Mr. Tom Tom: Beyer sees bands and innovation together

As far as music festivals go, certain regions of the country have it covered: Chicago has Lollapalooza, Tennessee has Bonnaroo, and Austin has South-by-Southwest. What more do we need?

According to local businessman and former City Council candidate Paul Beyer, there's plenty of room for more music meccas in the US– and Charlottesville is just the place for a large-scale, multifaceted festival to call home. Enter the Tom Tom Founders Festival, a month-long soiree that seems to emulate the feel of SXSW by combining live music, art shows, local food showcases, and business/innovation workshops to bring community possibility to the forefront of everyone's mind.

"Tom Tom's themes are about music, art, and innovation– those are all conversations that take place in Charlottesville to begin with," he says. "There's a sense of artistic possibility within the community as well as a political and business landscape."

Tom Tom looks to educate and inform festival-goers while striking just the right balance of celebration and revelry– which is where the music comes in. Music is obviously a draw for Cvillians, who boast a handful of large, big name arenas and concert halls as well as a bevy of intimate, unique hole-in-the-wall venues. With a music scene that has ebbed and flowed throughout the years– from rockers and jam bands in the '70s to songwriters, bluegrass/rockabilly, and indie-pop-rock groups dominating the circuit today– finding artists who would attract the crowd throughout the month was a priority for Beyer.

"The theme of the music is buzz bands, the next big thing– the idea that that's what innovation is, that it's about new things or things you haven't seen or heard before was the focus for this year," says Beyer.

In that same vein, Beyer and the Tom Tom crew looked to unexpected places to host their concerts. Spaces include the Main Street Arena, Random Row Bookstore (already a popular, albeit slightly underground music venue), and the Haven all playing host to regional and local acts scattered throughout the Festival. With a successful block party at the McGuffey Art Center having kicked off the festivities on April 13 and a jam-packed final concert bookending the festival on May 13, Beyer is confident that Tom Tom will continue to lure audiences and participants throughout its course.

"This festival is about innovation, art, and the future of the community," says Beyer. "We want to get the community engaged with big ideas."


Charlottesville feels like an ongoing music festival year round. And with so many venues and choices every week of the year, I wonder if this isn't superfulous.

I can see the point of the book festival and the film festival but more concerts ? One art form getting little attention in town is dance. How about a dance festival ? We rarely see big name or emerging dance companies come to Charlottesville. Now that would be something new and untapped.

By smashing all these art forms plus business discussions into one month - and the busiest month for events already - feels like a meal with far too many ingredients to be tasty.

Has he received his cease-and-desist yet from the Tom Tom NV the GPS company?

I agree with City Girl completely. Not to mention that the city has given him all this money, upwards of $5000 at least. Does ANYBODY think that this is ok? The Tom Tom Festival is FOR PROFIT people! Your tax dollars are funding a FOR PROFIT festival that we don't even need. They are seeking volunteers for a FOR PROFIT festival, not providing jobs.

To carry on City Girls metaphor, I've lost my appetite.

City girl "One art form getting little attention in town is dance"

What about motorsports? Before the Livestock Market down in Hogwaller was a dirt track.

Mr Beyer has lots of spare land where he could host demolition derby, dirt track, etc.

The best culture is Agri Culture.

TomTom is different from a series of unconnected concerts that happen in cville on a weekly basis. TomTom is trying at least to connect music with other art forms and ultimately to foster and nurture the artistic and innovative community in cville. I applaud their efforts to bring together many different artistic forms into the same space and try to get more cross pollination going.

As for the city giving some start up capital, this is the kind of thing I would like the city to spend more money on. How much money does a festival bring to city restaurants and merchants, and therefore the city? Yes, it might not succeed, but then again it might.

Artistic cross pollination would makes sense if there was a unique event where musicians, and artists from other disciplines performed together, but I don't see that happening.

How does holding a block party in front of the McGuffey Art Center foster cross pollination ? And the downtown is swarming with people, so how does this festival bring more people than are already there ?

