Lawrence Field Day Fest rocks the Bottleneck this weekend
It’s a strange reality, but we live in a world with more multi-day summer music festivals than there are summer days. But with most of these bloated enterprises touting ticket prices in the $300 range or charging $8 for room-temperature bottled water, maybe it’s time to bring it all back home and place the focus where it belongs — the local music scene.
The second annual Lawrence Field Day Festival takes place this weekend at The Bottleneck, in downtown Lawrence. Twenty-three local bands will take the stage over the course of three days, beginning Thursday and wrapping up late Saturday night. I recently spoke with Cameron Joel Hawk, guitarist for The Dead Girls and co-founder of Field Day Fest, about the planning and organization that goes into such a massive bill, and what sets it apart from festivals with corporate backing.
“The reception of last year’s [Field Day] Fest was really great. Considering how DIY the whole endeavor has been, I’ve been really blown away by people’s reactions to it,” Hawk said. The event organizer expressed a strong sense of gratitude for the support of local music fans and concert-goers: “I don’t think we would have wanted to do another if the first one wasn’t fun as hell, and though it almost broke me, it was an awesome experience.”
Although the festival is primarily a local affair, Hawk was thrilled at the opportunity to include one special guest in last year’s line-up. “To have support from people like Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton, who played a set of songs from his solo album last year, was just unbelievable," Hawk said. "It was that kind of support that made us realize almost right away that we should definitely plan to do another one.”
While the festival doesn’t feature any visiting punk legends this year, several of the local acts featured have achieved widespread notoriety on their own terms, mostly through extensive touring. “I’m excited to have Radkey back, obviously," Hawk said. "When they played last year, they always said it was their biggest show up to that point, and I think to have them back now that they are getting national attention is kind of symbolic in a way.”
Another group gaining that level of attention is Schwervon!, a duo Hawk says are “kind of becoming royalty in the music world. They’ve played with all these great bands and toured all around the world.”
Some of the festival’s acts like Pale Hearts, Monsoon Lazer, and Jocks may be relatively new to some, but their rosters feature scene-veterans who come from well-known local bands (former members of Spooklights, Appleseed Cast, and Rooftop Vigilantes, respectively). Punk upstarts Jocks will be splitting its set, with the latter half serving as a farewell outing for Rooftop Vigilantes.
Hawk also hopes this year’s Field Day Fest will expose Lawrence crowds to some under-the-radar bands from nearby Kansas City.
“The Kansas City bands this year are all insanely good. I’m really stoked to have Bloodbirds, because I think they’ve made one of the most daring local albums in quite some time,” Hawk said.
And the list goes on: “Man Bear is this kind of power-poppy band with big hooks; Gentleman Savage plays sort of off-kilter pop-rock; Nature Boys play dirty garage punk.” These acts will be joined by emerging Lawrence darlings like Brain Food, Y[our] Fri[end], Black on Black, and more.
The festival’s organizers made a point of booking upcoming acts from both cities, and from different age groups.
“I think it helps younger bands when they can play shows with people that have been doing it awhile," Hawk said. "Conversely, for seasoned musicians who are starting new bands and essentially starting over, it’s nice to play with [and for] younger people who still have that level of enthusiasm.”
While other festivals may utilize multiple venues, or come packaged with heavy corporate sponsorship, Hawk lays out exactly how Field Day Festival’s DIY spirit makes it a different animal altogether: “I just like that it isn’t necessarily about who’s big or ‘How many big acts can we fit into one bill?’ It’s more like, how interesting and different can we make this, while still giving some newer acts a chance.
“It’s just kind of this humble thing right now and I really like it like that," Hawk said. "It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Now, if someone did want to give us some big support down the line, I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to that… But I’d be afraid it would lose that modest vibe that it has now.”
And as for expanding to take over downtown?
“I’d like to do something like that, but the venues around here are really competitive with each other, and that can cause issues," he said. "On the other hand, the multiple venue thing can mean you’ll always miss a little of one or two bands you wanted to see if you leave to catch another band somewhere else. Having it all at the Bottleneck kind of eliminates that.”
Lawrence Field Day Fest takes place Thursday, July 11, through Saturday, July 13, and is sponsored by KJHK and AstroKitty Comics. The event is all-ages, and three-day passes can be purchased at the Bottleneck online. You can view the full line-up, set times, and artist previews at the event's Facebook page.