5/30/2013 - Organizing last year’s inaugural Granite State Music Festival required a daily leap of faith. Everything was new, from forming a nonprofit corporation, keeping board members on task and negotiating contracts with big acts.
“We were challenged by every aspect of it,” event director Scott Solsky said recently. “This year was a lot easier.”
The 2013 event approaches with a better sense of what does and doesn’t work — no rain would be nice, for example.
A mostly new slate of performers will take the stage June 22 and 23.
“As great as they were last year, we wanted a different lineup,” Solsky said. “The only bands repeating are Truffle — because they’ve been around forever — and the ones that got rained out.”
As befits the name, all the performers have a tie to the state. Mixed with natives like Tan Vampires, Crunchy Western Boys, Concord’s Boogie On Alice and Will Kindler — appearing with the house band from Pittsfield’s Rocking Horse Studio — are regional acts that spend a lot of time in the Granite State.
“We worked hard at defining what a New Hampshire band was,” said Solsky. “Bands like Flabberghaster are here every other weekend, so they should definitely be included.”
National-level stars were eschewed for solid regional acts this time around.
“Chris Robinson Brotherhood was a big-ticket item that didn’t really pay off,” said Solsky of last year’s headliner. “We looked for bands that weren’t as high profile but of equal talent. Ryan Montbleau is really well- liked and does a lot of stuff on the festival circuit, which helps us.”
Solsky is excited about all the talent — “I wouldn’t put a band on the bill if I wasn’t” — but in particular he’s pleased to welcome two bands connected with 1990s mainstay Percy Hill.
“They have a great reputation in New Hampshire,” said Solsky. The Fearless Ones feature PH co-founder Tom Pawley, and The Dejas include Aaron Katz, leader at the end of PH’s run beginning in 1998.
Day passes will be sold this year, a new addition.
“That was really important to people,” said Solsky. “Another thing was people wanted beer.” City regulations forbid alcohol sales last year, but the city changed its position, so offerings from Red Hook, Tuckerman and local brewers will be available. “It’s going to be all New Hampshire beers, which goes along with our charter.”
Like last year, money remains a struggle for the 501c3. A Kickstarter project missed its $10,000 target, but those who pledged contributed $4,000 after the fact. Moreover, the crowdsourcing effort helped bring attention to the festival, which exists to raise money for state music programs.
“It went viral on Facebook and reached a new audience we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Solsky. “It’s a great tool for that reason.”
Tougher hurdles remain.
“We know how to put on a great event ... and find the best bands, but the biggest challenge is that everything needs to be paid up front,” said Solsky. “We make all of our money at the festival. There are presales and other sponsors, but what’s needed ahead of time is larger. That’s what we’re trying to figure out this year.”
His wife, Katy Brown Solsky, directs festival PR, which makes home life occasionally a bit chaotic.
“It’s a challenge because we both work, and I have gigs; it can be stressful at times … we have kids,” said Solsky, who teaches music to youngsters when he’s not a festival impresario. “But if we didn’t think it was worth it, we wouldn’t do it.”