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."