South Park Music Festival | 09.07-09.06

The South Park Music Festival—now in its third year—has grown from an underground word-of-mouth fest to a full-blown event.

 

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Yes, it's the South Park of Comedy Central fame (though, to be precise, the town is actually called Fairplay and it's located in South Park County). No, a group of fourth graders doesn't rule/terrorize the town (though it's debatable whether or not a donkey once did). Yes, it's the fastest-growing and most talked-about indie rock festival in the country. And with good reason.

Set 10,000 feet above sea level, 20 miles south of ski mecca Breckenridge, the South Park Music Festival—now in its third year—has grown from an underground word-of-mouth fest to a full-blown event. This year, big-name acts asked to play the festival; it wasn't as much a celebration of unsigned as independent (and sometimes not even that). Still, the music was great, the surroundings beautiful, the networking sublime—even if the weather was cold, rainy, and dreary.

We spent a lot of time just outside Fairplay proper, at the lodge. This was where the panels took place, running concurrently both upstairs and down. There was a full spread of food (all vegetarian, much to P.'s delight) and booze in the basement (don't even ask me how many PBR Tall Boys I had this weekend. Oi. But, thankfully, for whatever reason, the altitude staved off any possible hangovers I may have been cursed with had I been back home. Gotta love that mountain air, eh?), not to mention a slew of industry people inside and out with whom to schmooze, network, and catch up. Panelists included journalists and publishers, bloggers and promoters, talent buyers and label heads—oh, and did Iharlot mention Jello Biafra? Yes, the former Dead Kennedy was there in the flesh, and gave us all perhaps the most quotable line of the year. In speaking about his preference for telephone or face-to-face contact over e-mail, Biafra quipped, "It wasn't that long ago that living in a world of imaginary friends was considered a mental illness." Take that, you MySpace queens.

Music-wise, PLAYBACK:stl hosted a Friday night showcase just up the road a bit in Alma, at the South Park Saloon. The staff there couldn't have been more welcoming; the sound man made all our acts sound even more amazing than they already did. Honestly, I have to set the scene for you: This is the mountains. The musicians are playing at an altitude of 10,000 feed. Guitars go out of tune without warning. Voices give out as oxygen is in short supply. Singers pant in between sets.

But not our bands; nope, they threw it down and made fans and friends in that room. Our thanks to the following six acts for rocking us—and rocking with us—that night: Extra Blue Kind, Gooding, Jason Michael Thomas, Geoff Koch, Thank God for Astronauts, and Vonnegut.

Other musical highlights included the always-fabulous Cameron McGill, Alaska's native son Matt Hopper, Margot frontman Richard Edwards, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, Those Young Lions, and Otis Gibbs.

At the closing-night after-party, festival organizer Matt Fecher pulled me aside and said, "Did I do better than Josh?" He meant, of course, Josh Baker of Midwest Music Summit (where Fecher cut his festival teeth). I hesitated, weighed the festivals. But Matt had the mountains, Josh. What could I do but nod? Matt had the mountains.

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