Taking Stock In Terrastock

The 7th Terrastock Festival will happen in Louisville, KY June 19-22. Taking place in the gorgeous Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center the festival will feature 40 bands/performers and the lineup is incredible. (to wit: Windy & Carl, Damon And Naomi, MONO, Wooden Shjips, Antietam and Bardo Pond to name a very few.)

Terrastock, and the publication from which it sprang forth (i.e. Ptolemaic Terrascope) should be no stranger to Athens music fans as our own Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Neutral Milk Hotel, et al have played past incarnations. You can get the whole history of the Terrascope and the festival by clicking here.

What follows is an interview with this year’s festival director Erica Rucker.

24 Hour Party Pooper: How did this occurrance of Terrastock come about and how did you become involved with it?

Erica Rucker: I became involved first with the online mag as a reviewer and then after a conversation with my partner/Sig Oth, Rob about how we could see Motorpsycho. Another Terrastock was our answer but where and how…an Oh, what would it take to host one. So I asked [Ptolemaic Terrascope and festival founder]Phil McMullen what it took and with his very detailed response, began thinking about venues in Kentucky that might work and work with the financial limitation of the festival. Mellwood presented the best opportunity out of their own search to replace a festival that moved. Long story short, Terrastock Meet Mellwood and Phil elected me festival director. Which also means, you’ve been elected for a huge financial risk. Hence the Fuzz Boutique, LLC to help protect our personal assets.

24HPP: Its seemed to me that since the 1990’s the psych-underground, etc. has been even more underground. Like there was a brief flourishing, say, 10-15 years ago and now it’s back in the deep underground. Would you agree or disagree?

E.R.: I’d disagree. Underground music always has “its” audience which of course is why it is underground. 10-15 years ago we were ending the mainstream’s obsession with “Grunge” and Seattle and what they thought was underground music. Many folks bought into it and thought it disappeared when the grunge bands were replaced by teen pop tarts and boy bands. Underground music remained safely where it has always been accepted. The positive about the 1990’s was that MTV still showed videos and 120 minutes wasn’t afraid to occasionally show something “underground”. But of course they showed Ned’s Atomic Dustbin videos so it had its drawbacks too.

24HPP: When Terrastock first began in 1997 there wasn’t this culture of each summer having a million festivals. Do you think the massive amount of festivals and major events has helped or hurt the independent music scene?

E.R.: Actually in 1997 the end of the touring summerfest was happening and the advent of localized big summerfests was beginning (i.e. Coachella and Bonnaroo). They did the same things but without the mobility. They invited people to come and join the community taking cues from events like Burning Man. Terrastock is an outsider in that world sort of. One tends not to know where the next one will be. At least that was the idea. Terrastock influenced some of the “Alt-psych-underground” fests like ATP and others which, like Terrastock, has a curator.

24HPP: Can you talk a little about the organizational aspects of Terrastock? How is the event paid for? How are the artists compensated, etc? The reason I ask is because Terrastock has always seemed to function outside of the normal money-driven event culture and operate in a more cooperative way.

E.R.: Terrastock is a project generally taken on by someone (foolishly) willing to risk financial loss and unpopularity to present music that most folks haven’t heard of because we think its that good. The event is entirely self financed through ticket sales and merchandise. We tried to get sponsorships but the fact that Terrastock does not have “roots” in Louisville per se makes that difficult. Bands playing Terrastock are given a few things in place of performance fees.

– More press than some might ever get

– Assistance with travel when available. This does not mean all travel is paid.

– Hotels paid for the duration of the festival and food on the day of performance.

Terrastock has lost money before. Because of this, like all the other organizers, we’re hoping to change that. We’re hoping we don’t put ourselves into poverty because of this. That would suck.

24HPP: Could you please talk a little about the culture of Terrastock and what makes it special?

E.R.: Terrastock is a sort of neo-sixties meet punk meets folk meets “when is this song over” type of vibe. It is a very friendly and open community. the bands are accessible to anyone and the fans are encouraged to interact. It is almost like a conference where you can come to learn, enjoy and share ideas.

24HPP: I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’ve never been to a Terrastock. I’ve had several friends that have played it but never attended myself. What should a first-timer expect at Terrastock that he wouldn’t get from any other festival?

E.R.: A first timer should expect great music and a relaxed atmosphere. For sure it won’t be perfection or without a hitch but the music erases all of that.
MP3: Wooden Shjips-Summer of Love Part 1
MP3: Antietam-Sink or Swim

Want more? Go digging. It’s not called “the underground” for nothing.
UPDATE: Just received this notice.

“Kemado Records has pulled Marissa Nadler from this year’s Terrastock 7 Festival.
Terrastock founder Phil McMullen has stated, “I am surprised and not a little disappointed that Marissa Nadler’s record company felt it necessary to let her fans down, particularly at such short notice”.”

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