Of the 1,100 bands and artists that submitted music to the South Park Music Festival, approximately zero of them sucked. Or, at least, executive music director Matt Fecher isn't naming names.
"I was really impressed by our submissions this year. I think a lot of bands weeded themselves out when they found out how we presented the event," he says. "It was really tough to decide. We had to turn down bands that are getting airplay and have played South by [Southwest] and CMJ [College Music Journal Music Marathon]. It's a really great lineup, and I'm really excited to see it."
The "we" is the selection committee for the festival, a three-day fte featuring over 100 bands, industry types, celebs and, as its insignia notes, beer.
"What we're trying to do is, we're putting on a musical festival which is also kind of a corporate industry retreat," Fecher says. "It's kind of like a mountain version of South by Southwest, or a music version of Sundance [Film Festival]."
2005 marks South Park's second year, and beyond the obvious logistical nightmare of squeezing hundreds of musicians into 72 hours, the festival (which actually takes place in Fairplay, on Highway 285 between Poncha Springs and Morrison) does it all with independent artists. These range from the Australian rock powerhouse Dream Catcha to Boulder's jam outfit Storytyme to Denver's hip-hop quintet Five Style Fist. It's a mightily eclectic spectrum.
"We tried to find a really great mix of different genres," Fecher explains. "We tried to be all-inclusive and include as many Colorado artists as we could, just to include the whole gamut and not just the Denver scene or the Boulder scene, but really pull from the heart of Colorado and have a good mixture."
The festival is free and open to the public, but it appears that the public is only a small part of South Park's target demographic. Its Web site and marketing materials all emphasize the industry-retreat side; the word "networking" makes several appearances. It is, Fecher stresses, about the business side of music as much as it is about the artists.
"You're actually going to run into Chris Jackson from E! television, because they're all right there, where at a big mega-conference it kind of tends to get lost in the shuffle if you're an independent artist," he says.
But Fecher doesn't see South Park going the way of Austin, Texas' aforementioned South by Southwest, which morphed in the past decade from a truly independent festival into a highly commercial series of showcases for already famous bands.
"The difference that we offer is a little more intimate, a little more laid-back, certainly a little less corporate," Fecher says. "There's no pressure on anyone to accomplish many ulterior goals."
The weekend is bound to be a fun one, to say the least. Along with the music, the streets will be packed with arts, crafts, games and thousands of festival-goers.
Says Fecher: "It's kind of a small festival vibe: this small town with all these great bands."
-- Aaron Retka
South Park Music Festival and Retreat
Front and Main streets, Fairplay
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 8-10
For more info, check out southparkmusic.com.