Paul Moffett

Down On The Corner
By Paul Moffett

The summer festival season really kicks off around these parts with Derby, even though it's not a music fest per se. This matters quite a bit this year, at least from a musician's point of view, as the economic situation will have an as-yet-to-be-determined impact on festivals. Some festivals elsewhere in the country have already been hammered, with several notable events simply scrubbing this year's stagings due to severe drops in sponsor money.

The just-ended Abbey Road on the River, however, seems to have dodged the bullet as far as fans are concerned, with an attendance of 33,000, up from 25,000 last year. Nevertheless, festival promoter Gary Jacob stated that "Corporate sponsorships are down ninety percent since we moved the event to Louisville from Cleveland in 2005," but that "we must secure corporate sponsorships in order to commit the festival's return to Louisville in 2010."

Looking ahead, the Forecastle Fest, July 10-12, which has been ambitously promoted by founder J K McKnight, will also provide a clue as to the state of economy, as it draws from a much wider demographic than does AROTR. McKnight, whose mother is in the fund-raising business, has been very successful at garnering corporate money for his event, but attendance remains the most important standard.

Peak Summit, set for June 20, has also been beefed up, now involving fifteen venues along a three-mile stretch of Frankfort Avenue, plus a large number of bands. The Peak Summit is more of a back-pocket kind of event, surviving by dint of Koch's persistence.

Bluegrass Festivals abound throughout the state; they will happen this year, at least, but the betting is that some won't survive another season. Watch for reduced ticket prices as each approaches; it'll be a buyer's market. Enjoy it while you can.

One of the other clear indicators of economic hard times is the proliferation of open stages and jam sessions at clubs around the city. In the twenty years of publishing LMN, there have never been as many every week - approching a dozen - as there are now. Open stages are low-cost alternatives to paid musicians and seem to offer the benefit of drawing customers (the performers' friends and family) who might not otherwise show up. Whether should a plan is sustainable is open to question, but it certainly doesn't bode well for the future careers of many of the players performing for free.

The Louisville-based indie record company Departure Records has signed Scott Mertz. Mertz has been in several Louisville bands over the last few years, notably Cornbread Mafia, The Shinerunners, Southside and Scott Mertz and His Panel of Experts. A solo project featuring all-new material and surprise guests is scheduled for a Fall 2009 release. Departure Records also has Edgehill Ave. on its roster.

In the Things You Didn't know About Louisville Dept., this tidbit: Crosley Radio, a manufacturer of radios since the earliest days of commercial broadcasting, is located at 1220 East Oak Street in Louisville. While retro design in radios can interesting for decor, what is perhaps more interesting to the music fan is that they also make record players that convert LPs to CDs directly. The company recently was involved as a sponsor of the local version - with ear X-tacy - of National Record Store Day.

For the record, Ruth Ann Compton won the 2009 Porsche Boxster that was raffled off by the Kentucky Opera.

Over at the Louisville Orchestra, Chief Executive Officer Bradley L. Broecker stepped down at the end of May. The LO's chief operating officer, Robert Birman, has assumed the CEO position.