It's an understatement to say that New Times music editor Martin Cizmar has the ability to piss people off. Everyone from Ted Nugent to Frankie Muniz has had harsh words for Martin. In January, Cizmar wrote a blog post with the rather innocent headline, "Do House Shows Matter?" expressing his concern that the Valley's thriving DIY house-show scene undermined struggling small venues like The Trunk Space and the former incarnation of Modified Arts. Within days, the post amassed 120-plus comments — some of them intelligent critiques of Cizmar's point and others hilarious, bizarre accusations of Cizmar being a racist Holocaust denier.
The folks at notable house venue Ye Olde Bike Saviours apparently decided that irony is the best revenge, naming their three-day DIY-centric festival "Cizmarch Madness." The event features excellent touring acts like Blessure Grave and Twin Crystals, who are on their way to Texas, as well as South by Southwest-bound AZ acts like Pigeon Religion. But not without a hitch — the event is scheduled against the Trunk Space's Rampage Fest, hosting its own slate of Austin-bound acts, including No Bunny, So Cow, and Abe Vigoda. Cizmar took the competing shows as validation of his original assertion, but not everyone sees it that way.
"I can't agree that house shows undermine the existence of venues like Trunk Space, Phix Gallery, and Yucca," says Select Shows promoter Josh Rodriguez, who booked Rampage Fest at Trunk Space. "When I read statements like that, it makes me want to believe that one doesn't fully understand how concert events on a small scale [or DIY level] are run. I do not feel insulted as others might in those circles, only because my first assumption is that there is definitely a lack of understanding."
Rampage Festival is scheduled for Friday, March 12, and Saturday, March 13, at the Trunk Space, a licensed venue. Cizmarch Madness is scheduled for Saturday, March 13, through Monday, March 15, at some dude's house (until the cops or neighbors shut the show down).
Rodriguez is an interesting case. In addition to booking venues like Trunk Space, Rodriguez regularly books house shows as well. "Not that there's anything wrong with being informed or having the opportunity to inform others," he says. "But I feel the unfortunate turn is that those feelings and understandings aren't exactly correct — from what I've read and seen — and are being published to a circulation of at least 300,000, and half the people reading it actually believe it. Though the half that could believe what they're reading instead of learning for themselves usually don't participate in going to house shows or shows at the Trunk Space, Phix, or Yucca [anyway]."
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As it turns out, the folks at YOBS have attempted to schedule their shows early enough that music fans could split their time and attend both shows.
"A lot of the time-arrangement efforts came more on YOBS' end, which is something I deeply appreciate," he says. "I love this scene, but Phoenix is definitely not Austin, nor is it Los Angeles, New York, or Montreal. Though First Fridays may be packed with thousands of people, Phoenix does not have the support for local and national music like those cities. Everyone involved in these projects have participated in producing events on this scale — not just during SXSW — for a long time . . . Making it affordable and asking the touring bands to combine events into 'mini-fests' was the best possible solution, including the adjusted schedules, which should be considered icing on the cake."
Regardless of your stance on the house-show debate, both festivals feature awesome acts. When it comes down to it, isn't that what it's all about, regardless of whether they're rocking a stage or a living room?
My suspicion is that folks at YOBS operate on a standard very similar to Rodriguez's: "I only do shows for bands I like, and it makes me feel good when people are stoked about a band I like. It means a lot."