let us know that they couldn’t get there in time to play first on Friday. We replaced them with a guy who goes by the name of The Juliet Kilo. Unfortunately he was stuck in traffic and did not arrive until 9pm. We had already let people in and a steady stream of 3-day-passers were there, as well as the other bands. David from The Juliet Kilo promised to set up quick, but he had a DVD projector and had a lot to set up. He didn’t go on until 9:20pm which made our entire night’s schedule completely off. We probably should have told him that he couldn’t play, but would that have been right, after he had endured several hours of traffic from Boston?
Beauty Sleep had a nice set and played pretty well, considering that they were playing with a new bass player. Palomar really rocked and Rachel got in quite a bit of bantering. At one point someone in the audience yelled, “YOU ROCK!” She said, “Great, you just jinxed us.” So out came the reply, “YOU SUCK!” to which she endearingly replied, “Thanks!” Three girls on guitars, one guy drummer. That oughtta be interesting. The definitely gave Dale a hard time when he didn’t start some songs soon enough! Palomar:
Local band Spouse came up next. We’ve known lead singer Jose Ayerve for many years and he’s such a nice person. He made it to the show, even though he was on crutches! Jose also runs Pigeon Records and in the past, has been the tour manager for the Pernice Brothers. At about that moment, William, who basically spends the entire night setting up bands and frantically getting people on and off the stage, told me that we were way behind and had to cut back. We didn’t want to cut any bands that had come from far away, so we made the decision to cut Spouse a little. The repercussions were felt later when local flag-wavers from masslive.com wrote a scathing review about how bad we are as organizers. I guess they didn’t get the big picture that it’s not about Massachusetts bands, or New England bands, but bringing bands from all over the world to a little town called Northampton. Yeah, the local band took a punch for the greater good and Jose said he would've done the same thing.
Jedediah Smith and his brother Dakkan played the most amazing guitars in My Teenage Stride. Every year this band keeps getting better and better. Their new bass player, Marta, began a Popfest trend of 1) bands with female bass players and 2) bands with female bass players who play Rickenbackers! Marisha Chinsky, formerly of The Consultants, sang on their last song, a Belle & Sebastian cover. Marisha joined her former bandmate, Brett Whitmoyer, who plays drums in MTS. Jed is a really swell guy. Later he told me that he enjoyed the fact that his band only had a very short time to play. It made the whole set “count” that much more. It goes to show, some people can work better under pressure!
The Icicles (Joleen singing, above) were as charming as ever. Tonight they had on their matching swirly-pink fabric outfits, all in different styles. Joleen on keys and Gretchen on guitar are just so sweet. I think that someone on the indiepop list called their new songs “heavy,” which they are, but in a wonderful spaced-out kind of way, like twee Stereolab! Hey, check out their new website, too, it's way cute!
Butterflies of Love featured Mark Mulcahy on second vocals. They had just come back from playing the Fortuna Pop festival in London. They were totally rocking!
Popfest! New England Thursday, October 5
Our good friend and the man behind indiepages, Chris Mac from Seattle, WA, came over on Thursday. William went to pick him up at the airport in the afternoon. Not sure what to do, they went to the local record shop, Brass City Records in Waterbury, CT, where Chris proceeded to find tons of great stuff. Personally, I don’t have the patience to wade through piles and piles of $1 bins, but Chris found some really excellent CDs, and lots of cool presents for people! He gave us a copy of Red Sleeping Beauty on Siesta Records. Red Sleeping Beauty is a Swedish pop band that Mikael Matsson was in. Mikael is now in the Skipping Stones Records band The Charade. This is the same CD that someone on The Charade forum was looking for! I’m not sure if I should say that we found a copy!
I had to work late and I was really bummed. But I was able to get home by 8:30pm with a pizza in tow. Little did I know how much pizza we would consume over the weekend! When I came in, Chris was playing my bass guitar and the boys were having fun. We also had a little musical play in the practice space later on. I was itching to play bass and we had talked about it, so finally I said “Let’s Go!” at about 9pm. Actually, I had said, “Let’s practice!” and they looked at me weird. So I said, “What am I supposed to say, LET’S JAM???”
Ha ha. We don’t “jam.”
