Rand Foster, Ashley Hectus, Justin Hectus, Bobby Easton, Jenny Stockdale and Timothy Dunham — they make SAM happen.
11:25am | Summer And Music, the successful concert series funded by Downtown Long Beach Associates, is about to launch their third season of performance events. For the last two years, the SAM series has been managed by a crack team led by Fingerprints Music owner Rand Foster and Justin Hectus, director of information for Keesal, Young & Logan. This dynamic duo has always relied heavily on the energy and experience of others, but as Justin has eased himself into the more supervisory role of overseer and guru, others have been forced to step up their games.
Rand, Justin, celebrated local musician Jenny Stockdale, Delta Nove frontman Bobby Easton and Justin’s sister, Ashley, all gathered to talk about what’s in the works for this summer’s series. I asked Jenny what she’s been asked to do.
Jenny: Well, for lack of an official title, I think you could call me a behind-the-scenes event coordinator for SAM. Or CFO, CEO and webmaster.
Justin: That sounds like you just gave yourself a raise.
Rand: And it leaves out the work you do through Seje Creative, handling press releases and coordinating our design elements.
Jenny: Public relations manager?
Justin: In 2011 the SAM team is expanding significantly. While I am taking a step back from day-to-day SAM duties, we have brought on board a number of amazing folks and we are expanding the roles of some of our key players from 2009 and 2010.
Jenny was involved on the PR front in 2009 and 2010 and, in 2011, she has stepped in to do a lot of the day-to-day coordination that keeps the whole team moving forward and on the same page.
She is also still involved on the marketing front with press releases and website updates, with her design team, SeJe Creative, and as an artist (playing June 5).
Rand: Because SAM has so many moving parts, there is a real finesse to keeping everything and everyone on track. Justin has been that person for the last couple years, but we are transitioning that to Jenny this year. I think it’s a natural issue because all of us have full-time jobs outside of SAM.
Justin: We also have Ashley, my wonderful sis who played a key role in 2009 and 2010, taking on an expanding role. She is running with Battle of the Tribute Bands, working on talent-booking for BuskerFest and assisting with Sundays in the Park with SAM.
There wouldn’t be a Funk Fest without Bobby, and he’s back leading the charge on that front. We also have Wesley Chung, the amazingly talented frontman from Boris Smile who returned from a stint working on music programs with NEDs (Non-Educated Delinquents) in Scotland and came to us expressing an interest in SAM. He’s taking the lead on Sundays in the Park with SAM. Katie Rose Wynne is returning as our social media director. She’s like Julie on The Love Boat, but even more socially adept. And, we have Tim Dunham, who brought the Acoustic Tidal Artwalk to Colorado Lagoon, joining us this year to coordinate art displays at all events. The DLBA is returning as our sponsor and partner in the event, and the RDA is also on board again to support the series.
I’ve always felt that SAM was driven by the community, and the evolution of the SAM team is a good indication of our desire to involve more people and to keep it fresh.
Sander: Justin, as you’ve eased back on your duties, what duties remain for you?
Justin: Proud parent?
Rand: Justin has stepped back in a ‘front of the scene’ sense, but he is still very active in keeping things on course. He is also most intimate with the inner-workings of SAM, so we occasionally ply him with wine and cheese, and he tells us what we are missing or overlooking.
Jenny: He is still very much a part of the entire SAM production. But, instead of working on the minutia, he’s providing me and the other SAM Team members with advice and support to make sure all facets of the series are well-oiled, cohesive and still fun.
Sander: Let’s talk about scope a bit. The first year was quite ambitious. Last year, direct funding was cut a bit, and you were asked to find additional sponsors to shore up the shortfalls. How are things shaping up this year?
Rand: As always, SAM is a living thing, and that makes us constantly strive to evolve. The first year was a lot of work, with over 40 shows ranging from 30 people on a corner to 12,000 at Funk Fest. We realized the time we were spending on the 30 people shows could be better spent by focusing on the mid-level and larger shows. Better spent from the standpoint of finances and our mental health. That was a large consideration in the changes we introduced last year.
This year, we realized that mid-level shows are just as much work as large-scale shows, and large shows leave less room for local acts, so this year we are focusing on our big three, plus introducing Sundays in the Park with SAM [SIPS] to get us back to the local music and community-building aspects of the first season.
Jenny: The SIPS segment of the series works in the continuity — same time, same place — factor that was missing in last year. We received a good bit of feedback that people would like a consistent time and place for SAM events, and SIPS accomplishes that quite nicely.
SIPS will happen every Sunday from June to August, from 3 Pp.m. to 7 p.m. in Promenade Square. Each Sunday, there will be three live performances by local artists and family fun activities like bocce ball, face-painting and bean bag tournaments. Essentially, it’s a way to both activate a new green space downtown and provide programming for the residents and music lovers. It will be a summer-long block party that samples from the finest artists from Long Beach’s live music scene.
Rand: Providing a platform for local artists was one of our primary objectives with the first SAM.
Jenny: And speaking of local artists, Some Things Creative will also have their mobile art displays at every SIPS event, showcasing work from local visual artists.
Sander: Who will be opening the SIPS series?
Jenny: The kick-off show on June 5 will feature The Fling (a Long Beach favorite that played several SAM events last year), Pawn Shop Kings (BuskerFest 2009 winners), and this girl named Jenny Stockdale.
