The recent recession was enough to force Connecticut-based Skipping Stone Records (skippingstonerecords.com) to skip what would have been its sixth annual Popfest showcase last fall. And while the popular series will resume again this weekend at The Elevens in Northampton, label co-founder Christine Jewell is quick to note that theirs is still far from being an endeavor rooted in economics.
“We’ve been doing this since 2004 completely DIY—no sponsors, all of the door proceeds going to the bands,” Jewell says. “We do it because we love it.”
Another love of Jewell’s was a band she first encountered nearly a decade ago, 14 Iced Bears. In planning for Popfest 2010, she says that she was thrilled both to find the band on Myspace and to discover that the band appeared to be from Brooklyn. Turns out, the fan who made the page was the New Yorker and the band was from England, but all the Web activity was enough to snare her headliner act nonetheless. Other Popfest performers include The Thrushes from Baltimore, Vermont’s The Smittens and the Valley’s own Bourgeois Heroes, The True Jacqueline, Sore Eros and Whistle Jacket.
In other news… many is the man who can actually say “he ain’t in Kansas anymore” when it comes to performing with—then exiting—the classic rock band of same name at one point or another in the band’s 35-year plus career. One man who can’t is Rich Williams, for the simple reason that he has been strumming six-string for the band from the self-titled debut record straight through to the present. The Crawler caught up with one of the industry’s most notable “wayward sons” days prior to Kansas’ scheduled Nov. 6 stop at the Calvin to talk both survival and the sonic state of the union. Here are some highlights.
Nightcrawler: Thirty-five years—quite an accomplishment by any standard. To what do you attribute your band’s longevity?
Rich Williams: A love of doing it. We are musicians, and musicians play music. It’s like breathing. That being said, having a few songs that are still being played every day in every market in the country doesn’t hurt.
And my, how the times they have changed in those 35 years. From eight-track to record to disc to mp3 pirate downloads and the veritable collapse of the business model. By the same token, new generations are finding you on Youtube, Rockband and Guitar Hero… perhaps that offsets the trend?
My fingers are very far from the pulse of the music industry. I don’t pay much attention to any of it. I have no warm and fuzzy feelings for the now-struggling record companies of old. It’s always been a shady business that has never paid their artists the amount they owe them. I’m glad to see new technologies, new independent record companies, new ways of bands being heard and songs being delivered. The “Golden Era” of the record business is history. Put a stake in its heart, cut off the head and place it on a stick, then parade it around in front of the villagers.
Kansas is very established. We got our foot in the door a long time ago. It would be impossible for us to happen in the modern music business. I feel for new bands today. One great thing that record companies did do in the past was cultivate new bands, recording several albums and giving them a chance to grow, develop, and build a fan base.
Last up, emerging indie-rockers Remember September slip into The Scorpion Bowl on Dwight Street in Holyoke this Saturday, Nov. 13. In addition to besting the Grand Band Slam competition in Hartford and netting an MTV/Ourstage Video Award, Remember September has performed with Train, Chicago and .38 Special, to name a choice few.
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