The Organizers of Goldrush Festival on the festival and blogging
For the next two days, the Goldrush festival will take place at Delite and the hi-dive. The event was the brainchild of three local music bloggers: Jake Martin, Crawford Philleo and Ryan Pjesky. For the last two years, each of the three have been writing largely about contemporary music for blogs (Speaker Snacks, Tome to the Weather Machine and Magic Teepee), and the line-up of the festival reflects a coming together of the taste of each in underground bands from around the country.
One thing in common among all of the acts on the festival roster is that none of them are heavy. None of it is rockist. None of it could be described as hip-hop in any conventional sense. There are only a handful of acts that anyone could really consider a rock band, none of which would go over too well in a southeast Aurora biker bar. What is here in great numbers are innovative pop artists, ambient bands (such as Kevin Costner Suicide Pact), purveyors of melodic drone and other exemplars of experimental electronic music. We spoke with Martin, Philleo and Pjesky recently about how the festival came together and what each of them does in the world of the music blogger.
Westword: Why did you three get together to do the Gold Rush Festival and why did you give it that name?
Ryan Pjesky: The idea was to have a festival that was small in scale but big in terms of the types of artists we were bringing and blogged about. We wanted to reach out to a lot of national artists that we've really enjoyed over the past year or so and a lot of our favorite hometown artists as well. The name kind of ties in to the time of year. There's no secret that it turns fall in Colorado and our color in our hills is gold.
Then kind of the whole idea behind bloggers searching all over for wonderful music for the people reading our blogs to listen to -- and, no doubt, we mine the web for these little random nuggets of music. In the end, it's sometimes just one track. Other times, it's an artist that, eight months down the road, turn pretty full-scale in terms of albums and touring.
Jake Martin: It was good to bring on three different bloggers too. We blog about the same kind of stuff. Crawford will write about a lot different ambient stuff. Ryan does the poppier stuff. We just all bring something different to the table, and it's made the festival more well-rounded, I guess, than just one of us curating the entire deal.
Crawford Philleo: It's been an idea that's been in the cooker for a long time. Jake and I have talked about working together on projects for a long time and when Ryan came up with the official idea and brought it to us, it just seemed like what we'd been thinking about doing it forever and ever. I think it's a pretty good match, and you can see by the different artists that the three of us have invited, we each have a unique taste, but they're all kind of aligned.
RP: It would be hard to do it without three people involved. It's been a full-time job for the past few months, since we started it, and it's nice to have other people taking on different jobs and make sure things get accomplished.
CP: It's definitely not something I'd consider trying on my own.
JM: Absolutely not. Kind of like what Crawford was saying, my weaknesses are Crawford's strengths and vice verse. We bring very different things to the table, each of us. Some of us are more business-oriented.
Why did each of you get into blogging about music in the first place?
JM: I started in October 2009. I think for the same reason as a lot of bloggers. It never started out as anything I thought anyone outside my immediate circle of friends were going to see. And that's what it was. It was for my friends, and it was a hub for them to connect to what I was listening to. It just so happened that it kind of hit on a national level, and people started reading it. It evolved on its own, really.
RP: For me, it was a similar idea. But, as anybody does, I have friends who live all over the country, and when we gather, it's usually for some big event or a party. And by the end of the night we're talking about all this wonderful stuff we're listening to, and by the morning, everyone goes their separate ways. It was kind of a place set up for people to tap into what I was listening to at the right time. Two years ago that whole personal blog becoming a national blog thing was just starting to crest a little bit.
Yeah, there were the big websites, and there were those that had a really personal feel to them and a genre-specific taste where somebody could go and know what they were getting there. It's not like a Pitchfork or a Stereogum, where it's across the board. It's like, "I trust this person's taste and usually only one person is writing." Kind of the right time, the right place, but we're still just writing for fun. It's not like we're getting paid or anything like that. Some days a lot of people are reading, other days not.
CP: I've always been a writer. I wrote for UNC Mirror, which was the student newspaper, and I did CD reviews for them. I always wanted to be something of a musicologist, which was my major in college. I never thought about starting a blog, exactly, but when my band, Vitamins, went on tour to Salt Lake City, my friend Ryan Hall let me stay at his house. He was already running a website that had reviewed a Vitamins CD I had sent to them. He's a fantastic writer, and I loved his website, and I briefly mentioned to him that I was also interested in writing about music. He called me about two weeks after the tour and asked me to contribute to the website, so I did.
I got set up with an email for Tome to the Weather Machine and started getting messages from artists from all over the world. I realized some of these people needed a voice, and it was kind of a cool way to introduce a lot of weird music to an audience that might not know they existed otherwise. The Tome is still pretty small, and it's a lot of work. I turn down other paid writing gigs to do it because I like doing it the best. I have more freedom in terms of what I can write and write about. I'm in the back end of a website, which is the first time it's ever happened for me, so it's fun to play around with how things end up looking on the website. You can be creative in how you do your hot-linking and embedding of videos and MP3s and things like that.
You also contribute to Foxy Digitalis, right?
CP: After I had written for the Tome for a while, I kind of wanted to get out there even more, so I applied to write for Foxy Digitalis, which is run out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were excited to have me on, and they started sending me records. So I get a box from them about twice a year. It's full of some of the weirdest music I've ever come across in my life. It's definitely introduced me to a lot of really cool stuff. Many of the artists coming here I found out about because of those guys. Quiet Evenings, for example. So that's been a fruitful experience, although they don't really pay either.