William and Chris switched a little, but I stuck with bass most of the time. Chris is exceptionally talented and could play almost anything on the guitar. Then William switched to keys and Chris played the drums, although it was set up awkwardly for him. Chris tried to teach me a New Order bass riff, but I kept getting the timing wrong. Ah, well, I’ll practice and next time it will be even more awesome!
Later we found some strings and Chris changed the crappy rusty strings on my guitar.
Locas in Love at SSR HQ
Our first pre-Popfest meet-up occurred on Wednesday, October 4th at the Skipping Stones Records HQ. We had invited the band Locas in Love from Köln, Germany to come over for dinner and to practice. After we invited them to play at the Popfest (and they accepted!), they decided to mix their record over here, too. They stayed at the hospitable abode of Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, CT, a mere 40 minutes from our house.
We invited some friends over, but only Aileen and her boyfriend Ryan could make it (it being a school night and all). Aileen plays keyboards in our band Singing Bridges (with William on drums, me on bass). Aileen came over at about 6:30pm and we proceeded to drink all of the red wine. I was a little stressed because I had ambitious plans to make homemade pesto from the basil that was in my garden. I rocked the Cuisinart, boiled Barilla Farfalle and whipped up dinner rather quickly.
We invited them to come over at 7:00pm.
Drank some more wine.
They finally arrived at about 7:45pm. I guess they had gotten a little lost.
It was a little awkward when they came in! How do you greet people that you’ve only spoken to on the phone once and have had some emails back and forth? We met Björn (guitar / vocals), Stefanie (bass / vocals), Niklas (guitar / vocals) and Maurizio (drums and some vocals). Benny was also along as their tour manager. Everyone dug in to the giant bowl of pasta. Unfortunately I did not take a picture because I didn’t want be obnoxious and I was self-conscious. Stefanie took some photos of us at the dinner table, so hopefully we will see them!
They had promised to bring cheap wine and beer, but unfortunately this is Connecticut, a truly Puritan state, and of course they never found a place on the way. Luckily I had bought another bottle of red, so we proceeded to drink that. I gave Niklas, Benny and Maurizio our favorite cheap beer, Pabst. Then of course they requested coffee and we had dessert! We had classic American fare: Aileen brought chocolate chip cookies from Stop & Shop and I bought an apple pie. Everyone had pie and Stefanie made the best face when she tasted it (even though it was store-bought!). “Hmmm! I like pie!” She said in her German accent.
The basement practice went okay. Björn played my guitar, but here goes another “unfortunately” in my story. Someone else had been using it for several months and apparently the strings were completely rusted out. Björn couldn’t even tune it. I felt completely awful and embarrassed. But he made do. I couldn’t believe that I was finally hearing their songs live for the first time. The band was really tight and you could tell that they really enjoy playing together. The songs are dynamic, with highs and lows, quiet parts and loud parts. I don’t mind at all that I cannot understand what they are singing! I did email Björn at one point and he said something about bad people, but more on that later for their final show at the Cake Shop on Monday!
They finished their set and we went back upstairs for more cheap beer. Alas, the red wine was gone. We had the privilege of hearing some of the first mixes from their upcoming album. It sounded great. Niklas talked a lot about the studio and technical stuff. They were glad to hear it on a stereo, even though we were not in the same room.
We exchanged presents, too! Björn gave us a Locas in Love bag with Stephanie’s artwork screenprinted on it – a polar bear. We received tons of great stuff, like some Locas in Love records:
Björn also gave us some CDs from his label, WUWTON. He doesn’t release stuff anymore, he said it took too much of his time – we understand this! We especially liked his release by the band Sternbuschweg.
We gave the band Popfest shirts from our very first festival and our releases by The Charade, The Besties, Dyrdin and The Year Zero!
What else did we talk about? Big things, America, record labels, music and music and music. It gently started to rain outside and it was finally late enough to end our conversations and the flickering candlelight. Awkwardness turned into hugs and we said goodbye until the Locas show at the Saturday night Popfest.
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Legal mp3 downloads:
Morning by The Charade, from their first album "The Best is Yet to
Gravity Girl by superfallingstars, from their first album, "Swimming Across the Sound"
Buy Swimming Across the Sound
Prison Song, by The Besties, from their album "Singer"
The Truth About Stars by The Year Zero, from their album "Oceania, I Will Return"
Buy Oceania, I Will Return
Popp og Co, by Dyrdin, from their album "Dyrdin"
Here is a special treat!
Dream On by Celestial, from their album "Dream On"