Last week in the Concord Monitor, Ray Duckler wrote a column titled, “The day the music died, we’re left with the sound of silence” and it set the hounds loose that make up the local music scene in Concord.
The column was about the demise of the Granite State Music Festival, which, after a few short years, has vanished.
That’s okay, folks. It will return soon enough. No doubt.
But as I said last week about “Laconiafest 2016,” the GSM Festival grew too fast and wasn’t, in some people’s eyes, a true representation of the New Hampshire music scene.
Or at least the Concord music scene.
Filled with a taste of bitterness since the inception of the GSM Festival, local musician and music writer, Rob Kleiner from Concord, fired off a letter to Duckler and posted it on Facebook.
The letter caught some traction and Kleiner supporters started throwing club punches.
It’s a fight that’s been brewing for awhile.
Kleiner emphatically disagreed with parts of Ray’s column, he wrote. He blamed the ending of the festival on bad business planning. Kleiner then reminded everyone that the music in Concord was far from “silent” and listed member of the local music scene who, I believe that he believes, should be the ones put in charge of running this side of the state’s music festival.
He may be right.
After all, the musicians and promoters who seem to keep the bars humming and people spending money in town weekend after weekend should at least be asked to play a role in a big time music festival taking place right in their own backyard.
I get that.
And maybe they were asked to contribute over the years. And maybe some resigned from the planning board or didn’t like the direction the festival was going in and dismissed the idea that Boston based bands needed to be added to the bill to drive attendance.
These things happen. Group discussion has never been my thing either.
But Ray certainly wasn’t taking shots at the local artists that make up the music scene here. He was simply reporting on a much anticipated music festival that went belly up. That’s really all. Straight forward news.
The verbal assault on Ray reminded me of when I was growing up and took an early morning slap to the face because my mother was ticked off at my old man from the night before.
It was misdirected anger, and I, like Ray, was an easy target.
Many have felt that the “Granite State Music Festival” should never been called that in the first place. Because so many of the bands that were asked (almost half in 2015) came out of the Rocking Horse Studio in Pittsfield, then maybe the festival should have been called the “Rocking Horse Studio Music Festival.”
That would have clarified things.
But I wanted to reach out to producer and Rocking Horse Studio owner Brian Coombes to find out if he was actually the one making the final decisions on who played and who didn’t.
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Ray Duckler.
Coombes said he was on the festivals planning board, but never pushed for the artists that recorded with him in Pittsfield more than others. “We were looking for acts from all parts of New Hampshire and we had them,” said Coombes, noting bands from Portsmouth, Keene and the North Country have all played the festival at some point.
He said bands like “Pat and the Hats” and the “Dusty Gray Band” were already established acts in Concord. Of course they would be playing. But Coombes also said that, like any kind of festival, in order to be considered, a band or musician must apply.
He’s right. That’s standard festival business, be it comedy or film or music.
“Find out if any of the bands we supposedly didn’t ask actually applied to the festival,” Coombes said, notably bothered by the fury of last week’s online exchange. “We tend to work with acts that are serious about the music and that’s who we chose to play the festival.”
Regardless of the reasons why the festival failed — planning, vision, bands, backing, location, support, whatever — the only way the Granite State Music Festival will succeed in the future is if ego and favoritism are put aside and the rules are adhered to and honest consideration is granted on all levels between rock and roll parties.
The music scene is far from silent. In fact, it’s screaming hot.
So, lets keep it that way and get it right next year.
– Rob Azevedo
Rob Azevedo, from Manchester, has been hosting a weekly radio show called “Granite State of Mind” for the past three and a half years which showcases musicians from around New Hampshire and beyond. “Granite State of Mind” is an hour long program that features artists performing live in-studio each week, now exclusively on WKXL. Azevedo also writes a weekly music column called “Sound Check” for the Concord Monitor and hosts a monthly “Artist in the Round” style series at New England College in Concord.