Boots on the ground
The Bobolobo music festival is for everyone, from punkers to cowpokes
There’s a lot of talk about the do-it-yourself ethos in music, and it’s certainly true in Reno, where there’s a ton of bootstrap-pulling to get your music heard, especially if you write all of that music yourself.
The organizers of the inaugural Bobolobo festival on Aug. 31 at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno definitely know how to DIY. With event-planning experience, but no experience in music festivals, they’re bringing together 10 bands from across the genre spectrum for a distinctive event that closes out summer in the city.
“We wanted to touch every genre that we could,” said Emily McKendricks, who with Sara Sims are two music fans who’ve decided to take a leap of faith, along with the help of some other volunteers. In fact, about two weeks ago they were already discussing dates in 2020 for a second Bobolobo, even if they don’t get the 1,000 attendees they hope to have this weekend.
And, they’re doing all of this with a festival name that is, frankly, nonsensical. It’s what they wanted.
“Bobo is my nickname by nephew Coleman gave me a long time ago,” Sims said. “And we added Lobo just because it rhymed.”
“We wanted something that was kind of catchy but didn’t mean anything,” McKendricks added. “It’s like Lollapalooza or Coachella.”
All styles served
Sims and McKendricks have been longtime friends, meeting while both were working on projects with the Good Luck Macbeth Theater Company. “We’ve both done acting for a lot of years,” Sims said.
McKendricks is also a singer with the P’Opera group, and she shares a broad musical taste with her pal. “That’s kind of how we became friends,” she said of Sims. “We’d be in her car traveling a lot, and she’d have music on, and I’d say, ’Oh, you like the same kind of music I do.’ Classical music, country music, death metal, really, we don’t care.”
Together, McKendricks and Sims have planned events before forming the Believe Events company that’s putting on Bobolobo. Their past events were more like craft-and-food functions than full-on music festivals, and they do have some root elements at this larger event, as there will be local food trucks and artists at the show. They include Breanna Brown, who is recreating her recent Art Signals painting that was vandalized in south Reno.
The idea for Bobolobo was hatched when Sims and McKendricks were discussing ideas for some kind of event at the “Believe” sign downtown, and the idea just evolved from there.
There’s also a personal reason why Sims wants to go into the music business—she was born with hearing loss, and it has steadily worsened over the years. “I will be deaf at some point, so at this time of my life I want to enjoy as much new music as I can that’s good before it goes, so I’ll have nice little memories,” Sims said with a chuckle.
Sims’ forthright and gregarious manner has come in handy when she and McKendricks were scouting bands for Bobolobo. They posted on Facebook for bands and were surprised immediately by the results.
“We had 62 bands send in music before we selected our 10, and then there were another 20 or 30 that reached out after the deadline,” Sims said. “Honestly, we were thinking, with Reno being a smaller scene, that maybe we’d get five good bands and five mediocre ones, but there were 30 out of those first 62 that I would have bought their album right now. We were really surprised and impressed by how much we had to narrow it down.”
One crazy jukebox
As a venue, Wingfield Park has played host to all sorts of different festivals and shows, but it’s hard to remember if there’s been one as musically diverse as Bobolobo. Sure, there have been festivals that cover electronica, folk, country, hip-hop and alternative music. The month-long arts festival Artown also tends to showcase some diverse sounds.
Bobolobo ups the ante, though. The most popular band on the bill is likely Pink Awful, the guitar-driven indie rock band that combines ’90s sounds with modern styles. Also in the indie-or-alterno-whatever queue is longtime Reno band Pushbox, who add some funkier beats and elements of acoustic rock to their sound.
Acoustic music is also represented by Wheatstone Bridge, a quintet that plays folk music with influences from early Americana to the present day. There’s also the duo of Steve and Raena, who add some pop harmonies to their mix of acoustic folk, country and rock.
For heavier sounds, there are two bands that more than fit that bill. Together for decades, Ostracized plays raucous metal that veers between modern hard rock and death metal’s distinctive bark. A newer band called Ozymandias opts instead for metal’s beginnings, combining doom, sludge and straight-ahead rock influences.
Daniel Lee, Ozymandias’ drummer, said that his band has played festivals before, including Earth Day and Alive in the Desert—but never on the scale of a Wingifeld Park show.
“I’ve always wanted to play here,” Lee said. “It couldn’t have been more than a week from when I moved here that I saw a band on that stage and thought, ’That looks like a ton of fun.’”
Some square pegs
And then, there are the oddballs. These are the Bobolobo bands that have their own little corner of the musical world among the 10 acts, and Reno in general.
There’s HIZ Nation, a Christian hip-hop artist who combines music in that style from several different eras. Contrast that with another act, One Ton Dually, the group featuring scene vets. The band plays straight-ahead rock with tinges of early punk and ’70s rock thrown into the mix.
Spur Crazy is representing country music for this show, and they even have their own description to help them stand out: “high energy modern country with a slight ’80s rock edge to it.”
That’s the way Spur Crazy bassist and singer Steve Rosenthal describes his band, which has plenty of experience with festivals and larger stages. “We’ve played the Wing Fest (in downtown Reno), played outdoors at Baldini’s, all over Victorian (Square),” he said.
Although they commonly mix covers with originals in their sets, Spur Crazy will only be doing their own songs during Bobolobo. Rosenthal said his band was honored to be part of the 10 bands selected from the pool of 60 or so. “I like the idea behind it, and what they did with the lineup,” he said.
The band Heterophobia is miles away from Spur Crazy as far as sound and content goes. This melodic punk band revels in writing LGBT-themed songs that are as catchy as they are button-pushing, at least for those not ready to hear the message.
With a bunch of new songs to play from a forthcoming album, Heterophobia’s bandmates are looking forward to representing their side of Reno to a diverse Bobolobo crowd
“It can only benefit the Reno scene at large if we’re able to cross-pollinate and get in front of people that might not go see a heavier show, or people that might see a heavier show and then not go to a folk or country show,” said Alex Alcantar, one of the band’s guitarists. “It gives everyone a good sampling of what’s being offered right now.”