Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our Lawrence Field Day Fest Preview: Organizer Cameron Hawk of The Dead Girls Gives Us The Inside Scoop!

When an absoultely scorching heatwave descends upon the country, scenesters begin to crave a music festival so they can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their sweaty brethren and take comfort in rock and roll.  Luckily for LFK, Cameron Hawk from The Dead Girls is bringing the festival right to our doorsteps this summer, featuring 23 local and regional acts!  The first annual Lawrence Field Day Festival kicks off Thursday with a pre-party at the Jackpot (featuring Stephen Egerton of The Descendents--yep, that's right!--and Drag the River and Stiff Middle Fingers).  Then the Festival proper hits the Bottleneck on Friday and Saturday.

Here are your essential links:

The Lawrence Field Day Festival official website is here
The Facebook event page for the festival is here.
And Lawrence Field Day Festival is on Twitter over here and promising "Mystery Prize" giveaways (we suspect the prize is a PBR but who knows? It might be a date with The Dead Girls!).

We chatted with Cameron this week about the origins of Lawrence Field Day, some of the festival's best bets, and the wacky adventures of The Dead Girls. We love Cameron's strong opinions on "town vs. gown" and his provocative thoughts about the state of the music industry and various "scenes."  Enjoy, and we'll see your sweaty faces this weekend. 

Richard:   So tell our readers how the Lawrence Field Day Festival originated, how it got its name, and what all our readers can expect to witness during the festivities?

Cameron:  My band the Dead Girls went to SXSW for the first time in March. We were there on the last day of the festival and, as I was walking around Austin, I found it really hilarious how many bars had flyers posted for events such as the “Good Riddance Party,"  for example. Tons of Austin locals sported shirts saying “Please don’t move here”. I started thinking about all the bands and people I have talked to over the years about SXSW, and how many of them had said stuff like, “Oh, that’s a waste of time, such a clusterfuck, pointless,” etc. Of course I never listened, because I just wanted to fucking GO, you know? But when we finally got there and experienced for ourselves how much of a clusterfuck it actually WAS, and I started seeing all of this “good riddance” propaganda, it all totally made sense – I realized, Austin doesn’t want us here. SXSW is not the highlight of their week – the highlight is when we all finally LEAVE and they get their town back and can breathe again. I think Lawrence can relate to that, though obviously on a much smaller scale, in terms of our relationship to KU. I have lived in Lawrence for almost 12 years, and even though I am not technically a “townie”, I feel like one sometimes – especially when the KU students come back to town for a new semester and, all of a sudden, traffic sucks all day long, people are driving the wrong way down Tennessee or Kentucky multiple times a day, and the streets are clogged with students who have the singular goal of getting wasted enough to blur the time together until they can go back to wherever it is they call home. Not many events get booked around the current time because the students are gone, but I saw LFDF as an opportunity for those who call Lawrence home to CELEBRATE that. It’s supposed to be OUR field day from all of that riff raff.

Aside from that, LFDF is a way to show appreciation for the insanely huge amount of great music we have in the area. Some would say the biggest problem with Lawrence music is show attendance, and I would definitely agree it’s a major one. But it doesn’t help to post passive-aggressive stuff on your Facebook wall to guilt people into going to your shows. It also doesn’t help to book the same local band as opener for all your national acts, especially if it gets to the point where the same local band is playing upwards of 4 times per month. Relationships across the entire music industry are strained these days, and if you are a promoter and you trust a band and are confident they will draw a crowd, you’re going to give that band more opportunities than other bands. That is logical. But in Lawrence, it’s getting to the point where the same 4 or 5 local bands are getting all the good shows. Not only do people get sick of watching the same bands, but nationals see it as Lawrence not having much of a scene. The result: not as many people come out to shows, and not as many national acts come through Lawrence. It’s not like I think LFDF is going to solve these problems, but over two days at the Bottleneck, we will be showcasing 23 local and regional bands, many of which have never played in Lawrence and most of which don’t get a lot of good opportunities, even locally. The fest will at least put some younger bands onstage in front of a new audience, and maybe some of them will catch enough attention to score shows here in the future.

