Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dewey Beach Music Conference 2009

This past weekend (October 2nd-3rd) we attended the Dewey Beach Music Conference 2009 held at several establishments in this Delaware beach community. The concept is to provide an opportunity for over a hundred unsigned bands and artists to network with industry professionals and amongst themselves as well as to perform for a new audience. "With three nights of showcases and two days of demo & mentoring sessions, trade show and industry meet & greet events, there are plenty of opportunities to work at furthering your music career...or just experience some great performances. Industry meet & greets provide you with the opportunity to hear industry professionals discuss the issues of the day in an informal setting. Mentoring sessions and demo listening sessions allow you to get valuable one-on-one advice about your music and your career path."

As for music fans, the performances are free - these include the afternoon sessions on the deck at the Rusty Rudder, but also evening shows spread out among the famed Bottle & Cork; Gary's Dewey Beach Grille; Hammerheads; Jimmy's Grille; McShea's Beach Pub; BooksandCoffee at Ruddertown; and the Rusty Rudder. Each venue provided at least 3-4 performers, with acts alternating between two stages at the Bottle & Cork and Rusty Rudder to provide a constant stream of music.

For fans who wanted to attend any of the panel discussions or private parties, a weekend pass is $35 in advance and $50. That is the course of action that we took and our first event was a dinner Friday evening with the artists at The Venus restaurant. It was fascinating watching the artists scarf down the gourmet seafood - as if they hadn't eaten for days - which may have been reality. But it gave us a chance to introduce ourselves to many artists and find out a little more of their background.

The rest of the evening we walked around to the various venues watching dozens of shows. The performers were divided between singer songwriters and bands - and this evening we preferred listening to the singer songwriters. We were most impressed with Maria DuBiel, a Wilkes Barre native who can pick on the guitar. We also enjoyed Karen and Amy Jones, Lori Citro, Natalie Gelman, and Up the Chain - actually Reed Kendell. The common theme among these artists were not only did they have great voices, but they were entertaining. That was not a quality for most of the bands that evening. Most of the time I felt pressure to look at my watch or schedule to see who else was playing. There just didn't seem to be anything special about most of them and afterward they all seemed to be the same band. Yes, many of these were power-pop or more hardcore rock bands that we normally don't focus upon - but you would think some would stick out. Hip-hop artists we listened to the next day had that affect - why not these bands. With that being said, there were three bands that we did enjoy. Planeside was one hardcore rock band that rocked - and you could actually hear chords and not noise; mostly likely a result of keeping it simple - a lead guitar, bass, and drums. The most entertaining group by far was Under The Elephant, a pop/rock band. Frontman Josh McMillan is the man, with Ben Jelen on keyboards and the background harmonies lend a nice touch. This is the type of band that can easily separate themselves from the other bands - we recommend viewing a live performance. The final act that we really enjoyed were right up our alley, the Levee Drivers and their mix of rock, blues, and country. Frontman August Lutz has a deep bluesy voice that fits perfectly with the their sound. I don't know much about this band, but from what I saw, they should catch on. In fact, they open for the Sons of Bill at The State Theater on October 15.

On Saturday, we started the day visiting area winery and breweries (see winecompass blog) and then arrived in the early afternoon at the Rusty Rudder. This was the conference's headquarters where artists networked, patrons listened to live acoustic music on the deck, and several panel discussions occurred throughout the day. These panels discussions were very informative - even for the non-artists. They discussed optimizing and expanding routing (that's touring for us laymen); how to optimize revenue streams from music downloads; and how to increase artist development. These sessions were extremely valuable - but it occurred to us that not many artists were taking advantage of the sessions. Here was a chance to meet industry professionals and possibly get booked at festivals or larger venues, but each session we attended were only attended by about 30 other individuals. Out of close to 150 artists booked for the conference - yes, some were just coming in to play once and then leaving town, but many artists attended two or three days - only a handful took the time to attend. You would think unsigned bands would have major incentives to attend these sessions.

Coming off our soapbox, we did spend some relaxing time on the Rudder's deck - enjoying the great weather and acoustic music. The Levee Drivers returned for a short set and we liked their acoustic session as much as their electric - great percussions. We also liked the sets by Honor by August and My Cousin, The Emperor - wish we could have seen their electric sets. Eventually it was time for another private party - this time a BBQ at the Bottle & Cork. Every act still in town attended this event - they can't turn down free food - and an entertaining performance by Da Rezarekt. This is another hard working act - that combines rock and soul into their hip-hop theme. They are fun to watch and Chris Lausch, the booking agent for the Dogfish Head Brewery, informed us that he's seen this act several times and they work just as hard regardless if there' s only a handful of people in attendance or hundreds. That's the type of reputation that get's promoter's attention.

The rest of the night, we spent most of the time right here, at the Bottle & Cork. Two bands we follow, Wink Keziah and the Jamie McLean Band were playing almost back to back. Keziah, fresh from relocating to Austin, plays classic alt-country and has the personality that fits the music - both bad-ass, but also friendly and hospitable. Although, we heard that the waitresses at the Dogfish Head Brewery experienced the bad-ass version the previous night. In any case, Keziah was the first in a series of acts that had real stage presence - an art that many of the acts who showcased at the conference were just starting to develop. The Jamie McLean Band was the next in this line and not only is McLean a great guitarist, but you jsut get a sense that you are witnessing a true professional. The ease of moving between songs - noting the name of each song before and after its playing and the confidence to play new songs completely.

The best surprise of the entire conference was "discovering" the lower case blues band; although by the hundred plus attendees present, others had "discovered" this local band Delaware band previously. The band combines old Chicago blues with a contemporary blues sound of Tinsley Ellis, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials. They must be fans of Alligator Records as well. Lead Guitarist Jake Banaszak can play and bassist\vocalist, B.J. Muntz, has the gruff blues voice that you expect from a bluesman. Not only can these guys play, but they also get the revenue side of the business. At one of he panel discussions, an industry professional had remarked that one was for bands to generate income is to have CDs of live performances available for purchase at their shows. Price them low at perhaps $5. Sure enough, during their performance a nice lady was snaking through the audience selling an 8 song live performance CD for $5. I think she sold out before the set was finished and this was the first CD we popped into the player on the drive home the next day.

We did escape the confines of the Bottle & Cork and visited a few venues to see some acoustic acts. Our favorite was Mike Montrey - particularly for his guitar work. We also enjoyed listening to Kevin Masch and Lindsey Mae - but for us this evening, the rock bands were more intriguing.

The final act for the conference that we attended before we returned to our room to collapse was another entertaining hip-hop band Govt Cheaze. For us, the best part was watching the lead guitarist and bass players - it reminded us of old 1970's funk bands. This is hip-hop we can listen to. We encourage all music fans to think about attending next year's conference. You can go all in and pay for access to the panels and private parties or just attend the multiple free live performances. We will definitely be back. More images are available at the MyJoog Gallery.

No comments: