By Erin Goss
To the uninformed observer, North Park Music Thing can look deceivingly like one big party. Yes, the booze, the music and the masses of people having an inordinate amount of fun could make it appear so but in its third consecutive year, the festival is nothing short of instrumental for the local music scene.
On August 13 and 14 the two-day music and media conference took over the Lafayette Hotel by day as it hosted a mix of conferences, and rocked the North Park, South Park and Normal Heights bar scenes by night with buzzed-worthy up-and-coming bands.
Much like the famed music festival South by Southwest held annually in Austin, Texas, North Park Music Thing served as a platform from which artists could learn and showcase their talents to industry types and fans alike. Also, eager musicians got a boost since all proceeds from the two-day rendezvous were donated to the San Diego Music Foundation.
The conference, which was primarily geared toward musicians, squeezed into two days a college degree’s worth of education regarding the music industry with discussions ranging from tips on DIY public relations to money management and touring on a budget. However, the glaring difference between “Touring on a Budget” and your old Finance 101 class was the lack of tests and degenerates snoring loudly in back rows. Instead, these seats were filled with Converse- and skinny-jean-wearing attendees diligently scribbling down notes.
Come nighttime, however, conference goers turned concertgoers and the popular “work hard, play hard” mantra seemed to take effect. All pens and pencils were tucked away as bands usurped the local bar scene and took to the stage.
At the SD Dialed In showcase, several of the bands and organizer Rosemary Bystrak got the evening rolling with a sci-fi prom theme. A standout in the costumed crowd was Alex Devereaux of Swim Party who was appropriately clad in a Darth Vader mask and chic dress tie.
“I knew sci-fi prom was the theme but I didn’t get an outfit because I didn’t have much time but I had this Star Wars hat. If I had more time I would have made a Darth Vader chest piece but I just didn’t have the time” explained the North Park Music Thing veteran.
Although Devereaux has been participating since the beginning of the festival he lamented that his only issue with the event was the conflict between wanting to showcase his own band and enjoying the festivities as a fan.
“I’m stoked to be playing but sometimes I wish I could go out and see the other bands playing,” he said. “I’d love to see Writer and Fever Sleeves play.”
As the first evening came to a close many festival goers crowded at Bar Pink as local rock band Dirty Sweet began their set at half-past midnight to a lively audience. Packed tightly into Bar Pink’s rather intimate setting, once the music got started the notoriously energetic band and fan-base were bouncing off the walls like pop rocks in a can of Coke.
Upon the close of Dirty Sweet’s raucous set I grabbed singer Ryan Koontz for a few words regarding his first North Park Music Thing experience. It came as no surprise that the musician expressed his enjoyment in participating, but as a member of a band who is seriously pursing music as a career Koontz also recognized the unique benefits of having a festival like North Park Music Thing in San Diego.
“It’s about exposure, definitely. We love playing for as many people as possible. That’s kind of the goal when you get in a band that wants to be serious,” he said.