Yeah, okay, so Crawford Philleo writes for Foxy Digitalis. What of it? If you can’t help a buddy out, what can you do? And even if he wasn’t curating Denver, CO’s most awesome experimental music festival we’d be writing about it anyway. (If we could afford to get there). (Or Brad coughed up the dough for us).
This year the festival, which takes place at the Deer Pile, will run across Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd September and feature bands and artists like Barn Owl, Former Selves, The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact and Panabrite. We thought it’d be cool to chat to our man Crawson Welles about his shindig and what’s in store. And if we hear the word ‘nepotism’ then… well, fair enough. The Crawfdaddy and I exchanged emails and this is what we said:
Hi Crawford! First tell me about how Goldrush started up.
The idea to host a festival like this in Denver was born of a guy named Ryan Pjesky, known for his blogging work with Magic Teepee, now a major player at the conglomerate known as PORTALS. Sometime in the early Spring of 2011, he brought the idea up to me and Jake Martin of Speaker Snacks, also PORTALS, about the three of us (“us” here includes Tome to the Weather Machine, the website I co-edit with my good friend and site founder Ryan Hall) collaborating on a fest that had us each equally curating the artists, all performing at a bar venue on South Broadway called the Hi-Dive. Basically, Goldrush was going to be a blog-curated event centering around the Fall season, and we all liked the idea because it was going to give us a chance to host some of the artists we’d been most excited about over the past several months of writing. Even though many of the artists were fairly unknown to the mainstream concert-going folk of Denver, we thought that by our blogging powers combined, we could get enough people to show face and make the whole thing worth it. We were also surprised to find that nearly everyone who asked to come out and play the fest ended up agreeing to it – the response was really overwhelming, and it got a lot of people, both inside and outside of Colorado, really excited.
This year, we wanted to do the festival again, but Jake is in the process of moving to Austin, TX and Ryan Pjesky recently relocated to Brooklyn, so a bit more of the main planning and booking has fallen on my shoulders this time around.
So this is just the second one? And you’ve got Barn Owl… Tell me about the line-up.
Yep, this is the second Goldrush in two years. Panabrite’s become one of my very favorite artists over the past twelve months, and I can’t wait to hear his compositions and see his setup in person. Aloonaluna has an amazing live performance and two very impressive tapes both released this year. Caddywhompus… that band is just out of control, both on record and in concert. Barn Owl. Barn Owl is playing [and] I still can’t quite believe that. I’m so happy they were so receptive to the idea of coming out – both Evan and Jon have been really nice to chat and plan with, and I’m absolutely honored they are coming out to play the festival. This will also be their first time coming to Colorado, which is something I’m really happy and proud about and should make it special for everyone. The Colorado artists are all so great too: Alphabets, Echo Beds, Radere, Kick Majestic – along with the touring folks, the “experimental music” umbrella term is really pushed to the max with who we’ve got playing. We have analog synth stuff, industrial noise, drone, rock… It’ll be a mixed bag of music, but I still feel like it’s all bound by some kind of invisible common thread that’s tough to pinpoint. Maybe the festival itself will be like that invisible thread made tangible or something, I don’t know! One thing all of these people have in common for sure is how prolific they are with their musical and visual artwork, and how consistent and thought-provoking it all is. The Goldrush line-up is full of some of the hardest working and most creative artists out there today, all doing it for the love of music itself. Last year it was incredible to not only see everyone play individually, but also witness how they interacted with one another, traded ideas, and generally hung out. I think that sense of community is only going to grow as the festival continues this year.
What is booking the artists like?
