Review: Music, ideas and artists converge at the Homemade Music Symposium in Ybor City
Tampa Bay’s local music garden can use some cultivating, so kudos to the Homemade Music Symposium for its thoughtful and thorough tending of homegrown talent during its big cross-platform event last week in Ybor City.
Facilitated by the nonprofit Artists and Writers Group and led by networkers extraordinaire David Audet and T. Hampton Dohrman, the third annual five-day event offered seminars, concerts, interviews and other events, both entertaining and informational, at Hillsborough Community College and various spaces throughout Ybor City.
I myself got to speak on a media panel called “Meet the Press: Music Critics and Bloggers Sound Off.” On Saturday at 11 a.m., I and Leilani Polk of Creative Loafing, Ryan Bauer of the Tampa Tribune, Bryan Childs of NineBullets.net and Jason Green of Wednesday-Music.com fielded probing and pinpoint relevant questions from moderator Joran Oppelt, a local musician, podcaster and marketing director for Creative Loafing.
Considering it was the first year we had bloggers on the panel, several of the questions centered on electronic media issues, such as our unanimous preference of digital formats for submissions of photos and other materials to the press.
Roots music blogger Childs provided some comic relief with several references to his love of alcohol. He said an artist once sent him a CD packaged with Jack Daniel's bottles. He added emphatically, “I listened to the CD.”
After speaking on a panel, I listened to some interesting tidbit-filled panels composed of other folks involved in local music and culture, including one on getting noticed in the broadcasting/television realm. It also sent home the salient message: Get your digital act together. Mark Thorn, who handles WTSP-Ch. 10’s live music segments for Studio 10, told amusing stories about celebrity guests, including one involving sophisti-metal gods Queensryche, who performed an acoustic set in the WTSP studio.
Probably the most relevant, thought-provoking and, well, unwieldy seminar was the “Building Tampa as a Music Community” keynote panel. Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena — who sat on a panel with Lee “Flee” Courtney of WMNF, Tony Weinbender of No Idea, Joel Cook of REAX and Oppelt of Creative Loafing — had some pointed criticism of the current city of Tampa administration and their “ridiculous rules” regarding outdoor concerts and restrictions on events.
Sometimes it felt like the discussion went in circles, going from government involvement to the DIY ethos and back again. But everyone agreed that gaining a successful arts and music identity involves both elbow grease and support from local bureaucrats.
Saul-Sena was articulate in her urging of musicians and music scene supporters to get their voices heard by local government and speechified a little about how promoting the arts in Tampa was a major part of her platform in her race for County Commission.
Later, promoter and DJ Deacon, a.k.a. Durium Jones, moderated a panel on being a successful hip-hop performer in the Tampa Bay area. It included Rudy Rude, Jinx and DJ Lazy. I was a little disappointed in this one. It felt a little inside-baseball, geared mainly to aspiring mixers and producers. It didn’t speak to the seminar’s title, “Beyond the Backpack,” which made me curious about how we could bridge the gap between mainstream and underground hip-hop.
Dynasty’s recent CD release party at New World got a mention, and that could have been a great springboard for discussion about how to get folks to hip-hop shows, but the focus remained on production. There’s a reason people don’t usually flock to local hip-hop shows. There’s also a reason why 200-plus attended Dynasty’s event. Those are points that needed to be explored.
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During all the heavy-duty indoor chitchat, outdoor music fun also took place. On Saturday, the morning market folded into the symposium festivities. Saturday night offered stellar entertainment on both sides of Eighth Avenue.
The New Granada Presents Showcase (featuring bands on the New Granada label) saw New World Brewery packed from the counter to the wrought-iron gate. Rec Center, King of Spain, Zillionaire and Candy Bars exhibited more energy and evolution than ever. Though different in style, each has in common a certain mellow, arty cachet, but they all kicked it up a few notches more, proving there was some ass behind those beards and black-frame glasses.
Candy Bars performed new tunes that they’re currently recording, songs that sounded big and theatrical like Arcade Fire, a remarkable feat considering they have half as many people. Cellist Melissa Grady made her big official comeback with assured majesty and grace, calling into question why she ever left in the first place.
Also on Saturday night, Creative Loafing’s CL Space across the street at Ybor Square showed off what could be a promising and cozy music venue. Stellar locals Cosmic Gospel Hour, Florida Night Heat, Jim Morey Band and November Foxtrot Whiskey tested out the acoustics in the space, and I’m giving it a big yay.
Tight and catchy hip-hop duo the Basiqs performed at the Roosevelt. Their performance followed a battle with the unfortunate name, the “Beat-Off.”
With all that the symposium had to offer, did I come away with renewed faith in our scene? Yeah, probably. Not because I learned something new, but I got to see a lot of what I’ve already come to love about the Tampa Bay music scene: talent, diversity, mutual respect and camaraderie.
I’m not really concerned if Tampa ever becomes the next Austin. I always found our inferiority complex to be quite endearing.
It’s like DJ Lazy said during the hip-hop seminar: “In Tampa, it’s easy to make music because nobody is f---ing with you, and it’s hard to make music here because nobody is f---ing with you.”
— Julie Garisto, tbt*. Photo: Nicole Kibert / elawgrrl.com