I’ve had the opportunity to attend several music festivals this year. Most were quite horrendous from a business perspective. I won’t name names, but suffice to say that these Tri-State ventures haven’t had much luck with the combined evils of Mother Nature and an economic slump that just continues to get worse. From torrential downpours and lightning storms to overestimations for space, arguments over trademarks, parking, band payments, vendor issues and more, I’ve watched these “grassroots” promoters try turning every open field into the next Bonnaroo or Woodstock, and they’ve been fairly consistent disasters.
That’s why I’m a big fan of the Liberty Music Fest. As an industry guest who was there for the very first launch, I have to say that last year’s festivities displayed absolutely none of the common defects of the usual festival settings. The Liberty Music Fest utilized the combined efforts of three of Pennsylvania’s smoothest rising businessmen and did so with both style and logical sensibility.
If you speak to Jim Thorpe, Brian Cronin or Vince Volz, they’ll likely tell you that the Liberty Music Festival was born not only out of a quest for personal growth, but also from the frustrations of witnessing so many poorly thought-out events in the PA/NJ/NY area.
The Liberty Music Fest relies on quality over quantity. Instead of having 10 stages scattered all over, weak vendor shipwrecks out in left field and bands getting light draws because of high ticket prices or too much being scheduled for one time slot, LMF has honed the second annual festivities down to 70 artists at two multilevel locations (JC Dobbs and Twisted Tail), and they have spread their activities into an easy, four-day time frame. When I look at the common sense that has gone into this festival, I shake my head in disbelief at the guys who bet everything on the grandiose idealism of a Don King spread.
Festival co-producer Brian Cronin tells me, “When we decided to do Liberty Music Fest, we wanted to feature prominent music and venues within walking distance of each other. We want to give people a variety of music to choose and not worry about driving all over the place, especially if they choose to be drinking. This is our second year presenting the music festival, and we had over 250 submissions to choose from. Not only did we carefully choose the geographical location and the music, we also took our time and chose great industry professionals to educate musicians and help take their craft to the next level.”
Thorpe, Cronin and Volz rely on a focused, realistic goal that has spelled success in everything they’ve launched to date. If you look at the listed accomplishments of the individual players on their site, you see how it affects the overall picture of this forward thinking team.
Jim Thorpe has been in the music industry for over 20 years. Club owner, musician, promoter, artist manager, talent buyer and director, he currently serves on the board of the Philadelphia chapter of the Recording Academy. Thorpe is also known as a talent buyer for The Legendary Dobbs and is in his 11th year at the Dewey Beach Music Conference, handling the industry panels and artist selections for showcasing. Along with Volz, he started DVT to display quality talent throughout the city. In addition to being a business partner at The Grape Street Pub (‘95-‘05), Jim has put on live events at Brownies 23 East, The Trocadero, The TLA, Khyber Pass, Middle East Club and countless others.
Brian Cronin covers the business side of things quite well. He is the owner of Mirror Image Media, a one-stop source of media reproduction and merch. He became the publisher of Origivation Magazine in 2007 and is the current publisher of That Mag. He is the founder of the “InnerCircle,” a networking event for industry professionals in the music, media, fashion and film industries. In addition, he is an artist manager, events promoter, and also a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Recording Academy.
Vince Volz has been a music promoter, artist manager and talent buyer in Philadelphia since 1999. From ’07 until its closing, Vince was the talent buyer for Doc Watson’s. Along with Jim Thorpe, he is the current talent buyer for The Legendary Dobbs and co-founded DVT Events to provide quality music events throughout the area. In addition to Dobbs, Vince consistently books live events at The TLA, Tin Angel, Dave & Buster’s Dockside Bar and The Grape Room. He currently works exclusively with 93.3 WMMR and Jaxon’s Local Shots. All of these individuals have the practiced plans of action as a common denominator, and as far as festivals go, it’s money in the bank.
The talent for this year’s festival matches the team that put it all together. From national recording artists to local heroes and Tri-State favorites, the list of performers leaves no musical stone unturned in the quest for cutting edge sound. Several rising Philadelphia bands are of intense focus this year, and that includes groups such as Glim Dropper, The Black Stars, Royal Noise, Evolv, The Jackson Rider, Music From Another Room and many, many more. High profile New Jersey artists joining this year’s event include Only Living Boy, Stolen Rhodes, Kid Felix and Tony Tedesco & Full Fathom Five. National acts abound, and featured groups such as Atlanta, Georgia’s Nine Times Blue take the stage as does Annapolis, Maryland’s Sweet Leda and Sami Grisafe Band from Chicago, Illinois, just to name a select few.
Industry panels also make a popular return with topics ranging from radio to social media promotion, legal and how to chase down the press. Special guests such as Lou Plaia, founder of ReverbNation, George Roskos from Architekt Studios (Sevendust, Candlelight Red), Vic Steffans from Elm City Music (Adreneline Mob, Stephen Kellogg) and even yours truly will be among the distinguished panel of advisors laying down sound visions for those looking to sharpen their business edge.
The nightly VIP parties go from 6-8 p.m. and feature free beer (sponsored by Star Hill Brewery) and unlimited possibilities for those out to network new friends and influence people. This is just another great combination of fun and work that gets you where you want to go in the shortest and most stress-free way possible. Hey, it’s great to approach industry guys that want to hear from you.
Because Liberty Music Festival is presented in a concentrated area, there should be minimal down time and maximum entertainment value. The South Street setting is always an extra blast and the nightlife never shuts down.
So take a weekend away from the irritating doldrums of beach sand in your crack and tourist traffic jamming up the town and join the crew at the Liberty Music Fest down on South Street at JC Dobbs and Twisted Tail in Philadelphia. JC Dobbs is located on 304 South Street and Twisted Tail is right around the corner at 509 South 2nd Street.
The Liberty Music Fest begins on Thursday, Aug. 15, with a kickoff party, and goes until Sunday night. For more information on the schedule, the players, the panels and the parties, head over to libertymusicfest.com.