Published: Oct 16, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Oct 16, 2012 05:22 PM
The past month has been a good one if youre a fan of local music.
In early September, I got to walk through downtown Raleigh, visiting club after club, or stages set up in the streets, watching some of the Triangles best acts at Hopscotch Music Festivals day parties: Mount Moriah, Megafaun, Red Collar, Luego, Ryan Gustafson, I could go on and on. I was able take in a whole afternoon of free local music, without even needing to buy a Hopscotch wristband.
Then, at the end of September was the Carrboro Music Festival 180 acts on 25 stages, all for free. In the eight years Ive lived around here, Ive never seen a CMF as crowded as this one was: standing-room only at nearly every stage I visited. Southern Rail and The Station were completely mobbed, with people spilling over into the Carr Mill Mall parking lot. You didnt know who was there to buy food and drink and who was there just to hear the music, and it didnt seem to matter. It was a beautiful partnership between the town and local merchants to turn their businesses into truly public spaces on a gorgeous Sunday.
It was the same down at Milltown, where I saw the Magnolia Collective play on a stage in the beer garden. My wife and I found a seat on a picnic table under the restaurants patio roof, with strangers sitting next to us and across from us. We were there for the music, and a server didnt even bother to ask us if we wanted to order anything no one seemed concerned that we were taking up seats that could have been for paying customers. Still, I was thirsty and felt the least I could do was buy a beer. Im sure there were other people like me too. The businesses were good to the festival, and the festival was good for business.
I wish I could have this experience in Durham. The Troika Music Festival shut down a couple years ago, and nothing has taken its place. Or maybe Hopscotch took its place. And maybe the Triangle has enough music festivals already, between Shakori Hills, TRKFest, ArtsPlosure, etc., etc. Maybe Durham doesnt need its own festival. Heck, the Arts Council already runs CenterFest in central Durham.
But nothing else does for Durham what Hopscotch does for the capital and Carrboro Music Festival does for the Peoples Republic. No festival exposes the public to central Durhams great music venues, and no other festival brings dozens of local acts into our downtown business districts all in one weekend. Why cant we have hundreds, even thousands of people walking around Durham, seeing what this nationally known music scene has to offer, like they were in Raleigh and Carrboro?
Look, these sorts of festivals happen only when a group of people works hard to make them happen. It would be naïve to think that just because weve got the bands and the venues, that means we should have a festival. In fact, longtime Troika organizer Melissa Thomas told the Independent last year that the Durham music scene had outgrown that festival. Merge Records has become one of the most important indie labels in the world, at the same time partnering with homegrown talent like The Love Language and Mount Moriah. Yep Roc Records recently signed The Old Ceremony. Good things are happening, and maybe were doing just fine, with or without a Durham-based music festival.
It just seems like theres still room for something to happen in Durham. As many great local bands as I saw at Hopscotch and CMF, there were plenty of wonderful acts that I didnt see. After Hopscotch started in 2010, there was talk that Troika, or something like it, might move to the spring. Why not? With Motorco and Fullsteam in the Central Park District; Pinhook and Bull McCabes downtown; and Casbah and all those bars in Brightleaf, the last Troika was really successful. The organizers deserved a break, but it would be great if some other folks would step up and try to imagine something new.
I mean, I dont mind driving to Raleigh or Carrboro for a great music festival. But weve got everything we need right here to make it happen.