Steamstock: An Antiquarian Exposition
Go behind the scenes of one of the biggest steampunk music events yet.
October 7th. Richmond, California. The sun will set over a renovated, waterfront factory playing host to an ambitious festival event. Vintage brick walls will resonate with the sounds of another time roaring from two stages' worth of the biggest bands in steampunk music. Multi-story steel and glass walls will catch the glow of dazzling performers and dancers entertaining a crowd that will, no doubt, be a visual treat in and of itself.
This is Steamstock, and its affable organizers are Brian Gardner [BG] and Alyssa Rosenbloom [AR], both highly experienced event promoters and aficionados of anachronistic music. Now they share their history of triumphs and troubles, and showcase what lies in store for this epic new festival.
Note: The list of bands to the right are those which have a profile here on Steampunk-Music.com. For a complete listing, keep reading! Now, on to the interview!
SP-M: Your team members are no strangers to putting on music events. Could you tell us a bit about what you've done in the past?
BG: Well, it started with our 2nd Anniversary in 2009. We decided to go big and did a huge show with Lee Presson and the Nails (who are playing as part of Steamstock). Back then, I was the DJ, the MC, the Dance Instructor and the host. As time went on, I started bringing in friends and other professionals to support in roles where I wasn't as good as they were.
Long story short, eventually we decided to go BIG and book Abney Park for the first Burton Ball, which included Vagabondage (who are playing as part of Steamstock); that's where I met Alyssa.
AR: Ball of Cthulhu was my first time helping Brian, mostly as a go-for and with green room stuff. But pretty soon he figured out I could do more than hang tentacles. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of those days... (not really!)
SP-M: Steamstock is one of the first festivals dedicated to steampunk music, and it's a big one. What inspired you to push ahead and create such an ambitious event?
AR: Mostly Brian is crazy. Well, really, this is an idea Brian had been bouncing off me for a while. I thought it was a great idea but maybe too big for us to put on. I mean, who wouldn't want to see a ton of awesome steampunk musicians in one show? But Brian is a guy who makes grand visions into realities so he forged ahead and talked all of us into sharing his vision. The result is becoming something far more amazing that I ever thought was possible and I'm so excited.
SP-M: With steampunk music still somewhat in its infancy--and with many people, even inside the SP community, still doubting its very existence--what do you think defines what is (or isn't) steampunk music?
AR: I have very definite opinions about this subject, so much so that I built a whole blog and podcast (Behind The Steam - http://behindthesteam.wordpress.com) around the idea along with my co-host Kristin Baker. I've always thought that for it to be truly steampunk music, you had to reach back for inspiration from the music of the past, and that can be music from all over the world, and combine it with a modern elements like rock or punk or electronica. The main question I ask all the steampunk artists I interview is how they would define steampunk music and the answers are all over the place. But I think steampunk music is more than a particular sound, or lyrics, or visual aesthetic. It's an attitude towards music that, when done properly, is an intellectual combination of past music stylings, present inspirations (yes, even dubstep), and the sounds of imagined futures that tell a story of some sort. But the beauty of steampunk music is its amorphous quality. I hope it is never defined in any real sense, to be honest.
SP-M: You've got some very well known artists aboard. Thomas Dolby. Vernian Process. Abney Park. How did you arrive at the lineup, and the venue?
BG: A bunch of different ways. Mostly we asked all of the artists that we've worked with in the past if they wanted to do something really huge. It all started when Craneway Pavilion (http://www.craneway.com/) approached me and said that they'd like to host a Steampunk event.
The Craneway Pavilion is this HUGE building made of metal and brick. It's an old Ford Motor Factory. And I mean OLD. It's PERFECT for a Steampunk festival. It's got walls made of almost nothing but glass that look out over the Bay and the sun's going to be setting and The Blue Angels are going to be off in the distance.
AR: Well, if you are going to have a massive steampunk music festival then you have to ask Abney Park, perhaps the most well known steampunk band. We are also fortunate to have Vernian Process as a local band so they were an easy add. I've been dying to see Frenchy and the Punk live so I "convinced" (i.e. said, please!) the team to add them to our lineup, taking Steamstock nationwide. Good Co brings in some variety with their killer electroswing and Lee Presson and the Nails round that out with their full sound swing band. We filled in the rest of the lineup with amazing local steampunk bands including Blue Rabbit, Vagabondage, 5 Cent Coffee, etc. Hydrogen Skyline is a late add and a great story. They heard about Steamstock and wanted to be part of it so bad that they're actually raising the money to travel here themselves (see http://www.indiegogo.com/steamstock for details), just to be part of our show!
SP-M: Steampunk shows don't usually stop at the music. What kind of visual, dance, and performance treats can your audiences expect?
AR: How did you know? We will be having aerialists, dancers, fire, and visual media up on a huge video screen. But I think the real treat is going to be the audience themselves, all decked out in their steampunk finest. That's really one of the beautiful things about a steampunk show, that the audience is just as much a part of the visual experience as the bands.
SP-M: Which bands or performers are you personally most excited about seeing?
BG: I don't play favorites. I don't book bands just because I like them, but I also don't book bands that I don't like. In fact, the only thing that I don't like about this show is that I'm throwing it and won't be able to be dancing for 10 hours straight!
SP-M: Please tell us a bit about the venue itself, and the list of vendors you have coming aboard.
BG: So far, the outlook is amazing! We've sold almost 200 tickets and have some AMAZING vendors. You can see the full list here: http://www.steamstock.org/store.html.
SP-M: Do you plan on making this a yearly event, or possibly taking it to other locations?
BR: We'd love to make this a yearly event, but everything depends on how well this year goes. As far as taking it other places... after suffering a huge loss due to the snowstorm in New York, I'm a bit shy about taking things on the road. I'd rather build a HUGE show here than try to take a small show touring. That said.... we've done it before, so I'm not against the idea either. But, that would be in the future. First we do this year. Then we think about what comes next.
SP-M: Besides visiting www.steamstock.org, where can one find the latest information and ticket information?
SP-M: Thanks for the time, and good luck to you and your team on this epic undertaking!