Mesa Festival Gives Regional And National Acts Exposure - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Mesa Festival Gives Regional And National Acts Exposure

November 1st, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Mesa Festival Gives Regional And National Acts Exposure

By Laura Latzko

Contributing Writer

Through gritty performances, one-on-one interactions with fans and heartfelt original music, local bands and musicians can reach audiences in an evocative way.

The fourth annual Mesa Music Festival from Thursday, Nov. 8, to Saturday, Nov. 10, brings together about 260 up-and-coming artists and bands to perform for local audiences.

Founder Indian Antao said the event lets music fans see bands as they are developing and building audiences.

“The cool thing about our event is you get to experience talent when it is fledgling,” Antao said. “The thing I loved the most when I was working in the business was seeing Nine Inch Nails play to 80 people, seeing the band that nobody knows who they are, seeing the progression.”

Visual artists will display and sell their work during the festival.

The festival is modeled after the Jersey Shore Festival, another music festival Antao organizes.

This year, musician, writer and actor Henry Rollins will give a keynote speech at 8 p.m. Friday at the Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 N. Center St.

Rock ‘n’ roll photographer Bob Gruen will share his insights on the music business on Friday evening.

The Dreamers, a cosmic rock trio from California, will headline on Saturday evening.

Last year, producer, musician and TV star Randy Jackson was the keynote speaker, and rock group P.O.D. was the headliner.

The bands and artists this year represent a range of genres, including rock, hip-hop and acoustic music.

Antao, a promoter, record company owner, A&R representative and executive producer with 30 years of experience in the music business, said the festival appeals to audiences with different music tastes.

“You walk into a venue, and you don’t like what you hear. You can walk two doors down and check out another band. You can experience tons and tons of talent, all in one weekend,” Antao said.

Often, music fans discover new groups while wandering around Downtown Mesa.

The artists perform in traditional and unconventional venues.

Buildings, such as bank offices, empty storefronts and a cookie shop, are turned into pop-up performance venues. Antao said this lets local businesses become more involved.

“It’s really cool, the way it brings the community together,” Antao said.

The festival will have stages for larger bands on Macdonald Street and in front of the Mesa Arts Center.

The vibe of Downtown Mesa drew the organizer to the area when he was organizing a football activity during the Super Bowl. He found Main Street to have a vibe like the music scene in Austin, Texas, in the 1960s.

“Mesa is getting this cool underground music scene,” Antao said.

Local, national and regional groups take part in the festival.

This year, artists will travel to Arizona from as far as New York, Maryland, Georgia and Canada.

Performers go through a submission process to be chosen. Last year, 4,000 groups and musicians applied.

Antao said to be chosen, bands must stand out in some way.

“We curate in a way that there’s something there. It might need some more polishing. It might need to evolve or grow, but we pick some good talent,” Antao said.

During the festival, the performers can take workshops from and meet one-on-one with industry professionals.

The workshops touch on topics such as how bands can distinguish themselves, build fan bases and navigate the business side of music industry.

Antao said even though musicians have tools at their disposal, such as social media, it can be harder than ever to have a presence in an oversaturated music industry. This makes meeting with industry professionals even more important.

“I think what happens when they do the one-on-ones is they actually create relationships, and that’s the most important thing in the music business,” Antao said.

Artists also network with each other during the event, leading to collaborations after the festival.

Sunday at Noon, a local group in its third year at the festival, discovered its touring partner, hip-hop group Team Markus, during the event. This year, the local rock band went on its first national tour.

Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Jack Vanderpol said the festival has given him and his bandmates more experience in interacting with people in the music industry.

“As far as meetings like that, you learn how to conduct yourself and what to ask about,” Jack said.

The band’s influences range from ’70s rock to more modern groups. Jack describes the music as high-energy rock with an ’80s vibe.

“I would say it’s in a stadium-rock phase right now, where everything is big sounding,” Jack said.

Since it started more than three years ago, the band has had several lineups. Jack and his brother Nate Vanderpol, the band’s drummer, have been the mainstays.

Jack started playing the guitar at age 6, and Nate began learning the drums at age 8. By the time they were in their teens, they were performing together at local venues.

The four-member group, which also does local events such as the Ostrich Festival, released its first full-length album, “Beat Up & Bitter,” in September.

During the Mesa Musical Festival, the group will perform new and reworked originals from the album, such as “Honey,” “Dirty Mouth,” “Like the Last Time” and “Thunder.”

Jack and Nate write most of the band’s music. Jack said his brother’s influence is evident in many of the band’s songs.

“With Phil Collins, his music is very on-time. It’s very syncopated. Our music turns out the same way on songs that Nate writes. They’re well-timed and rhythmic but also loose,” Jack said.