Interview: (((folkYEAH!)))’s Britt Govea discusses Winter Residency at Slim’s, his new 7″ label, and the joy of holding shows in nontraditional venues
January 10, 2011
Written by The Bay Bridged
The Dirty Projectors performing at The Historic Brookroom (with a creek running through it) @ Brookdale Lodge
The Bay Area scene is full of unique bands and artists, but a lot of great shows wouldn’t happen without people behind the scenes like Britt Govea, founder of (((folkYEAH!))). Under the (((folkYEAH!))) Presents banner, Govea has championed great independent music throughout Northern California, from the Bay Area down to Santa Cruz and Big Sur. His vision of bringing compelling bills to nontraditional venues has been a significant boon for local music fans, and you can be sure that wherever (((folkYEAH!))) is, it’s a show worth your attendance.
In January, Britt is hosting three shows at Slim’s as a (((folkYEAH!))) Winter Residency, with a bunch of great local bands on tap. January 11th features Sweet Chariot, Sparrows Gate, Montra, and Nico Georis & Matt Baldwin. January 18th is Entrance (Guy Blakeslee solo), 3 Leafs, Nectarine Pie, Moccretro, and Naoism. January 25th includes The Sandwitches, The Art Museums, The Soft Bombs, and Rachel Fannan. Each show starts at 8pm and is only $5.
Over e-mail, Britt Govea discussed his approach to the residency, admiration for his friend Will Oldham, and some big plans for 2011 (including a new record label!).
The Bay Bridged: How did the Winter Residency at Slim’s come about? It’s rare to see so many local bands and such a low ticket price at a venue that size.
Britt Govea: I was asked by my friend Dawn Holliday @ The Great American Music Hall/Slimâ€™s/Hardly Strictly Bluegrass to do a (((folkYEAH!))) residency on Tuesdays in January (11th, 18th & 25th) and one Tuesday in February (15th) featuring some bands that I thought are doing interesting things in the Bay Area with a few treats from other parts in CA thrown in too. I live in SF and I go out and see a lot of music every week and I am blessed to present a lot of music too…but I honestly never turn off when it comes to music and art. I am sort of like that Victrola Dog with my ear glued to the loudspeaker, I can never get enough. It is my passion, my life, my wife as Lou Reed would say.
TBB: Did you have an overall strategy/approach to picking bands for the residency shows?
BG: Yes, very much so. I wanted each night to have a stylistic approach to a certain sound and then to add a few artists to that night that might push that very same style/envelope. I love curating music events. It is a true passion of mine. I approach it like a chef would approach a meal he or she is preparing for close friends. There must be separate courses and each course should support and complement the next one, in some way, to bridge the evening. For instance, you would never serve two dishes of meat or salad back to back, which is why my selections are a bit more diverse. I know that some clubs and presenters have ancient rules they like to follow about booking similar bands on the same bill but that to me is playing it safe and is not what I strive or usually prefer to do with (((folkYEAH!))) events. I do not book two bands that sound like each other, in any way, to play back to back. That, for me, is boring and also lazy and only makes both bands sound less interesting. You have got to mix it but I also think you must mix it up with proper thought too. Random does not always rule, you know what I mean? Ultimately, at the end of the day, I just want to produce/present unique and memorable shows that live music lovers will enjoy and retain.
TBB: Could you talk briefly about each show’s lineup and what people might be able to expect?
BG: Talent, diversity and variety above all! I do love songs and a good song is not always super easy to find but I also love progressive soundscapes too which are clearly not traditional or structured songs. For example, I adore the songs of JJ Cale but I love the soundscapes of Cluster too. My record collection is very diverse and I hopefully reflect that in the shows I present and curate. I will say that for the (((folkYEAH!))) Winter Residency at Slimâ€™s, each night has two performers that could play on a “typical” bill together mixed with two others that, going back to the chef analogy, will clean your palate and prepare you for some other kind of spice or flavor. I am personally stoked about them all!
TBB: There are some local bands on these bills that concertgoers might not know about yet. Who are one or two bands you’re especially excited to introduce to people?
BG: I am excited and honored to be presenting and working with them all. Some of the bands are more known than others, for now, but one thing about the world of music is that it is a world of â€œForever Changesâ€â€¦as an old song and dance man once said â€œThe first one now, will later be last.â€
TBB: How did (((folkYEAH!))) get started?
