MFNW and TBA: Why Make Us Choose?

Two of our town’s greatest festivals continue to vie for an overlapping patronage, rather than reschedule.

By Anne Adams September 26, 2011

Hi, Musicfest. Hi, TBA. I know the last few weeks have been hectic for you, but now that the flurry of activity has blown over, let’s talk. What are all these townsfolk doing here with me, you ask? Well, I guess you could call this an intervention. Please, sit down. Where should we start…?

Show of hands:
~ Who bought a Musicfest wristband?
~Who bought a TBA pass?
~Who would’ve bought both, if the festivals didn’t happen at the same time?

Okay, organizers, go ahead and jot this last group down in your “debit” column. Do we really have to keep doing it this way?

We don’t doubt you could furnish myriad logistical reasons why the days you’ve chosen to overlap are the prime, perfect 4, preferable to the other 361 that the calendar offers, but understand that when you indulge your preference for these dates, not only do you make consumers choose, each of your fests also pays an artistic and promotional price.

TBA loses the music war to Musicfest. Rumor has it Musicfest makes its bands promise not to play any other gigs in town for about a month—so TBA, you can’t book the same bands as they do (which excludes some pretty sought-after acts from every genre). Meanwhile, the A-list bands that you do seduce, often don’t draw as well as they would, were they not competing with a townfull of other top acts that a Northwest concert juggernaut is better equipped to promote to its music-minded followers.The normally popular post-punk group No Age, for instance, hauled their lighting rigs and stacks of amps into TBA’s the Works for an almost-empty show. “Musicfest,” people murmured. At TBA’s opening night, I ran into a few local musicians. One guitarist had just finished a MFNW gig and trucked down to have a drink at TBA, but his other 4 bandmates hadn’t bothered with the trip; they were too caught up in the other fest. And despite his efforts, he’d still missed the Vockah Redu show. “I wish we could do both,” he sighed.

Musicfest loses the culture war to TBA. Okay okay, Musicfest, we know you have all kinds of music—but TBA still offers access to more kinds of attractions, including gallery installations, plays, dance performances, and freaky-deaky art spectacles like human candelabras, 24-hour monologues and well-dressed women clawing at clay cubes. When you force arts affiliated entities to choose—you nudge us toward the festival that covers more cultural breadth. Maybe the concert crowds are enough for you…but wouldn’t you like a few more wristband-buyers? Wouldn’t your bands like little more press? Why let world-class performance artists steal any of your bands’ thunder—and why force acts who walk the line between the music and performance worlds, to choose a side?

Organizers, Don’t tell us why, just ask yourselves. If the two festivals still happen at the same time next year, we’ll trust it’s for some very complicated and legitimate reasons. But suffice to say, many of your culture consumers and arts appreciators still won’t understand.

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