Of course, it is a summer party, so there will be all sorts of other shenanigans – field day activities, soul caricatures, ticket and prize giveaways, NERF wars, indoor bar hockey, a kissing booth, and some special guest hosts, just to name a few.

Chip:   I can only handle a limited amount of sweaty scenesters, so can you give me a few tips on bands that are likely to play absolutely “can’t miss” sets at this festival. 

Cameron:  I’m truly excited for all of them, but I was incredibly happy to get Radkey from St. Joe on the lineup. They are a punk trio of super-young kids (the Radke brothers) who have just been tearing people new ones all across the region recently. They already have an impressive resume, which includes opening for Bad Brains. They play Saturday at 10:40.

One of my favorite local bands of all time, The ACB’s, are playing Friday at 11:35. Their sound is pretty much straightforward indie pop, but they just have an unmistakable knack for writing killer tunes with great melodies, and are an awesome live band. Their last album, Stona Rosa, was my #1 Album of 2011 on my music blog, Record Geek Heaven .

I was also really psyched to get Major Games (Saturday, 11:35pm), who I think are the premiere Can’t-Fuck-With-This-Band in Lawrence right now. They have only released one EP, but have already toured a bit with The Get Up Kids and have opened for major acts such as Marnie Stern. No band can follow them, which is why Approach (Saturday, 12:30am) will be closing the night after their set. I think that works, because Approach is a one-man wrecking crew who just knows how to USE a stage. You put him up there, and he instantly has control of the room.

If you want to see new blood, definitely check out White (Saturday, 6:40pm), a band of 16/17 year old kids who beat metal heads twice their age at their own game. Also look for Field Day Jitters (Friday, 8pm), the new project of Dave Spiker from Ruskabank, if you want to dance a bit.

Richard:   Let's talk a bit about your own band, The Dead Girls.  The band seems to be racking up a lot of “awesome” points over the years:  opening for KISS!; rocking the Adventureland soundtrack at the Replay; Melin and his air-guitar championships.  What’s the next level of awesomeness going to be?  Perhaps portraying an 80’s hair band in a Hollywood biopic? 

Cameron:  As much as we would like to, I don’t see that happening any time soon. We were rejected as Stacie Jaxx’s backup band in Rock of Ages, and Melin and Colby are still distraught over that. But until we can get something like that off the ground, we have plenty to keep The Dead Girls occupied in the coming months (and Melin and Colby always have their Night Ranger cassettes). We were a featured act in The Chevy Music Showcase, who recently came through KC to film short docs on some great area bands (watch ours here along with this week’s featured band, Making Movies). We recently recorded a live session at Daytrotter, which we plan to make available at the end of August. We just found out we have been nominated for our 4th Pitch Music Award, this time in the Rock category, which is really exciting.  Though we have won two in the past, they were for the Pop category, so we’re looking for that extra bit of validation as a rock band. However, we are up against Cowboy Indian Bear, and they will probably win because they rule. Lastly, we just sent our third full-length album, titled “Fade In / Fade Out”, out for mixing, and hope to drop it this fall, or in early spring 2013.  

Chip:  I have to admit: I always kind of liked your band’s original name, Dead Girls Ruin Everything, which seemed both annoying and vaguely offensive.   Tell us why the name got changed?

Cameron:  For a few reasons. A couple people in the band just flat out hated the name. For me, the most obvious reason was that it was too long. We were right in the heat of that time when it seemed like every “rock” band had to have a name that was like a sentence in itself, you know? And I guess we didn’t feel like we had a whole lot to do with many of those other bands, so we wanted to distance ourselves from that. Plus, we felt like everyone called us The Dead Girls anyway, so to make it easier on those people – and ourselves – we just shortened it. Sorry to disappoint you!  If it makes you feel any better, shortly after we changed the name, Dave Eggers (writer of the screenplay for Where the Wild Things Are, as well as novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) wrote that Dead Girls Ruin Everything was one of the best band names of that year. Yet another thing to add to our list of brilliant career moves.

