When I first received the press release about the event, I have to be 100% honest and say I cringed. Because of trademark issues, the event could no longer be "North By North Park". This was an incredible opportunity to completely rebrand the event and I think it is unfortunate that they didn't take full advantage to make this an inclusive and wide embracing conference. The official title was North Park Music Thing: San Diego Music & Media Conference. With the inclusion of LA Bands and many of the music industry panelists coming from other regions, this should've been the year to brand the conference with bigger reach. The San Diego part is already limiting; keeping North Park in the title is not only inaccurate, but to me a bit unfair to the venues outside of North Park: The Beauty Bar, The Ken Club, Radio Room, Soda Bar, Whistle Stop, Lestat's, Kadan, and The Ruby Room among them. All that said, let's move on to the meat of the conference.
I got to Lafayette early on Saturday Morning and hopped around the panels a bit. As I am not a musician, it's more just my personal interest in being there rather than expectations of practical information. I felt a lot of the information was a little repetitive from last year at times, but it seemed the rooms were doubled or tripled in attendance compared to last year, so I hope those musicians found the information useful. There were recurring things in the panels about music, which can be reduced to 2 words: Don't Suck.
I spent some time at panels with Lyn and she took really specific and good notes, which can be found here, here and here. I did find the "Creating The Buzz" panel to be interesting as I've been dipping my toes in some publicity and promoting and while I am on the receiving end of press releases every day, hearing some more focused information from publicists was interesting. It also lead to Seth inviting me to have lunch with Judy Miller (Motormouth Media) and Marc Silverman (ADA Distribution) at Mama's Bakery & Deli which was fantastic. They weren't going to stick around in San Diego for the night, so they also gave us their room...that in a minute.
After lunch, it was back to more panels. There were certain people who asked really valuable questions in multiple panel that were relevant to the topic of the session (like the guy from Echo Revolution, or my new BFF Josh Damigo) and then there were people who seemed to ask the same question in every panel because they weren't getting the answer they wanted to hear, which was a pretty inconsiderate waste of everyone's time. There were a few questions that came up that I felt deserved better answers, too...so off the top of my head:
To the kid who asked where a 14 year old kid can play: the panel was right about house parties and these sewer shows and whatnot, but there are other legit places other than Soma including Epicentre, 8Teen, The Marquee, and ChannelTwelve25. If I was a kid, I'd also hit up record stores (M-Theory, Taang!, Record City, Off The Record, Lou's, Music Trader) and grab fliers and talk to store employees about where other young bands are playing.
To the female R&B singer looking for venues: check out Grown Folks Music at El Dorado on Thursdays. Talk to the band about other bands that work with vocalists. LaTaunya Lockett sings with them and I guarantee she has a wealth of knowledge about places to play or sing. Check out the stuff going on at Humphrey's Backstage Lounge, Onyx/Thin, and Dizzy's to see if you fit in anything there.
To the scrunchie lady with the one woman show who refuses to use Twitter and Facebook: Try the 10th Avenue Theatre.
To the rest of people wondering how to make it big, how to get people to come see you play, how to get booked at the hot spots around town, how to land music in movies, I have to say that as someone who goes out at least 5 nights a week to see live music, I was shocked at how many faces I didn't recognize. Of course I knew a lot of people there, if not in person at least by their bands or whatever, but musicians who only go out when they're playing are the same type of people who don't even stick around to support the other musicians they perform with and frankly, I would never support someone who didn't make every attempt to support their larger community. I know everyone can't go out with the frequency that I do, but there is music every night of the week. Find people who do what you do and support them and they'll do the same. I like to say that the San Diego music scene is full of cliques, but the cliques are really easy to fall in to.
After the panels were done, I hung on the patio with friends until we got some beer from the adjacent liquor store, and hung out in the room for a tiny bit, until they had to scramble to their venues and I got to take a nap. Believe me, I appreciated that room. Around 8, I decided I would test the shuttle since it was going right to my house in Kensington, so I could check on my dog, freshen up, and dump my backpack. It came on time, and I was able to make it just under 15 minutes to catch the next shuttle back to the North Park area.
