the shorefest.

Gapeseed Show I dug up this postcard, from a show we did on March 3, 1995.  Featuring Gapeseed and Jenifer Convertible, it was the first show we had ever hosted that didn’t include Footstone.

At one point, we were hosting a Footstone show at Love Sexy and I asked Jim Testa from Jersey Beat if he was planning to attend.

“I don’t go to that place,” Jim said.  “I hate it there.”

Jim was based in Weehawken – the next town over – and had been a Hoboken mainstay since the 1980s.  He was (and is) a friend, and he also treated Dromedary very favorably, in his zines (he also published Glut at this time), in his various newspaper columns, on many online forums, and of course in person.  For Jim to not come to our shows really bothered me, because I felt like he was missing a big piece of who we were, and because I always like to buy a beer for people I enjoy.

The problem wasn’t our bands, the problem wasn’t the marketing.  The problem was the venue, and by the late winter of 1996 I became convinced that if I could draw 100 people to Love Sexy on a Friday night, I could draw 300 to CBGB.

We had done shows with a lot of bands over the years, some of which I’ve described in this blog, some of which I haven’t.  Between 1993 and 1996 there were a few dozen of them that we either sponsored alone or apart with other people.  They included bands on our label, bands we were friends with, touring bands from out of town, and occasionally, bands we didn’t know.

The majority of our shows were at Under ACME in NYC.  A few were at Maxwell’s or Live Tonight in Hoboken.  The rest were at Love Sexy.

We had done more shows than records, and after three years of doing this, I found that we had no relationships with anyone that resulted in our ability to just pick up the phone and get a show, with the exception of Love Sexy, which I really viewed as the worst venue for original indie rock in New Jersey.  We hated the place, but we did shows there anyway, because there was nobody I could call at CBs who would say “Hey, Al! You want to do a show?  Name the date.”

It wasn’t because we couldn’t fill the club, it was because we didn’t know the right people.

With the changes in live music in New Jersey, I had sort of started to change my thinking on the issue.  There were a few things that were helping me to change my mind.

First, some people down in Virginia had gotten the idea to get the word out to a bunch of indie labels, and bring them all down to a parking lot in (I believe) Arlington, where the could set up tables and sell their records.  Initially, the idea was that labels had a tough time getting distribution, and always wound up with a huge pile of returns that sat in their inventory.  As with anything, out of sight, out of mind, and once those records were no longer in stores, they weren’t likely to sell many more copies.

So these nice people came up with the idea to have an event where indie labels from all over could come and sell their stuff.  They’d have it over the course of a weekend, and augment it with shows at a few local clubs.  They called it the Indie Rock Flea Market and held the first one in 1994, I believe.

In 1995, we were invited to come down and set up a table.  I passed on the idea, mostly because I couldn’t get anyone to come down and help me.  I wasn’t about to go set up a table and stand there by myself, both figurative and literally existing just on the periphery of what was truly hip in indie rock.  But with a new baby, there was no way Sandy could go.  If I remember correctly, Rich’s response was “Fuck that; I’m not going to stand in a parking lot all day.”  And Ralph confirmed what I was beginning to feel as a general distaste for indie rock with a brief monologue where he poked fun at the twee idea of a flea market held by twee people that played twee music, and suggested that it might be a better idea to have it further south, with the hopes that a summertime tornado would come through and take the people and the records and blow them away.

So I declined.  But it was a cool idea that wound up being extremely successful.  I believe that Ditch Croaker played there one year, and maybe Gapeseed as well.

The second thing that was getting me to change my mindset was the WE Festival, which was a festival put together by some nice guys down in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Initially, the WE Festival was designed to help promote the Wilmington music scene, which somehow got lost in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill scene that was in vogue due to the emergence of Merge Records in the mid 90s.  So a few Wilmington guys got together and said “Fuck it; we have a scene, too,” and started the WE Festival, with “WE” initially being an acronym that I believe stood for “Wilmington Exchange.”

In the first year or two of the WE Festival, Steve Bailey (the “cultural exchange advocate” and guitarist for Ya-Ne-Zniyoo) got wind of the event and hooked up with its organizers, securing a show for Ya-Ne-Zniyoo.  Because Steve does things in groups, he dragged Footstone down with him, and from that point, Footstone became regulars at WE Fest, driving down each year to do a show and crash on the organizers’ floors.

The concept of the WE Fest – a weekend-long festival that brought in bands from all over to play at a bunch of places that seemed to include any venue where live music might work well (even house parties), and then provided all those bands with a place to crash for the night – was something that was really attractive to me.

The third thing that was changing my mindset was an outdoor show that happened in 1994 or 1995 (can’t recall which) down on a farm in South Jersey.  I don’t recall the name of the show, but it was organized by some guys down south who I’d never heard of, and they put together an excellent lineup of indie bands to play for a day or two, outside.

