Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Interview: Neon Marshmallow booker Matt Kimmel

By Andrew Hertzberg

Matt Kimmel is an English teacher’s nightmare. Run-on sentences, “likes,” “ums,” “you knows,” etc. He constantly uses the word “video” as a verb. Probably most offensive to those that have yet to meet him is that he is an ardent Miami Heat fan. But he’s also a hell of a booker, not to mention an extremely nice and personable guy. He was recently declared by the Reader as the “Best New Booker With an Ear for The Weird” (yes, I do believe that is a compliment). The venue in question is the Burlington, which over the past year has showcased some of the best local and national music, from garage rock to psychedelic, experimental to dance, and most any other form of rock-based music you could ask for. Kimmel now returns with the third installment of the Neon Marshmallow Festival, an event he puts on with help of Daniel Smith.

The festival this year is decidedly scaled back from previous years, but probably has the best lineup yet. Four bands a night for four days, including locals Supreme Cuts, Running and Ryley Walker, two spots by Thurston Moore (yes, that Thurston Moore), Julian Lynch, Guardian Alien and many more. The full lineup by day is at the end of this post. Advance tickets are only available in a four-day pass for $60, which includes an mp3 package with most of the artists and access to a hosted bar before the shows begin. A limited amount of day of tickets will be available at the door. Keep reading after the jump, where I talked with Matt about the history of the festival, the heap of limitless talent out there and the hiatus of his live music archive Acid Marshmallow. And if you see Matt over the weekend, suck up your Bulls pride and get him a coffee from CafĂ© Marcela’s down the street.

Windy City Rock: To start off us, tell us about Neon Marshmallow Fest, about how it started, why you started it.

Matt Kimmel: Me and my friend Dan--he did the label Neon Blossom, the cassette label in Chicago... I’d been booking some shows at my house and I became friends with him because I booked him to play...He played his Red Electric Rainbow project. And he’s talking about, you know, it’d be cool to do a festival, have these artists we don’t normally get to see, have an excuse to bring ‘em out here. And I was like, yeah, that seems like a good idea. And so we both just talked about people that we wanted to see, and that’s really how it started--the first one we booked like, 105 acts over four days at the Viaduct and it was all just stuff that we wanted to see that we don’t typically get the opportunity to see. We reached out and pretty much everybody that we asked was real positive about it. If they couldn’t do it, they were at least, you know, expressed interest, and would wind up playing a later version of it or another event, but that first one we wanted to see these people play and that was it. 

WCR: So when you first did it, it was 105 bands, and now we’re at 16?

MK: Right. 

WCR: Is there any reason for that decrease? And you’ve changed venues over the years…

MK: Sure, sure, it’s good to stay fresh and play in different places, new environments. The first one was incredible. It was really, really amazing. It was a serious experience [laughs.] For us personally, we were at the venue every day of the week before, we were there like sixteen hours each day and then it would end at 2 in the morning and we stayed and settled up 'til like 5, woke back up, went back there and it was pretty grueling. I also videoed almost every set and I played in a set, and Dan played also--it was just a grueling experience for us. But then also, just being in a venue, any venue for that long is intense. And you know, with the last one we did at the [Empty] Bottle, we figured the Bottle’s a great place, but you don’t want to be there for more than like 8 hours, you know?..The first one was great, but it’s good to have just a few solid sets that you want to see. It’s not like 16 sets is that few. That’s still plenty for a weekend. So it’s changed in size, but it wasn’t anything deliberate, it just seemed like these artists fit and we were just happy to make it work how we did. There’s some other artists that we reached out to that because of scheduling it didn’t work out, but for how it turned out, we feel like four a night is good. And it's at the Burlington with space issues and everything so it’s better to have 16 artists instead of a hundred.

WCR: Was there anyone specific that you reached out to that you really wanted on the bill but fell through?

MK: We asked Thurston [Moore] to play both times before, and he was always interested but it was just these scheduling issues, like being on tour or family obligations, so it didn’t stop me from asking each time around and eventually it worked out. That’s kind of how it’s been with all the events that we’ve done. We had Black Dice at the one we did in New York--we’ve been wanting to get them for awhile and they just had scheduling issues and it finally worked out...There’s just so much good music, there’s pretty much limitless possibilities every year, so there’s just always good stuff that we want and hopefully it works out. So far it’s been cool.