I wanted to book a headliner that I knew would blow people away with their performance, but also an artist or group who I felt was on the level with a lot of our audience and other musicians playing at the festival. Really for the entire roster I wanted to work with people who I thought were probably a lot like me [and to] avoid working with booking agencies if possible. [I preferred to] get directly in touch and work with the actual musicians, present the idea of the festival to them, see if they were interested, and then discuss what it would take logistically to make it happen. We have ten artists coming from outside of Colorado to perform for the fest – it’s not huge, but nothing about this festival is really very “big,” aside from the basic idea of it. Everyone I’ve been in touch with has been less concerned with pulling a profit from playing and more interested in just coming out and sharing their music, as long as their costs are covered and time/energies accounted for. Since Goldrush is able to accomplish that and the artists are willing to come and play for their passion, that makes this feasible. Now it’s just up to our audience to realize and understand this is all happening, and come out and support it! It’s lucky, too, that the artists coming also happen to basically be heroes of mine.
Did you not feel like Vitamins should sneak onto the roster?
I do feel that way actually, haha. I really wish Vitamins could play, but the band has been on indefinite hiatus since Ryan went to pursue a graduate degree in Chicago, and other members of the band have been busy with various exploits — Lizzy spent the summer singing at some shows with the Flaming Lips, Matt toured extensively with Gauntlet Hair. There were whispers on the back end of getting Ryan out and putting the band back together to play Goldrush, but it just wasn’t workable this time out. Ryan should be coming back in October to live in Denver again, so hopefully things for Vitamins will be ramping back up soon! I’ve been playing drums with some friends in an older project we just recently resurrected called Breakfastes. I did feel like since I was setting all this stuff up, I might as well play at the damned thing, so I went ahead and booked that band for an early Goldrush set on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to playing because I haven’t performed much since Vitamins began the break, and drumming for an audience is definitely one of my favorite things to do. It should be a good time, we’ve been practising a lot.
Who would be on your dream Goldrush line-up? You can have anyone. Anyone.
I’m honestly really happy about the line-up this year. Last year we had a lot more space to work with and were able to invite a lot more folks, so it’s unfortunate that we’re a bit limited this time around. But there were a couple more who I really wanted to invite, but didn’t have the budget to really go through with (or it just didn’t work out on their end), like Hideous Men and Biosexual. Lee Noble was an idea… Derek Rogers, Insect Factory, Landing, Sparkling Wide Pressure… I’ve always wanted to get someone from overseas to play the fest too, like 2muchachos maybe or Tidal/Venn Rain or something. Someday.
So, what does the future hold for Goldrush?
Well, it’s a huge project, and this festival is really small compared to a lot of the amazing things I see happening around the country (like that awesome Hopscotch festival that just happened, sheesh!). But ultimately, I think it’s a worth-while venture, if only for the fact that it’s something challenging for me to set my mind to. So I think I might try to tackle it again. I’m not as concerned with the future of Goldrush as I am with the future of experimental music having some sort of living, tangible presence in our communities (especially Denver, since I live here and everything). Whether it’s me doing it or being a part of it, or whether or not it’s called Goldrush, or whatever, I think it’s important to congregate and get weird every once in a while with a group of people. I especially think it’s cool if that group congregates across long distances. Since we’re all already so global and connected all the time, it only makes sense that those connections be felt in person, too, not just cross the internet or through the mail, or in a tape player. This music is a real, living thing, and should be nurtured face to face. That said, depending on how everything goes, there is definitely a possibility for more Goldrush in the years to come. I would love to get things big enough to where I might be able to host multiple venues and things like that. Baby steps!
Oscar acceptance speech?
I want to make sure it’s noted how thankful I am of all our sponsors: the many tape and CD-R labels who contributed what they could, and some of the coolest local businesses in Denver that I know. This ain’t a “Vitamin Water Presents” type of thing, and I’m really proud of that. As a thanks, Tome to the Weather Machine has written a 28-page festival program that doubles as a zine featuring all of our sponsoring labels with a small bio and write-up on a recent release. The zine features writing by team-TOME and original design and layout by Tranquility Tapes’ Caroline Teagle. The sponsors (in case you’re wondering) are all listed on our Facebook event page.