Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Song Festival


It was like the old days.

Last night, at Kulak's Woodshed, I announced the forthcoming NoHo International Song Festival. Getting back together with Paul Zollo this past week has brought back a lot of memories of our days working National Academy of Songwriters. The Acoustic Underground series that we created and produced, along with Dan Kirkpatrick and Blythe Newlon, had a big impact on the music scene at the time because people competed to get into the program, and when you compete, you get better at what you do.

Some people hated that it was a competition with prizes, because, ultimately, we all know that art is subjective and what may seem like the "best" one year feels old the next.

What I have seen, however, in the year or so since I began volunteering on camera three, is growth and character and personality emerging from the scene down at the Woodshed. The thing is that Paul Kulak does his best keep the place going, impossibly difficult for a place that isn't, really, a business, but is a labor of love music hang-out.

But it's up to the songwriter community to really make it into something worthwhile. After all, the Woodshed is a place devoted to great music. Great songwriting.

So, remembering the lessons of the past, which culminated in an "Acoustic Artist of the Year," which birthed the great Dan Bern, among other wonderful artists, my feeling was that we needed an event which would bring together the best of the best, and encourage everyone to be on the best game.

Here is what I said:

Tonight we announce that in the Spring, Kulak's Woodshed presents the first NoHo Int'l Song Festival. From this point on we're, all of us, collectively, going to choose the best of the best songs that are coming through the Woodshed.

The goal of the festival is to put a media spotlight on our scene. But first, we have to create that scene, which we're doing and have done, and we have to name it and celebrate it.

Paul Kulak has been documenting the singers and songwriters that both come through here while on the road, and who are on the scene locally, now, for the past 10 years. And this year, we want to make it easier to find the best of the best, so we're putting on a song festival, hopefully in conjunction with the NoHo Arts Festival over on Lankershim in the Spring of 2010.

Many of you think I'm a nice person. But, no. I'm vicious and cutthroat (said with a smile). Every night that I come through that door, I have one goal, and that's to be the best songwriter in the room.

I hope is each of you also have this same goal. In fact, I only love one thing more: NOT being the best songwriter in the room. Because when I see excellence, it reminds me what excellence and greatness look like, and it inspires me to be that good. And If you're the one who beats me that week, look out. Cuz that means we're throwin' down. I'm going to come back the next week to make you up your game.

If you wonder why you haven't been noticed by the media before, it's because they don't give a shit about you and and you aren't news. Nobody cares about a lone singer/songwriter in this town. But a scene, a community that has character, that's a news story. That's something they will write about. Here are the two things you need to do:

1. Come in here every week, upping your game, writing the best songs of your life. Come to the open mics, work it, rehearse it. Be a part of this scene.

2. Listen to the other songwriters and identify for yourself the best songs FROM THEM you've heard every night. Then go up to that person and tell them how much you like that song. But notice each other.

See, songwriters are notorious for not being able to know what their best material is. So, you, me, we, collectively, the songwriters and volunteers of Kulak's Woodshed, have to know what the best is. We are all, together, going to make this festival work.

3. Join the social media groups we've started online at Facebook and ning.com. Start uploading your videos and mp3s, and then listening and interacting with each other.

And that's it. If you have any more questions, I don't have answers. You now know everything I know.
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