Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

June 5, 2013 at 1:09pm

Squeak & Squawk, Tacoma's music festival, needs your help

Australian psych-rock band Pond thrilled the Squeak and Squawk crowd last year. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Adam McKinney, or "The Rev," is no stranger to the Tacoma music scene. A writer for this fine rag, McKinney is known for making a fabulous Faux Loco, for always looking dapper and for summing up his music mission as "wanting to introduce Tacoma to the country and the country to Tacoma."

Squeak & Squawk (SQSQ) - a 5-day indie music festival in Tacoma that has had a sporadic, yet successful run - rocked Tacoma in 2008, 2010 and 2012 - the year McKinney and fellow music lover Jena Stedler took it over. The pair had a small budget and big hearts, accomplishing one of the best SQSQ yet.

This year, the festival is set for Sept. 12-16, and the two want to kick it up a notch. McKinney and Stedler have started a Kickstarter campaign and hope to earn $7,500 to help offset costs of paying bands, promotional demands, staffing and more.

With 11 days left, the Kickstarter has only reached a small portion of its goal. I chatted with Rev. Adam about the sometimes-rocky process of putting together a kick-ass festival, and why you should help make it happen.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: So, let's blog about this Squeak and Squawk Kickstarter all ready. ... First of all, thanks for grabbing the reins on this, if last year is any indicator of what you can do, and then you and Jena have the fine makings of festival directors. But, it must be a little discouraging that you have 11 days to go for the Kickstarter with only a small portion of your goal received. How is that affecting you?

ADAM MCKINNEY: I've been very moved by the amount of support we've received so far. While it hasn't catapulted us toward our goal, the daily notification of new donors has been very encouraging. Obviously, if we don't reach our goal, I'd be very disappointed, but Jena and I decided a while ago that the festival will go on no matter what. We are committed to making it happen in any way we can.

VOLCANO: In an interview with Death By Stars guitarist Patrick Galactic, you say you've discussed acceptable contingency plans if you don't make it to your goal. How would it be different? What would a $2,500 festival look like compared to a $7,500 festival?

MCKINNEY: We've already begun planning for our first fundraiser show. We started last year's festival with a little under $2,000, and we were proud of what we could make happen with that little money. This year, should we have roughly the same amount, we can surely do something fun and interesting with it. However, the reason for the Kickstarter was to try and grow Squeak and Squawk by having the freedom to bring in bigger and better touring acts. Having less money will not enable us to do this. We won't, for instance, be able to bring Squeak and Squawk favorite Carletta Sue Kay up from San Francisco. It doesn't mean the festival will be bad, but it will be different from how good we know it can be.

VOLCANO: Katy Evans of Post Defiance speculates part of the funding setbacks are because of a lack of "cultural advisors" in the Tacoma community and a lack of social media bombardments by you and Jena. What are your thoughts on her comments?

MCKINNEY: We adore Katy Evans. Her work with Post Defiance has been truly inspiring. When we saw her article, we were initially taken aback, but upon further reading, it's hard to argue with her points. Tacoma has a nasty habit of segregating itself into cliques, which I think in part leads to this problem of too many "micro-festivals," as she calls them. We feel, though, that Squeak and Squawk has a strong and unique voice, and we are prepared to be some form of cultural advisers. As for social media, Jen and I have never claimed to be the greatest self-promoters. This being said, I'm at a loss for what we could've done differently - though I'm sure I'll be filled in constantly after it's too late to do anything about it. We sent out daily Facebook reminders, pestered friends and relatives, reached out to media outlets, etc. We've done everything short of printing out flyers, which believe you me, are the next thing to come.

VOLCANO: Politics aside, this festival is about the music, damnit - not the money. So, what are you most looking forward to at this year's SQSQ? Why do you think SQSQ is so important to Tacoma's music and arts scene?

MCKINNEY: Putting the festival together is a terrifying experience. It's the most stress I've ever volunteered to put myself under. Given the time to really think over and anticipate how difficult the operation is going to be, I'm not sure why I continue. All of that melted away, though, last year, by the first night. Seeing a plan come together, seeing an amazing show, truly does put everything into perspective and makes it all worth it. I'm thrilled, this year, to bring Friends and Family back down. We also have Emily Kempf of the Back Pockets (who delivered my favorite performance of last year), coming back to visit us from Atlanta. With the money that we'll raise (knock on wood), we will be able to afford an assortment of talent from around the country whom we've had our eyes on for some time.

Squeak and Squawk's importance is in bringing talent to Tacoma. It's easy for us to become cloistered and jaded around here, but something really special happens when we're able to share who we are with people from around the world. This kind of cross-pollination, we feel, can only be good for the Tacoma music scene.

To contribute to the Squeak and Squawk Kickstarter, click here.

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