BG: It began in January 2005 (six years ago) with two Superwolf (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Matt Sweeney) shows in Big Sur. Those two shows were a life changer for me. I was blessed to have come out of the gate presenting one of the most exciting and best songwriter’s in the world, my friend Will Oldham. There are just not that many artist as interesting and fun to watch evolve and grow as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. I respect his approach to all things music and performance greatly. He goes with the gut, you know that little voice within that always points the way, but not too many listen or are maybe afraid to listen. He will go down as one of the greatest artists of our time because of this approach to his art. We have a few exciting things planned for 2011 too including the launch of my new 7inch label called “Spiritual Pajamas”. The first release will be a wonderful duet with BPB & Mariee Sioux called “Not Mocked” and the B-side will be a BPB cover of a Merle Haggard tune called “Because Of Your Eyes” which could be one of the best love songs ever written. If you want to cry all you have to do is drop the needle on that song and boom, if you are human, expect tears. I was raised in Bakersfield. Merle Haggard is hero of mine and Will’s too. I am very proud to have this first 7 inch on this new label be a mix of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Merle Haggard works. It blows my mind to have the honor of getting this recording out to the public. I feel blessed in so many ways and I truly remain so very grateful for it all.
TBB: What inspired you to begin booking at places that don’t normally hold a lot of rock concerts, like the Brookdale Lodge and the Henry Miller Library?
BG: I lived in Monterey County for 11 years. There was no live music there at that time. I drove to SF and LA all the time for shows. After a few years into my time in Monterey County, I thought this place is clearly one of the most beautiful places on earth so why should it not have amazing artists perform there and visit its natural and wondrous beauty. This combined with a burning desire to see some artists and some shows in unique and different places, something other than the usual venue. I like to create an experience for music lovers where they can get out of the normal situation and leave the city with close and new friends and share a communal weekend or weekday trip and make memories that will hopefully last a lifetime. I know of some people who met at a few (((folkYEAH!))) Big Sur events and are now married, etc. It is such a treat and honor to her these kinds of stories. The Grateful Dead were clearly the forefathers of the communal music vibe. Traveling also makes the show have much more impact because by the time people get to Big Sur, or any of the other rural spaces I might present shows at, they are ready to fully be there in that one moment. They come and they listen and fully respect the performers and the performances because they have had plenty of time to chat and visit on the drive to the show. I love it when people are fully in the moment at any show but especially at a (((folkYEAH!))) show. I don’t mean I expect everyone to stare like zombies at the stage with no distractions or other things to trip out on but, on the other side of the coin, if they are destructive to the vibe that I have spent months setting up by being disrespectful to an artist or performer at a (((folkYEAH!))) show, then they will get what I call “the Bill Graham handshake” from me personally which is a handshake with cash that covers the ticket price. Then they are asked to leave and the vibe I and others have worked so hard to set lives on without distraction, as it should be. It’s a bummer when this happens which is thankfully not very often but I and others work too hard on these shows to let one or two rude and oblivious people attempt to kill the magic.
TBB: You had some big shows in 2010, including that Arcade Fire concert in Big Sur . Can you give us any hints on (((folkYEAH!))) plans for 2011?
BG: Some truly wonderful and exciting shows are planned for Big Sur and beyond in the spring, summer and fall. I canâ€™t announce them just yet but if you have enjoyed some of the artists we have presented and worked with in the past then keep a cowboy or cowgirl eye on folkyeah.com and friend us on Facebook for the latest announcements. We have been blessed to have grown with a lot of diverse, talented and wonderful artists that I am confident will go down in the history of modern day music as groundbreaking and truly innovative. For example, in 2006 The Dirty Projectors played Big Sur to 45 people. It was a mind blowing show for that very small crowd and then last Fall 2010 we presented them in the Historic Brookroom (with the creek running through it, see photo above) at Brookdale Lodge with only 5 days notice and a lot of people came out because they are clearly very, very talented and more people have now been exposed to those awesome and very unique songs and arrangements. It is classic case in point; they have their own amazing approach and sound which they have stayed true to, while tastefully displaying (not hiding) their musical road map (influences) along the way and now more people are into it. I have so much respect for that type of endurance and vision in art and music.