I'm not opposed to giving city money for festivals, but I don't see this particular festival increasing business, or expanding the circle of opportunity that already exists among the facebook crowd.

A unique festival not already saturated with local events would draw a different population to the city and would increase business, i.e. the book festival and film festival - that's where city money should go.

I think this festival is worth at least $5000 since they are having a very important Pinterest presentation.

The festival as a whole is what is attempting to foster cross pollination and it has a large focus not only on music and art, but also innovation. Have you looked at the website?

This is the first year, so I am sure things will evolve in the future, but it seems like even now they are covering a lot of topics that don't have much of a forum in Charlottesville, in particular the innovation aspects.

They have sold out of at least one class of tickets, you really don't think that is bringing money downtown? I guess the question is do you think the TomTom events are supplanting other events that would have had similar or better attendance or adding events and attendance to the calendar. Personally I would wager that this is infact bringing people to town and downtown that would not have otherwise gone. I personally know people who have come specifically for TomTom.

I also think one of the major draws for Charlottesville is that it is a creative and artistic community. Having this reputation builds on itself and when you get a lot of creative people in the same city good things happen. This city helps validate and build on that reputation.

The discussions bringing innovators together to brainstorm and share ideas seems to be the most valuable and " innovative "part of this festival . But again, valuable for locals - not a draw for out of towners. And aren't there taxpayer funded economic departments of local government that should be doing just this sort of thing ?

Is anyone tracking if people are actually coming from out of town and how many people ? I know the visitors bureau gave $15,000
to TomTom.

I'm really having a hard time seeing the point. The founder himself even says "Tom Tom's themes are about music, art, and innovation– those are all conversations that take place in Charlottesville to begin with," So what's this festival all about then?

There are a few interesting band in the lineup, but most are no different than any of the bands I'm regularly disappointed to see on the schedules of local venues. There are more and more shows here all the time with fewer than ever being anything worth mentioning. This whole festival has just brought more of the same.

5-10 noteworthy act appearing in a weekend festival of some sort might have been a much better idea. Far too many forgettable acts spread over a month seems like no festival at all.

What cville really needs is a Festival of no(h) Festivals.This would be refreshing,new and interesting- a major non-event. Please send me $5K or less to fund.Thank you!

I am not involved in TomTom at all, but i am guessing that their goal is to have TomTom evolve into something similar to SXSW in Austin. So much like SXSW it will tap mostly local talent, but will hopefully grow and evolve into a much larger event.
I can tell you that SXSW has been an absolutely huge boon for Austin with 100k participants from out of town and an economic impact of over 100 million.
Beyond that it has also been one of the drivers for many start ups to form and many large companies to move offices to Austin.

"How about a dance festival ?"

I vote clogging and polka.

"How about a dance festival?"

I vote for "The Dougie"

Well said city girl and city boy. This entire festival makes no sense to me and a lot of other people. The fact that this "profit making" venture is being supported by tax dollars from the City and the CACVB is appalling. Do they give money to other profit ventures so freely? If so, where does the line begin. This guy may have fooled many people, but thankfully I am not one of them. The name itself is an insult and a joke at the same time. Only in Charlottesville........

"Do they give money to other profit ventures so freely?" Well, there is the scam associated with the water supply, the Jefferson School. and a few other projects I could think of, so sadly the answer is yes. The festival isn't among good company though.

I think the Tom Tom is a great idea. I'm looking forward to it and already have a couple friends who might be coming in from out of town to see some of the shows. I think it's great that the visitor's bureau or whoever it was provided some support to help get it started. I think they did a pretty good job with the lineup of bands, and hopefully this will get bigger over time, which will help them to bring in even bigger bands. That will really help to bring out of towners in, boost the local economy, and give good publicity to the local bands who also get to play - and will be benefited from the greater visibility provided by the larger national acts coming in.

$5000 is a small price for a city to pay for a festival, if twenty years down the road that festival has ballooned into a national event. I actually think in this case council showed a rare amount of foresight regarding its own economic vitality, which this festival could very well spur.