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Stop & Hear the Locals

This article by Richard J. Skelly was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 7, 1999. All rights reserved.

There’s something about the word "festival"

that gives people an event mentality. Why else would several thousand

people show up last spring — at clubs they’ve been in before,

in some cases to see bands they’ve seen before — for Hoboken’s

Mile Square Music Festival, held in a smattering of clubs along Washington

Street? This year the Mile Square Music Festival takes on a new name

and a new city. Now called the Independent Music Festival, it moves

to the Hub City, New Brunswick, and will play host to more than 80

bands and individual musicians at seven New Brunswick clubs from Wednesday,

April 7, through Sunday, April 11.

Organizer Doug Forbes, who plays in a Hoboken-based pop-rock quartet

called bobfields [that’s the name, with no capitals], says the genesis

of the Independent Music Festival came about because he and others

realized there was a wealth of original musical talent in Hoboken

and other northern New Jersey communities.

"I saw that while Hoboken had a lot of really talented musicians,

there was no real collaborative effort to promote the scene,"

he says. Forbes and some friends began organizing showcases for bands,

and "that developed into people being re-energized about the local

scene." Forbes put together a compilation CD, "Stop and Smell

The Locals," which showcased the talents of two dozen Hoboken-area

rock ‘n’ roll groups.

"There was so much interest in the CD that it snowballed into

the Mile Square Music Festival," says Forbes. Last April the festival

showcased 55 groups and musicians. Forbes’ background — and no,

he’s not related to the late Malcolm S. Forbes Sr. — includes

working in marketing for a software company and more recently, doing

freelance design and copywriting. He grew up in Bloomfield and has

lived in Hoboken, on and off, for the last half-dozen years.

After leaving his day job about a year ago, Forbes began

trying to get gigs for the bobfields at Hoboken-area clubs.

"I was booking our band and just seeing a real significant split

between what bands were doing and what clubs were doing," Forbes

says. "I realized bands and clubs have to work more closely together.

The venues were just concerned with, `How many people are you gonna

put in my club?’ I realized there’s a lot more that venues and bands

should be doing to make shows better."

That led to independent showcases organized by Forbes and the "Stop

and Smell The Locals" compilation CD. Forbes has just released

a second compilation CD, "A Sight For Sore Ears," which showcases

the talents of many of the bands playing in the New Brunswick festival.

Among the 21 bands featured on the CD are Seething Grey, Boss Jim

Gettys, the Wrens, Bunt, and his own, bobfields. The "Sight For

Sore Ears" CD features bands from throughout the Garden State.

Shocked by the success of last April’s Mile Square Music Festival,

Forbes realized he had to continue the event. Last year’s festival

drew surprisingly well. "One prominent person on the Hoboken music

scene told me if I had 25 or 30 people show up at each showcase, I

should be happy. Last year, 90 percent of the shows were sold out,

and it was a dramatic success, far beyond my expectations," he

says.

"I could not believe it, it was ridiculous how many people showed

up. I think people just take on this event mentality," he argues

in explaining the success of last year’s effort.

Forbes says he envisions three parts to this evolving music festival.

The first part was last April, when musicians from Hoboken and northern

New Jersey came together to share resources and help put the "indie"

music community on the map. The second part comes next week, when

bands from all over the state will converge on New Brunswick "to

put New Jersey on the map as a place that is vital to original new

music."

Hopefully, he adds, "the third stage will be to open the door

to bands from other states next year." Forbes says he plans to

open up the music next year as well, to broaden the scope of the festival

and make it a multi-genre gathering of singer-songwriters, blues bands,

reggae groups, traditional jazz combos and Latin jazz bands. No plans

are cast in stone for a location for next year’s Independent Music

Festival, but the location of New Brunswick’s clubs — most within

walking distance of one another — makes it a strong contender.

"I want to open up the doors to other indie musicians. This will

not be the typical corporate music fest," he adds, but notes that

he’s encouraging as many independent record company executives as

possible to attend as many showcases as they can next week.

"I’ve been to the CMJ and the Intel music festivals," he says,

referring to two large gatherings held in New York City clubs, "but

I really want to run this in a lo-fi kind of way. I want to keep it

very innocent and stay away from the corporate monsters who would

gobble this thing up and spit it out."

"I do not want it to become something that is strictly advertising

or industry-driven," he adds, noting the success of big record

industry gatherings like Austin’s South by Southwest Music and Media

Conference, held every March, have a place in developing up-and-coming

talent and reintroducing forgotten acts from the past. "There’s

a place for that," he stresses, "but that’s not something

I’m really interested in exploring."

— Richard J. Skelly

Independent Music Festival, at the Court Tavern, the Budapest

Cocktail Lounge, the Melody Bar, the Plum Street Pub, Doll’s Place,

Harvest Moon, and Golden Rail, New Brunswick. Information hotline,

201-963-9076.

More than 80 bands and musicians, including Jim’s Big Ego, Mary Ann

Farley, Blind Man’s Son, the Mad Daddys, Evelyn Forever, Suran Song

in Stag, the Rosenbergs, Love Among Freaks, Love Gas, Trim, Robin

Renee, and Stacie Rose Band. $5 per night; $15, all-access pass. Wednesday,

April 7, through Sunday, April 11.

For complete schedule, visit the IMF website at www.independentmusicfest.com.


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