Richard:  The Jackpot pre-party for the Field Day Fest offers up a bona fide punk legend, Stephen Egerton of the Descendents.   Which local artist playing the festival  do you think is destined to be a future legend?  I’m going with Scary Manilow of Sextapes.

Mouthbreathers already released a 7” on In the Red, one of the most legit active (truly) indie labels at the moment, and with how much they tour, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they blew up soon. As I mentioned before, Radkey has already opened for Bad Brains, and I think their cumulative age is less than 40, so they are most definitely on track for greatness. In my humble opinion, Travis Arey (of Stiff Middle Fingers) is the best front man in town, and he hasn’t even been doing it for that long – he just has this natural ability to work a crowd. He also plays bass in Panda Circus and is a man of many talents, and I know he’ll be doing great things in the future. As for Scary Manilow, yes, I can definitely see him taking off – he has such a strong personality that it’s impossible NOT to notice him; although from what I have heard recently, his legend has more to do with destroying microphones than anything directly music related.

Chip:  Why the hell is Dead Girls not on the bill for this festival?  Surely there’s going to be a surprise appearance, right?
Cameron:  I wish! One of the reasons I could even accomplish ANY of this stuff this summer is because Dead Girls are on break until the fall – our other guitarist/songwriter JoJo is currently visiting his lady friend in Spain and will be gone until mid-August. We’ll be back Saturday, August 25th (the weekend after KU classes start) playing with one of my favorite current bands, Broncho from OKC, at the Jackpot.  It’s cool though, because the break has also given me tons of time to work on various other music projects, of which it seems I need about one new one every three months to keep my sanity. Two of these other projects – Many Moods of Dad and Stiff Middle Fingers – will be playing LFDF. 

Stiff Middle Fingers is a kind of wayward punk tribute – our sets are half originals and half classic punk covers, so band nor crowd never get bored!  For a while there, before we HAD originals, we actually did entire sets of Descendents songs, and we will have the pleasure of playing a few of those with Mr. Egerton on guitar for the Thursday show. He’s also going to have a score of guest musicians/singers, including Eric Melin on drums.  And Steve Tulipana (of Season to Risk), Chad Price (of ALL), Jon Snodgrass (of Drag the River) and I will all be doing guest vocals on a score of songs from Stephen’s 2010 solo album. I’m soooooo pumped about that, and pretty nervous actually. 

Many Moods of Dad is made up of former members of my old band Podstar, and we play music that some have described as a mix of Weezer and They Might Be Giants. This is our first show as a newly-realized band – we played a few shows years ago, but didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we are finishing up work on our first album, which features a 15-minute mini rock opera (that I like to think of as a mini-Zen Arcade). We’ll be doing our debut performance of that on Friday at 840pm.

And here are the set-times for the Fest.  Get ready to rock, LFK!

Time Table (all times PM)

Thurs, July 5th
Stiff Middle Fingers 9
Drag the River 10
The 7 Degrees of Stephen Egerton 11

Friday, July 6th
Sona 6-630
Extra Ordinary 640-710
Jabberjosh 720-750
Field Day Jitters 8-830
Many Moods of Dad 840-910
Fuma 920-950
Radar Defender 10-1030
Panda Circus 1040-1125
The ACB'S 1135-1220
Mouthbreathers 1230-115

Saturday, July 7th
Sex Tapes 4-430
Black on Black 440-510
Awestrich 520-550
Dismantle the Virus 6-630
White 640-710
Robocopter 720-750
Dean Monkey 8-830
Deco Auto 840-910
Empty Spaces 920-950
Doubleplus 10-1030
Radkey 1040-1125
Major Games 1135-1220
Approach 1230-?


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