Sander: Bobby, what do you have planned for Funk Fest this year?
Bobby: For starters, Fred Wesley and the New JB’s (of James Brown band and Parliament Funkadelic fame), and Zigaboo Modeliste of the Meters. We also have newer bands, as I like to feature older legendary artists as well as new artists. This is what sets this Funk Fest apart from others. Most that I have seen are a lineup of “old school” artists playing all the old hits, or a “funk fest” that is not a funk fest, but has blues, jazz, hip hop, etc.
Some of the newer bands are Ronkat from San Francisco, and Delta Nove (my band). Although my intent is to constantly bring new bands in and not repeat bands back-to-back, including my own band, everyone that I spoke with insisted that I put Delta Nove on the bill. I guess we have to represent LB!
Also, we will be bringing back the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown, which I am repeating because each time it features a different lineup. There will be some BIG funk names within that band.
Plus, we will have the full lineup of funk dj’s, live painting, dance performances, the kid’s zone, a funk art exhibit, vendors and the kid’s group Lil’ Big Ups led by Lonnie “Meganut” Marshall, who will be performing this Thursday at Fingerprints.
I also know that people are already making travel arrangements to come for the Fest. Someone that I’ve never met, but “know” from Facebook bought his ticket already to fly here from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, just for the Funk Fest!
Sander: How does it feel to be working with some of these true living legends, people you must have followed for most of your musical life?
Bobby: It’s actually a surreal experience. It’s exactly as you said. I’ve followed these guys for so long, and now not only am I talking to them, booking them, but forging another level of musical connection and friendship as well.
Most of these older artists are actually very grateful for such an event and that we are reaching out to them. They really appreciate the mission behind the festival, which is to really feature and elevate funk as a genre, not unlike jazz and blues have been treated in this country. True American genres. Rickey Vincent, the MC the past two years, and author of Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One, speaks so highly of the Fest, saying how pure it is. So, I think we are on the right track.
Sander: Just for the record, what’s the date for the event?
Bobby: Saturday, August 20.
Sander: And how much are tickets to this fantastic festival of Funk?
Bobby: FREEEEEEE! It is all ages, as are all the SAM events, and you can walk, bike, bus or take the train to these shows.
Sander: Ashley, tell me about the ever popular Battle of the Tribute Bands.
Ashley: Battle of the Tribute Bands was put together to celebrate music that we love and that moves us. Music we know the words to. Five of Southern California’s top tribute bands will gather once again this summer for a showdown, and the chance to stake a claim to their share of cash prizes.
Tribute bands do an outstanding job of capturing all of the excitement of the original, from musicianship to showmanship. Bands will compete in a three-round elimination process, playing back-to -ack and moving to the next round after a decibel reading from the crowd’s applause and the judges’ consensus. Prize money will go to the three crowd favorites and the event will close with a final performance from the winning band.
On the bill this year is TNT, a tribute to AC/DC; Stone Temple Co-Pilots, a tribute to Stone Temple Pilots; Hello Operator, a tribute to The White Stripes; The Who Show, a tribute to The Who, and Pretentious, a tribute to The Pretenders.
Battle of the Tribute Bands will be held outdoors in the Rainbow Harbor amphitheater, surrounded by a fantastic variety of local restaurants at the intersection of Pine Avenue and Shoreline Drive, with beautiful views of the Queen Mary and Shoreline Village.
Sander: The DLBA is tasked with helping the businesses in their area, bringing paying customers through their doors. Have you worked with the local businesses to make sure their needs are being served, and have you encountered any challenges you hope to address this year in that regard?
Rand: Speaking as a newly local business, we are very sensitive to working with the local businesses. With SIPS happening on the Promenade, it’s opened the door for us to interact more closely with with the businesses slightly off Pine, while still producing an event that will drive traffic to the neighborhood as a whole.
It’s been historically difficult to produce an event that works for everyone on Pine. The businesses are quite diverse and have very different needs; for instance, something that’s a big success for one restaurant might adversely affect another. So we’ve learned that “Just off Pine” is a happy medium, which we think really works in favor an event like SIPS.
BuskerFest, obviously works really well with the East Village businesses, as does BoTB with the waterfront businesses.
Justin: Looking at it from a macro view, music has a unique ability to bridge cultural and socioeconomic divides and build community. SAM taps into an amazing pool of local artists and draws talent from beyond Long Beach to bring people together in downtown, making it a more inviting place to live, work and, for the benefit of the businesses, spend money.
The DLBA and RDA deserve a great deal of credit for their support of the arts and for having the foresight to look to the arts as a mechanism to activate the downtown. The arts make cities great.
Rand: My involvement in SAM was a major factor in moving Fingerprints downtown. The vibe and the energy I saw at the SAM events spoke to me of the potential for the Art’s District to become the next exciting neighborhood in Long Beach. I think the whole downtown area is on the verge of making an important transition, and I’m very excited to be a part of it, both as FP and part of SAM.
Justin: It’s worth a mention that the SAM team really extends far beyond the folks included in this interview. We have volunteers, designers, the entire music community, the audience, the businesses, the residents, staff at the DLBA and so many more who all help us to make each event, and each season, better.
I think I can speak for everyone here, and Wesley and Tim, when I say that we are humbled and honored to be a part of this.
More information is available at SummerAndMusic.com.
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