My first music stop was Bar Pink which was quickly filling up with people. I caught most of Lights On's set then decided I would say hi to Mike and the boys of Lualta who were playing at True North. It was my first time there and there was a line around the building of people who were waiting for the music to be done so they could do their regular TN weekend and not give a shit about the amazing music all over town. Mike and I have been friends since junior high and he cracked some jokes about playing just a couple more songs, "then you can get back to your chicken wings and DJs". It was actually cool because there was plenty of room to breathe before the throngs were let in.
I met up with Sean at Bar Pink but the line there got crazy fast, so we went to U-31 in hopes of catching Apes of Wrath and Holy Rolling Empire, but that line was already insane, so we decided to split from that area. We caught the northbound shuttle at 30th and University, but realized it was taking us on a loop to El Cajon Blvd, out to Ruby Room. Since I didn't plan on staying in the hotel, we stopped at Red Fox for a minute, then I got the remainder of the beer from the room, and caught the next shuttle to Kensington. After a brief stop at my house, we were at the Ken Club waiting for The Silent Comedy to start. There wasn't a huge crowd at first, but since they had such a late set, it seemed a lot of people rolled in from Radio Room and Soda Bar to fill the room by the time they played.
And then that was it. 3 bands. That is all I got to see. In my list of things that can be done better next year, I'd like to see the music staggered. There's no reason why Scarlet Symphony (at Ruby Room), Transfer (at U-31), The Silent Comedy (at Ken Club), and Unclie Joe's Big Ol Driver (at Beauty Bar) should all "headline" at or around the same time. I'd like to maybe see some matinee shows at the busier bars (like U-31 and Bar Pink) and then let those places have their standard busy Saturdays and encourage the true music fans to branch out to the other venues around town. I think I'd like to see a little more random bills, too, instead of all similar bands playing the same bars, though I understand this had to do with the sponsors, too. There were great bands at every bar and prioritizing, at least for me, came down to shortest lines, convenience of working my way back towards home, and cheapest drinks.
After Silent Comedy played, a few friends dropped by and we ended up staying up way too late, which was really fun at the time, but made me miss the band management panel that I really wanted to see, and regrettably, I missed Avi Buffalo, the one band I said NOT to miss. I rode my bike the 2.6 miles and arrived in time to catch the Social Media panel, a bit of the songwriting panel, then have lunch at Luigi's while listening to The Blackheart Procession, before heading to the mainstage to meet with Presidents of the United States of America to do their merch.
I should also note that the street fair seemed very lightly attended. For one, people could line the sidewalks of El Cajon Blvd and listen from outside the fence, but I imagine a lot of people were recovering from a big Saturday as well as the fact that the free Cityfest was going on in Hillcrest all day long. Hopefully that can be adjusted next year. I had fun selling merch and there were a lot of PUSA fans who came out specifically to see the band. I had my shining moment when the band announced that I was their merch girl and asked me to lean out of the tent. They couldn't see me and turned it into an impromptu song as they had the entire crowd wave at me. I'm waiting on the video for that, but hope to have it in a couple days.
After they wrapped up, the sun was dropping quickly and I still had a bike ride home to think about, so I didn't hang around. Since I recently got this bike from my sister, I haven't been able to get a proper headlight or tail light, have no helmet, and the brakes need work, so I cautiously rode home on sidewalks on Meade.
I thought I was done with the weekend, took a nice long shower, and settled in to True Blood, until Jake inquired about the closing party at Casbah. How could I say no? So we caught Apes of Wrath and The Growlers and caught up with all the good people who came out before finally drawing the weekend to a close.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I hope attendance continues to rise, but I have that hope in general for the San Diego music scene all year round, anyway. We have so much talent in this city and there's no reason why San Diego shouldn't be on the map as a music destination.