The Dirt on Scapescape, Baltimore’s Newest Summer Music Festival

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    Maybe because I want to look forward to when the oppressive heat begins to give way to the cool of the early fall, I’ve decided to focus on one of Baltimore’s newest late summer festivals, Scapescape. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Baltimore tradition of Artscape send-ups (e.g. Starscape, Ratscape, Whartscape, etc.), and the festival was first organized last year filling a void left by the demise of Whartscape in 2010. But Scapescape’s main organizer, Dave Underhill, is careful to emphasize that the Wham City organized festival only inspired Scapescape in part.

    Either way, Underhill’s -scape continues the tradition of oversize, local-band-and-artist-driven summer blowouts, occupying stages inside and outside of the Windup Space and Metro Gallery, as well as various art galleries, August 30 – September 2. Of the 50-plus bands already announced (more to come!), Wye Oak, Celebration, Dope Body, and Arbouretum are among the bigger names. Unlike Whartscape (which I promise to stop mentioning), Scapescape draws from exclusively local talent.

    I interviewed the festival’s main organizer, Dave Underhill, who offered a little more insight into Scapescape’s beginnings, as well as what we can expect this year.

    What prompted the first Scapescape? Was it the end of Whartscape?

    Actually, what prompted the first Scapescape was the impending closure of the Gspot.  My friend and co-organizer Reuben Kroiz, who founded the venue, wanted to orchestrate a blowout festival to send it off.  He had just recently been to see my now-defunct band the Suits and asked if we wanted to play this with our friends in the now-(criminally)defunct band We Used to Be Family.  Since we were the first he asked, I offered to do one better and help organize the entire show.  As we were in a bar, also present were Dan Deacon, Ed Harris of Big in Japan, and Brandon Arinoldo of Sri Aurobindo.  I asked all three if they wanted to play a festival for the Gspot.  All were willing, and the show snowballed in size from there.  So a lot of credit goes to those guys for helping us get started.

    How will the second Scapescape be different than the first?

    For one thing, we’ve lost our wooded retreat that was the Gspot property, so instead of patches of forest, the Jones Falls, and a defunct mill, the setting will feel much more urban.  We’re going to be right in the middle of the city surrounded by local businesses, many of whom are involved in some way.  Another obvious contrast is that we’ve expanded from just one day to four.  I guess the biggest difference is just volume: more music, more art, and an expanded incorporation of the facets of Baltimore culture.

    Who organizes the festival?

    The core of the organizing team is made up of four dudes – myself, Reuben, our friend and badass drummer Adam Smith, and Jimmy MacMillan, who manages Friends Records.  Jimmy came aboard this year and we’re extremely happy to welcome Friends.  They have a great label and are just wonderful, wonderful people.  Also instrumental in the process are Sarah and Guy Werner of the Metro Gallery and Russell de Ocampo of the Windup Space, our friends without whom this would not be happening.  I should also mention the mounds of help given to us by Ben Stone and Mike Schecter of Station North, two guys instrumental in the neighborhood’s “rebirth” as a cultural hotspot.  There are about 10 other people running this thing, but these are the key figures.

    Microkingdom playing Scapescape 2011

    How many concert-goers do you expect?

    It’s hard to say how many concert-goers will show up.  We attempt to make the show as affordable as possible, so of course the more we can do that the more people we expect.  Last year we had something like six or seven hundred in attendance, and this year we expect more due to the length of the fest, the highly conspicuous location, and the fact that the Grand Prix will be bringing tourists in for the weekend

    Looks like you got a lot of local sponsorship. How did you swing that?

    The funding was secured by Station North Arts & Entertainment, who put on the Final Friday events in the neighborhood.  James Swainbank, an artist who exhibited in last year’s Scapescape, organizes the Station North Arts Festival with Russell and Ben, and tipped me off that they were looking for a special Final Friday event to cap their festival.  We were already planning to bring Scapescape to Station North this year following the demise of the Gspot, and the two festivals seemed like an obvious match to both us and the neighborhood associations.  And I must give a commendation to our sponsors, they are doing immeasurably great things for Baltimore.

    Was there a learning curve planning the first one? Do you feel more equipped this time around?

    We learned a lot the first time around.   We put the show together in less than two months, and by no means should it have gone as well as it did.  It should have been a complete clusterf***, but everything somehow went better than according to plan.  Every act that played that day turned in one of the best performances I’d ever seen out of them.  The chips sort of fell into place around us.  It really did feel fated to happen.  But as we had never organized a festival before, this taught us how to do it.  Not that it’s easy now.

    When do tickets go on sale and where will people be able to get them?

    Ticket info will available soon.  I can’t say too much about it, but this is not a traditional ticketed event where there’s just one gate to pass through.  It will be spread out over a neighborhood and there will be lots of ways to experience it.



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