NXNP: San Diego’s Music Event of the Year

Whatever anyone wants to say about Kevin Hellman (and I will agree with most things people say about him)… this past weekend’s North By North Park was probably the best idea he has ever had and a highlight in the history of music in San Diego. Yes, I did say that Kevin Hellman made a brilliant move and that this event will go down in history. So, so, so sorry for you if you missed out on this one… but the good news is, this will be an annual event. Please don’t miss out on it next year.

So what made this event one of the most notable music event’s of San Diego history?
North By North Park:

1. Brought together all aspects of the local music industry including songwriters and musicians, producers, audio technicians, radio DJs, record A&Rs, marketing promoters, and venue owners, all in the same space to network and share their knowledge about how to succeed in the business.
2. Gave the opportunity to new and veteran artists show their work to the public and to radio producers.
3. Introduced San Diego artists and venues to the public for a great price.

The structure of the event included a “conference” at the Lafayette Hotel during the day that consisted of one keynote speaker, demo review sessions with local radio stations, and panels that focused on various aspects of the music business. In the evening there were shows around the “greater North Park area” at various venues for both the 21 and up crowd, as well as for all ages. The shows invited local musicians to perform short (20-45 min) sets. A wristband got you into all of the venues and use of the shuttle transportation between venues for one low price of $15.

As many know, I love music but I am not in a band and have no desire to be on stage or to learn a musical instrument. I went to the panels in the morning with an open mind… since I really didn’t think any of it could possibly apply to me. I was wrong. The panels were interesting and engaging. Here is what I learned:

1. Artists should network with bands from other cities to help you connect with venues to play shows on the road.
2. Put your best song first on your demo. Radio/record producers will only listen for about 1 minute or less to pass judgment.
3. Talk to other people about what you are doing (i.e. about gigs, the fact you have a band).
4. Genuinely thank people for coming to shows… they are your best marketing tool.
5. Have a website that you can control (not just a myspace page… but at least have that)
6. Play music because you love it, not to make money. If you love it, you should not mind doing it for free… and don’t forget this. (P.S. this goes for everything, not just making music)
7. Don’t be an asshole.

In the evening, of all the venues in the area, I was stuck at The Office (the renovated Scolari’s Office). For those who haven’t seen the place since before it was revamped, you will be in for a shock… it barely looks like the same place. I spent a few hours there and would have to say that the only reason I would go there is if there was a good band there. But since they don’t have a permanent set up for bands, I don’t think this will happen very often. Anyhow, the owner/manager Joe is a good guy. He used to book bands at the Beauty Bar years ago, he and his friend from Bar Dynamite have been working on the obtaining Scolari’s for over 2 years. He loves live music and would love to see more in The Office but he has an uphill battle with the neighbors who called in a complaint during the sound check at 7pm. Sadly, the neighborhood will never be the same…

Anyhow, the bands I was privileged to see included Fing (2008 San Diego Music Awards New Artist nomination), Jezebel and The Atoms. Each were bands that I had not seen but had heard great things about. If I hadn’t been stage managing there, it would have been a long time before I would have gotten around to seeing these bands. I highly recommend checking them out… especially Fing. Their sound is incredibly unique and there performance definitely entertaining. They are excited about playing music and love what they do and it shows.

I briefly made it over to Chasers and The Radio Room to see Bunky and The Tighten Ups. We ended up leaving near the beginning of The Tighten Ups’ set because I got glass in my leg from sitting on the toilet seat. Yeah, someone broke their drink glass over the toilet and did not think to wipe the seat clean. I did wonder before sitting down why there was a lime floating in the bowl.

Overall, NXNP was a success… bringing in loads of money for San Diego Music Foundation and each of the venues. There were lines outside of Bar Pink (formally the Pink Elephant) and U-31 nearly the entire night. Other venues had large crowds that flowed in and out as people moved from venue to venue to watch bands perform. The shuttle service was maxed out… though they probably under planned for this. Next year, it will be bigger… but I personally haven’t figured out how they can expand (at least the evening portion) since all the venues were maxed out. Maybe use non-traditional venues (galleries, stores, parking lots) or think about using the North Park Theatre and the Masonic lodge. It could work. But definitely please spread out the heavy hitters (Scarlet Symphony, Get Back Loretta, Silent Comedy, Buddy Akai all on one bill?!) to reduce lines around the block. I really don’t mind moving around as long as I can see the music in the end.

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