Obviously, I’m hazy on the specifics here, but I remember being pissed off that A) these guys didn’t reach out to me when they put this show together, and B) that I didn’t know about it until it had already happened, so I missed it.

Putting on a show required some work up front – securing the venue, figuring out what bands were going to play, and then actually marketing it.  But once the day of the show rolled around, there wasn’t much responsibility – other than to show up, make sure the bands had what they needed (and that they were actually there – we did have some local band flake out on us once), and collecting the money at the end.  But that was really it.

It seemed like an interesting idea, though, to do something bigger.  We had become friendly with a lot of small labels, and a lot of bands as well.  I started to think that, collectively, we could probably pull of something huge if we wanted to – an event that could bring in lots of bands and people from out of town, lots of labels from across the country, and combine all the elements of the Flea Market, WE fest, and the festival on the farm down in South Jersey.  We could do it in such a way that it was Dromedary-centric, but still had plenty of opportunity for other labels to get plenty of promotional value out of it.

Ultimately, we were a record label, but we did enough shows (and made money at it) that I thought we could do something much more substantial.

“Hell, I’ll bet you could get some sponsors for something like that,” Rich said.  “Maybe Sam Ash would donate sound equipment.  Maybe some local food companies would donate some food, or water, or something.  You could hang up a banner and give away Great Bear Spring Water or Ellio’s Pizza, or something like that.”

“I think it would be cooler to do it in a place that would support Jersey’s local economy,” I said.  “I don’t want to give away spring water on some farm in western Jersey.  I want people to buy soda from a boardwalk vendor down the shore.  I want to have the show on the beach.  Maybe we could do something down the shore – have two stage setups, on either side of the boardwalk, with bands playing all day long over a weekend.”

And that’s what we decided to do.

Point Pleasant was a cool little beach town that was sort of nestled into the more northern parts of the Jersey Shore.  There was a boardwalk that ran the length of the beach, and it was filled with attractions – a small amusement park, mini golf, bars and places to get boardwalk food.  On weekends they had beach volleyball tournaments.  It was a very cool place.  But it wasn’t the kind of place where indie rock people went.  The amusements were for children, the bars were cover band bars, the volleyball tournaments attracted meatheads and bikini girls.

I figured we’d be bringing a whole new crowd down.  And by having the show on the Jersey shore, we could attract people from New Jersey and New York, plus Philadelphia and even northern Maryland.

It was a big idea.  One I wanted to do immediately.

Unfortunately, though, we were heading into the spring of 1996 pretty quickly.  The idea of pulling together all the resources necessary to do such a huge venture for that summer was pretty intimidating.

“If you started the Baker’s Dozen series in September, you could actually end it with the big weekend in September of 1997,” Rich suggested.  “That would give us more than a year to pull it together.”

That seemed to make sense.

Rich made another suggestion as well.  “You’re the type of person who wants to do it all himself,” he said.  “This is too big.  You need to break off pieces of it, and give it to other people to handle.  You need partners.”

~ by Al on October 19, 2009.

10 Responses to “the shorefest.”

  1. Doug and I were at the south Jersey farm show – not as guests, though. Brandon Stusoy of the zine Whitebread, and of the band Slow Children Playing, put it together on his father’s or family’s land, I believe. It was fun, but I tend to overload (or overdose) hearing too much music in one day.

    I hope your beach event happens/happened.

  2. I remember hearing about the S. Jersey show. . .It happened in Vincentown, real close to where I grew up. (Indian Mills.) For the life of me I can’t remember why I didn’t go. Esp. since I knew Brandom and Mark from Slow Children Playing. (Had played in a band with Mark in college.)

    Wow. Lots of things in here I had completely forgotten about. Excited/frightened to see what else comes up.

  3. I think Steve is shellshocked by all the letdowns. I’m getting a kick out of reading your comments, because you’re getting three years’ worth of bad news in, like, a couple of weeks of reading. So, you’re perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. 🙂

    There were actually good things that happened during all this time, but the one thing that we all know is that Dromedary stopped operating in the late 90s. Given that I loved it so much, there had to be reasons WHY we stopped, right?

  4. It is kind of like watching Titanic (or, more recently, Valkyrie) where you know the final outcome, but you’re hoping for some little victories along the way.

    I look forward to more of the why.

  5. Spoiler: There’s a victory. Or at least it feels like that.

  6. twee.

  7. If you were twee, what kind of twee would you be?

  8. a twiny twee.

  9. that show was the only time we played lovesexy. not a memorable gig. all i recall is that it was snowing when we loaded out and the snow was somehow corrosive and destroyed the chrome finish on the top of my peavey classic 50 amp.

    also, you spelled jenifer wrong 🙂

  10. I did spell Jenifer wrong. I’m not sure why; I was CONSTANTLY being corrected by people who didn’t know the band, for spelling it with one “n,” and explaining to them that the band name was spelled with one “n.” And then I get it wrong in the postcard.

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