I’m blowing the dust off this blog to get some choice words off my chest. I might step on a few toes, but I think something needs to be said.
Yesterday, I was perusing Facebook when I came across local band Rio Bravo’s page. I dig those guys and the music they make. They put on a really great live show and I think they’re going places. Their status was thus:
“Our Azalea Festival show got canceled. Make sure to tell the Azalea board that you hate them.”
(For the unaware, Azalea Festival is arguably Wilmington’s biggest tourist draw, it usually happens around the first week in April.)
Now I’m not one to aimlessly fling hate at people without getting the whole story. Thing is, Rio Bravo has excellent music and usually draws a large crowd, so I was curious as to why their show got cancelled; and, for that matter, who made the cut to play at this big event. Were other local rock bands? Were they big-name stars? Who?
After browsing the Azalea Festival website, I found the schedule for the concerts that will be held on the main and side stages downtown (aside from Darius Rucker and The Avett Brothers).
What I found made me irritated.
For a local festival, several of the bands were from out of town. Most of them were cover bands. And, after browsing the cover bands’ websites, I found that most of them had the same songs in their setlists.
So not only are the promoters bringing in bands from out of town to play a local festival, they’re playing other people’s music.
Now I’m not an original material purist; Blockade Runner has been known to slip in a cover or two during our shows. But the notion that we need cover bands to come and play the same songs on the hour every hour is just ludicrous. If I wanted to hear the same classic rock songs over and over again, I’d just turn on the radio, not go all the way downtown to see pudgy middle-aged dudes in matching Hawaiian shirts play those songs.
Out of all the acts listed on the Azalea Fest’s website, I could only find a handful of acts that were both local and original. Now what does that say about our city’s view on the local music scene? The fact that they have to bring in acts from out of town to play cover songs is a very strong vote-of-no-confidence in the local music scene. In fact, it just screams DEAR LOCAL BANDS, YOU DON’T MATTER.
I’m not going to discount the work that some of these cover bands have put into being a band and playing live. But there are equally talented artists in Wilmington working just as hard and writing original material that’s fresh and exciting. Some of these acts include (but are not limited to) Rio Bravo, Beta Radio, The Stonewalls, Luminosity, Bella Vita, and (shameless plug coming) Blockade Runner. Instead of giving them exposure to a wide array of captive audiences from around the eastern seaboard (and other places in the US for that matter), the Azalea Fest booking people doomed them and many other local acts to playing in the same local spots and battling for the same gigs. This, in effect, squashes any chance we have to build a local scene in Wilmington.
I’ve heard all the time that Wilmington used to have an awesome music scene. I want to build it up again, and hiring out-of-town cover bands is not the way to do it. Think of it this way: Which do you prefer, old and stale food, or something freshly made and prepared? Once you’ve seen one cover band, you’ve seen them all.
Dear Wilmington concert promoters, stop playing it safe and pandering to the baby boomers. You want a vibrant music scene? Take a risk and give local, original artists a shot.