Let the beat drop
Starting on Nov. 5, Off Beat Arts & Music Festival hits Reno with 90 bands at 14 venues over a four days
How many years has the idea for a Reno music festival been floating around in the ether? A few years, a decade? It's one of those great ideas that it's hard to believe hasn't happened yet—like hoverboards, flying cars, or those camera contact lenses that Jeremy Renner wore in that Mission Impossible movie.
Well, the wait is finally over. Starting on Nov. 5, Off Beat Arts & Music Festival hits Reno with 90 bands at 14 venues over a four-day sonic hydroplane known as the extended weekend.Community service
It's ambitious for a first-year festival, but that's partly because its creators are strategic. In addition to back-to-back and stacked musical performances, the founders of Off Beat—Baldo Bobadilla, Rémi Jourdan and Flip Wright—have built their music festival on the backbone of a thriving visual arts tradition.
Off Beat is partnering with Art Spot Reno to leverage the Reno Art Walk and its patrons. By piggybacking on the monthly art walk for its debut, Off Beat gains a second entry point for festivalgoers and adds 100-plus visual artists and 20 venues to its line-up. On top of the art walk, there will also be a Midtown Mural Tour that features work by street art fixtures like Joe C. Rock, Bryce Chisholm, and OverUnder (Erik Burke). Wherever you go during the festival weekend, art will be unavoidable.
Music will also be everywhere. From local garage punk to nationally known indie rock, chaos reigns in the genre department. There will be DJ sets until 4 a.m. There will be old favorites like the Plastic Caves at Jub Jubs and the Fantods at the Loving Cup. There will be Lila Rose at Studio on Fourth. UK-based genre-bending musician Janaka Selekta is coming into Reno. As is Groove Session. There will even be a closing performance by Con Brio, the funk group fresh off Austin City Limits Festival, where it was just christened “the best new live band in America” by Popmatters.com.
“It’s a very unique lineup,” said Jourdan, festival co-founder and owner of Entertainment Management Group. “This lineup represents more or less what Reno is all about.”
So, what is Reno all about, according to the line-up? It’s musically diverse, prone to wandering, and community-centric to begin with.
Off Beat also boasts some seriously hyphenated styles that defy easy labeling. There’s the soul-R&B-grunge-electric rock sound of Reno’s own Failure Machine. Or the hip-hop-jazz-reggae-rock stylings of Bay Area band Forrest Day—or as the band members refer to their music, “attention-deficit-disorder-rock.”
Did I mention Lila Rose is coming? The closest anyone has come to defining her style is the feminist publication, The F Word—“goth R&B,” a description that’s still frustratingly vague. The Schizopolitans are all the way into avant-garde territory. And at least four different kinds of gutter-skate-garage-Riot Grrrl-punk bands watch over the festival at all times like Reno’s angry and unholy patron saints.Wander land
Knowing that you're going to have to choose your own adventure in order to have one at all, it's a good idea to have a game plan, even if your plan is Reno-pub-crawling your way from dive bar to hipster bar to professional music venue all weekend.
Another option is to ask yourself what other music festivals you’ve always wanted to attend and build your own custom tour.
Want to go to Riot Fest? Start with punk rock storytelling at Holland early on Friday, end with the Liver Scars at Shea’s on Saturday night, and hit up the Flesh Hammers and the Shames in between. Like dance music? Rest up during the day for your own Electric Daisy Carnival with DJs like Scott Pemberton, Coop Da Loop and Heidilicious. Lollapalooza? See the Reno-pub-crawling-no-plan-plan. How about Coachella? Wear your most expensive flower child clothing and hit the biggest headliners. And if you’re a High Sierra Music Festival sort of person, check out musicians like Mel Wade, Herbert Bail Orchestra and the Bonfire Set.
There is a distinct local bent to the festival line-up that reflects both necessity and design. And proximity. Reno is small, which makes for a tight knit music community.
“There’s a sense of camaraderie that I haven’t seen in larger cities,” said singer-songwriter/DJ Kate Cotter. “It really is a unique situation as far as I’m concerned.”
But perhaps the most obvious outcome of a heavy local billing is financial savings. With 70 percent of the musical artists from the Reno area, Off Beat is able to put on a killer show without giving away barrels of money in its first year.
“[You’ve] got to understand it’s not a festival like Life is Beautiful where you’ve got 80,000 people, and they have 30 million dollars and a budget to do extra stuff,” explained Jourdan. “We’re grassroots.”
But even for a grassroots initiative, Off Beat founders feel strongly about paying the bands for their time. The bands might not be asking for millions, but perhaps the festival is a small step towards making their musical careers even more viable. In any case, Off Beat is investing $30,000 into paying performers in its inaugural year—which is not nothing for a start-up festival. Out-of-town bands that normally make three times as much as Off Beat could offer were more than happy to participate.
“The pay, none of that really matters,” said Peter Daily, lead singer of Los Angeles-based Royal Band in a recent phone interview. “We’re just excited to be up there and be a part of that. If [Jourdan] had asked me to come up and volunteer, I would have come up and done that too.”
Every artist participating in Off Beat also gets their own page on Tunetrax, a new music platform that was developed by Jourdan for musicians and listeners to access a band’s bio, contact, songs, video, social media and stats all in one place.
Any profits from this year’s festival will go towards Up Beat, the arts and music branch of local non-profit Future Kind. Begun three years ago by Off Beat co-founder Baldo Bobadilla, Future Kind has evolved from a nonprofit that took on clean water and library projects in Bobadilla’s Paraguayan hometown of Puerto Casado to a Reno-centered organization that is just beginning to provide art, music, and wellness education. Aimed towards low-income students, Bobadilla hopes to “expose them to something that they wouldn’t be exposed otherwise”—formal creative education: guitar lessons, art lessons, and programming that includes yoga, permaculture and culinary studies.
It’s a big vision but then again, so is a 90-set music festival in downtown Reno. So go ahead, make your weekend and ruin your Monday for a good cause.