WCR: Are you still doing a New York counterpart too?

MK: Well, we don’t have anything planned right now, but New York was really receptive to it when we had the festival. It was really great. We had very little time to promote and we were here [in Chicago] so we weren’t able to do actually hands-on promoting and it was well-attended and well-received. I love New York, I lived there, and going back is the best, so we’ll probably do something else there again. We’d like to do things in other places, just to, you know, travel, bring it to other places. But we started it in Chicago and I think it’s important to keep it going in Chicago, as a regular, yearly thing.

WCR: Is there anyone personally you’re most excited about that you got this year?

MK: I’m really excited to see Container. I haven’t seen him yet. His stuff is pretty incredible. I mean, it sounds silly to say I’m excited for the whole bill but I think [laughs] I really am genuinely excited for the whole bill. I’ve seen Thurston play in solo and duo capacities and he’s like a guitar-wizard [laughs] so I’m excited for that. I’m really excited for the whole thing. It’ll be fun. I’m thinking that Container through that soundsystem [at the Burlington] is just going to be incredible. Windbreaker I’ve seen in that room before and he’s really good too. Like the dancier stuff and the electronic stuff through that soundsystem just sounds so good. And Greg Fox’s [of Guardian Alien] stuff. When I was in New York, I videoed and saw the project that kind of spawned this one, GDFX, where it was him solo, drums and effects and that was like really good, really pretty incredible. And he’s obviously kept at it since then. The last time I saw him actually I’m pretty sure it was the night that Obama was elected. There was a show at Cake Shop and it was awesome. Everyone around the entire city was thrilled. There was happiness all over the city that Obama was elected and then the show was going on. It was just a really good show and [Fox] ruled at it. Supreme Cuts are good. Everybody who’s playing is good. Delores Dewberry’s set is going to be great and Trevor de Brauw. I sound like a hype man but I’m genuinely excited for it all.

WCR: Could you go over what happened to Acid Marshmallow?

MK: I had this video site when I lived in New York and when I moved out here, I videoed pretty much every show I ever went to. It started because I was playing in a band that I wanted to video a set of our band playing, a noise band, Miami Beach and so I brought the camera to record us and I had extra tape left, and this band Slasher Risk was playing from Brooklyn--pretty awesome band, if you haven’t heard them. They’re really rad. So they were playing too and I had this extra space so I videoed their set. And I had the little blog thing before it became a video site and I just posted videos I liked, just random things, and I was like “maybe I should upload this Slasher Risk video,” and I just did it and a few people were like, this is cool, and I was like, "yeah it is pretty cool." And I just brought it the next time, and it evolved from there. I brought it out here and it was great out here because there’s just so many shows and so much great stuff going on and I built a massive archive. And I had some serious hosting issues with my host site and um, I still have a good majority of footage from all these awesome sets, I just haven’t had the time or energy yet to do it because I imagine it’ll be a couple hundred hours of uploading and tagging and writing everything up. It’s gonna happen, but as of right now, Acid Marshmallow is chilling for a little bit. But those will go up somewhere at some time, because there is great stuff that I think is important. It was important then and it’s still important and people should be able to have its resource. Any archiving is a good thing to do in my opinion.

Neon Marshmallow Fest takes place at the Burlington (3425 W Fullerton) from Thursday November 15th to Sunday November 18th. Open bar begins at 7 PM all nights; the festival is 21+. To purchase tickets and additional info, click here

Thursday, November 15th
Windbreaker (Chicago, IL)

Guardian Alien (NYC, Baltimore, MD)
Delores Dewberry (Minneapolis, MN)
Trevor de Brauw (Chicago, IL)

Friday, November 16th
Container (Providence, RI)
Julian Lynch (Madison, WI)
MV & EE (Brattleboro, VT)
Three Legged Race (Lexington, KY)

Saturday, November 17th
Thurston Moore (NYC)
Supreme Cuts (Chicago, IL)
Hush Arbors (Charlottesvile, VA)
Ryley Walker (Chicago, IL)

Sunday, November 18th
Running (Chicago, IL)
John Moloney & Thurston Moore duo (NYC)
Call Of The Wild (Brooklyn, NY)
Dick Vain (Chicago, IL)

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