Organizers designed The Art of Live Festival to help musicians, fans, concert promoters and venue owners weather St. Louis’ sparest month in live music.
“January is notoriously the worst touring month of the year for music venues and touring bands so we were looking for a way to drive traffic to St. Louis,” said Brian McCormac, 28, lead organizer and manager and talent buyer at Old Rock House.
McCormac and fellow organizers drew inspiration from January festivals organized in Chicago and Madison, Wis. The Art of Live focuses on indie rock but hosts smatterings of Americana and dramatic pop music. Featured venues include Old Rock House, The Demo, Firebird, Off Broadway and The Ready Room. The festival has two primary goals: get fans to brave traditionally cold temperatures in search of good music and introduce a new crop of nationally recognized bands to the St. Louis music scene.
“We also wanted to book bands that weren’t on people's radar and give them the opportunity to play in front of a crowd of 100 or 200 people to establish an audience in STL to the extent that they could come back later in the year,” McCormac said.
The Art of Live also pairs local acts with nationally known groups. According to McCormac this was an intentional marketing strategy, aimed to spread the word of out-of-town acts among local bands’ friends and followers.
“Without the local support, the chances of this thing being successful is probably in jeopardy,” said McCormac.
Organizers also hope the event ensures local musicians interact and network with bands that tour outside the region. Local singer and songwriter Lizzie Weber, 25, heard about the event and asked McCormac if she could be involved.
“I said Brian, I’d love to be a part of this, and he said sure!” said Weber, “it’s always cool to be the start of something.“
For Weber, the best shows are when she forms a bond with the audience. At a previous Old Rock House show, a women approached Weber after her performance, grabbed her by the arms and told Weber “You are the best thing that’s happened to me in 40 years,” in reference to the singer’s performance.
“I just remember not knowing what to say and just being so flattered because you question yourself and doubt yourself along the way, but hearing something like that grounds you and reminds you that what you’re doing is right or you’re affecting someone in a real way,” said Weber. Lizzie Weber performs Friday.
This City of Takers plays the final show Sunday night with Cloud Nothings. Singer Brandon Wann describes the band as “a bunch of punk kids playing rock and roll music.”
The group’s played the Old Rock House roughly a dozen times according to Wann, which includes opening for The Pixies’ Frank Black. He believes the group was pared with Cloud Nothings because they had the right sound for the show.
“It’s a lot of people that probably don’t got out to see local shows, and are going to get to see us and check us out,” said Wann. “It gets us to a whole audience that might not find us otherwise.
He said the group will try to bring the energy, as they always do, for their Sunday performance.
“We’re definitely a busy live band, our guitars are in the air the whole time, several guitars have been broken over the last five years,” said Wann, with a short laugh. Once the band starts playing they don’t stop until the end of their set, where they reintroduce themselves and thank the audience.
He thinks a lot of local musicians benefit from festivals like The Art of Live Festival .
“We’re getting to play a really nice venue with a bigger band and that really wouldn’t happen without venues like the Firebird or Old Rock House that really take an interest in local music,” said Wann.
Organizer McCormac said ticket sales were doing well and on pace with expectations before the festival began.
Wristbands for the festival range in price from $15-$30. Check the venues of wristband sales and individual concert tickets.