The Untitled Interview #137: Starring David Andler (BiMA.fest)

David Andler is what you might call a Renaissance Man. Musician, music label…and festival mastermind. The Baltimore Independent Music & Arts Festival (otherwise known as BiMA.fest) is once again nearly upon us, and yours truly is delighted to be heading up to Baltimore once again to check out what David and his helpers have put together. This year looks pretty tasty, friends, so don’t miss out. Below, David took some time out of what I know is a crazy schedule to answer any and all possible fest-related questions. Oh, and he also offers to buy us all beer. Which definitely adds to his awesomeness.

Fuzzy Logic: What made you want to go forth and put BiMA.fest together?

David Andler: It was my hope to bring together all the Baltimore and regional musicians that we’ve worked with for so long in a way that would both to get attention for Baltimore bands for the rest of the country and also be a positive event for people that live here. My plan was that with a very diverse festival of a substantial size that we could unify the various music scenes all together...even if it was just for one weekend a year.

FL: What's your favorite BiMA.fest memory thus far?

DA: Seeing and hearing the band Tennis play their song “Baltimore” to close their set on Saturday night of BiMA.fest 2010 was pretty awesome. It was the last show of the festival, it was packed, and it’s my favorite of all their songs. I had just walked across the street to the Hexagon Space from the Windup Space and all my responsibilities were essentially over.

FL: How did you build on last year's fest in terms of planning and scheduling and such for this year?

DA: The structure of the event this year is basically the same, except we have bigger bands and better overall shows. It took a while to figure out how a way to do it that would be really fair to all the bands and worthwhile for the clubs, yet would still allow us to create a very inexpensive pass. Last year a three day all-access pass was $49. This year we expanded the event to be four days, including Thursday to Sunday, and we’re starting a lot of the Saturday events much earlier. We also brought the all-access price down to $39 for all four days, which works out to only about 32¢ per band. It’s a pretty sweet deal, considering some of the national acts that are playing this year.

Part of what also made this year easier was that I didn’t have to explain the concept to the clubs again. The Ottobar, The Windup Space, the Hour Haus, CCAS, and The Depot were all part of it last year, and our friends at Golden West, Frazier’s, Joe Squared, Cyclops Books, and the Sidebar were happy to be asked to participate this year.

FL: What do you want festival goers, especially first-timers, to come away with after experiencing BiMA.fest?

DA: That Baltimore is a great mecca for a lot of different types of music; indie rock, punk rock, noisecore, metal, hip-hop, experimental jazz, neosoul, Americana, name it. A lot of incredible artists have come from Baltimore over the last few decades, but most of them have had to travel the world to get acceptance and credibility. Bands in places like Austin, Chicago, and Seattle have it a lot easier because people flock to those cities annually to see live music. Baltimore does already have a few successful events that cater to very specific genres of music (MD Deathfest for Metal and High Zero for experimental music), but very few people realize just how many great bands there are here playing in a huge variety of styles.

I went to school in DC and lived in the DC area for nearly 6 years...and I barely visited Baltimore at all during that time. I wish I’d known back then how much was going on here. I was very involved with the DC scene at that time, but when I moved here I was stunned by just how amazing Baltimore’s scene was...I had been less than an hour away and there was so much going on here that I had been utterly unaware was happening. So my hope with BiMA.fest is to help other people make that discovery too...that Baltimore is a place that should be specifically known for live music.

FL: True or False: You're already thinking about BiMA.fest 2012.

DA: True. I’m mostly trying to decide whether to move it to the 2nd or 3rd weekend of September next year, to make it slightly easier for people who are starting classes around the time we’ve been having it the last two years, and to make it a bit easier to bring in some national bands. A lot of bands start their Fall tours at the beginning of September, so it’s been harder to get them to come out for August shows. That will also make it easier for us to include a few more venues.

FL: If you could have any band (that's not already playing of course!) at BiMA.fest this year, who would it be?
DA: I think it would be The Hold Steady, but Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, and GBV were also asked this year. Our good friends in Wye Oak and J Roddy Walston & The Business were both all set to play but bizarre schedule and contractual conflicts came up and prevented it.

FL: What's been the most difficult aspect/biggest hurdle in sustaining BiMA.fest?

DA: The only serious hurdle we’ve had is that last year some people mistakenly associated what we were doing as being a continuation of a very unsuccessful event that happened for a few years in Baltimore. But most of them have since realized that BiMA.fest is nothing like that other event was, that there are great bands playing and that it’s a really good vibe overall.

Other than that, it’s a lot of work but it’s a really enjoyable challenge for me to organize, and I’ve had great help from the Morphius staff. Branden Funkhouser once again designed most everything for the site and all our posters and printed materials. Janne Mosser helped coordinate promotion and volunteers and handles Twitter feeds. Kris Heath worked as our artist liaison for about about half the shows, as well as supervised our interns, and managed the site. And my good friends Gary Barrett (of the band Notions) and Serge Baptista (of the band Nervous Impulse) both put in a lot of work asking bands they know to apply to showcase or specifically asking them to play on a shows. And plenty of other people help in various ways, including my wife who puts up with the absurdly long hours I work during July and August.

FL: Anything you'd like folks to know about the fest that they might not already know?

DA: This year one of our most important sponsors is Yuengling, and they’ve basically hooked it up so we can do 2-for-1 Yuengling at every venue throughout the entire festival. And they’re providing beer for the BiMA.fest VIP party this year so people will drink entirely free there. I’ve been really impressed with how supportive they’ve been of all that we’re doing and all the bands playing this year. Other than that, it’s pretty easy to get here from DC, Richmond, and Philly. Most of the venues this year are walking distance from Penn Station, and half of them are less than 4 blocks. There’s a free bus called the Circulator that takes you basically right to the doorstep of the venues that are slightly farther. It runs nonstop. Pretty rad if you ask me.

I hope to see you and your readers there. Introduce yourself and mention this article...I’ll buy you a drink!

BiMA.fest runs from August 25th-28th in Baltimore. Check the site for all pertinent details.


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