Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Red Line Scene Feature: New England Americana Festival and Pledge campaign

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past 4 or so years, New England Americana is a group of musicians, music lovers, and just plain good folks that seek to foster a community of folks, roots, and americana musicians in the North East. Each year, those efforts culminate in one large, multi-day event known as the New England Americana festival. What a lot of people who play in or attend these events do not understand is the work, the time, efforts, and money that are sunk into this event every year. This year, the NEA has enlisted the help of Pledge Music to raise funds for the festival. Now you may say "oh great, another Pledge or Kickstarter campaign"...this is different. Not only can you get a ton of great gifts from the campaign (including, not limited to music, VIP access to the fest, original artwork), but you are helping to really push forward a community and movement of roots music in New England and Boston specifically.

I caught up with John Colvert, one of the founders of NEA and committee member to ask a few questions about the Pledge Music campaign, this year's event, and the music community in general.

1)      In as few words as possible, tell the music adoring public why they should donate to the NEA Pledge Campaign?

JC: In as few words as possible...  because it truly makes a difference.

In a few more words.... The festival started as a meeting/common ground for bands all around New England playing this style of music.  We wanted to help kick-start a conversation between bands that we hoped would lead to a stronger community as a whole.  Every year we try to expand more and more so we are able to include more acts, thus increase the size of this conversation.  This means adding stages, venues, and getting more creative with Harvard Sq. to offer more slots to local acts!  Going into this year we have added 2 stages and roughly 25 more slots for bands than last year.

Unfortunately expanding costs money to pay for staging, sound equipment, signage, promotion, and more importantly, the bands.  With 75 local acts on 6 different stages around Harvard Sq., we're looking to the community to help us make it happen!

2)      Community spirit seems to be one of the founding pillars of New England Americana. What does the music community in town, and in the greater New England area, mean to you either as an artist, a lover of music, or a festival planner? And why is it important to you that the sentiment of community is present in the event?

JC: As an artist, community means everything to me.  Community gives me a sense of purpose, belonging, and support.  A community often pushes me to become better at my craft via inspiration and a little friendly competition.  The physical, emotional, and even strategical support a community has to offer makes all of the difference. Let me explain.

When I first put my band together, we were stoked to have booked our first show.  At the time we were a 3-piece folk-rock act.  Once we got to the venue we realized that we were sandwiched between a high school metal band and a 60's surf-rock band. Both were great, but the night was strange and disconnected. All three bands felt out of place, and there was very little chance that our fans would cross pollinate (so to speak).  After the show our 3 bands happily wished each other the best, and hoped never to see one another on the same bill again.

After a few months of kicking around the scene and meeting like minded artists we started creating our own bills, having great times at shows, interacting with each other's fans, and performing at the right clubs.  Not only does it feel great, but it's good for business and helps us all grow as a whole.  It just makes sense.

This festival is truly built for the artists.  We want to help start conversations that lead to shows, tours, albums, and other positive events and projects that help the growth of our scene on both an individual level and the community as a whole.

3)      When picking bands for the New England Americana Festival, what is the most important thing that the team looks for? In other words, how can “my” band be picked or stand the best chance to become involved?

JC: We encourage any band that is interested in performing at the festival to reach-out.  Even if you're not selected, we want to know who's out there for future years or the many other events we run.  Every year we receive hundreds and hundreds of requests to perform, and one day we hope to have hundreds of slots! But until then, it is a real challenge to make our selections.  

With that said, one trait will always stand out above the rest: community involvement.  More than anything, we are really looking for acts that are excited to be a part of our community.  To us, this means artists that go out of their way to support other acts, other community events, and truly try to leave the New England roots music scene better than they found it.  If an artist is doing those things, they are typically on our radar.

4)      How is this year’s festival different from previous years?

JC: As I said, this year we are really aiming to expand the number of acts we can invite, and to do so we have adjusted our structure for the weekend and added 2 more stages during the daytime to make this possible.  Here's how it's going to work:

Friday and Saturday night: We will have non-stop stages in Club Passim, Tommy Doyles, and Charlie's Kitchen.

Saturday and Sunday day: We will have 2 full outdoor stages and a stage inside Goorin Brothers hat shop (an awesome place!).  The Square will also be filled with family friendly activities, games and prizes, and some of our favorite local non-profit organizations will be on hand as well.

5)      Do you have a favorite act or moment from the last festivals that really stands out (and you hope can maybe happen again or be re-created this year)?

JC: We just love seeing bands invite other band members on-stage to share songs and have fun.  That's what this is all about and that's why we try to pull everyone together.

6)      What a lot of folks don’t realize is the work that really goes into planning these kind of events. Any behind the scenes bits of knowledge you can share with the public? Stuff you want them to know and appreciate about the efforts of New England Americana?

JC: We truly just want folks to have a great time and discover new music and don't need much appreciation. Though WE appreciate the effort that festival goers put in to spend a weekend with us in Harvard Sq. with an open mind and an eagerness to see something new.  

We also deeply appreciate the bands.  The festival is a mad time of no sound checks, very little time to get on stage and set-up, and very little room to store gear.  The performers are gracious troopers who work extremely hard with us (and each other!) and we hope that their efforts are noticed!

7)      Anything further you want to plug or say before signing off?

JC: What is amazing about our festival is that on just about any night of the week you can find these artists around town performing or in the crowds at their favorite shows.  We not only want to bring attention to our festival and the acts that we're lucky enough to bring in every year, but more importantly the local music scene as a whole.  We try to remind folks that they can go out to their favorite music venue, see top-notch performers, and have a drink typically for less than the price of popcorn and a movie ticket.

Get more information on the festival at www.newenglandamericana.com . There you can link to the Pledge Music page, but here is the direct link as well http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/neamericana .

The folks are contantly sending updates through the campaign including exclusive in studio videos, band announcements and more. Stay tuned for more on the New England Americana Festival.

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