Where's everybody? MACRoCk clears the town
If I were you, I’d get a new haircut, learn more about the world, and lose the SUV. But I’d also take a holiday from our little ‘burg for the weekend, and make my way to Harrisonburg’s MACRoCk, the east coast’s own South By Southwest (the yearly Austin, Texas, musical festival).
Except for the few hours when the musicians catch some shuteye between the early hours of Saturday and noon, you can see music continuously at various venues from 4:30pm Friday afternoon until late, late, late, Saturday night.
Yes, I am aware that the festival is not actually in Charlottesville, but I consider the yearly musical fiasco that is MACRoCk important enough to break in from our regularly scheduled rumination on in-town events.
JMU’s student-run radio station, WXJM, held the first MACRoCk in April 1997, and since then, the weekend of live music, panels, and workshops has spurred increasing numbers of yearly pilgrimages for those with even slightly non-mainstream tastes.
Last year 6000 people attended the festival, and I can tell you the hilarity of seeing Harrisonburg awash in thick rimmed glasses, sweaters, and Reeboks (some of the official elements of the classic indie-rock kid look) was not lost on this participant.
MACRoCk’s mission statement is a simple one: The festival “strives to recognize lesser-known bands that are overshadowed within an industry dominated by corporate record labels and commercial bands.” It could be said that the generic term indie-rock covers all the festival’s performers, but only in the sense that most of the groups WXJM picks to perform do not conform to the general mainstream idea of “rockstars” in either a capitalist or a musical sense.
By filing the weekend with a mixture of bigger-name bands who aren’t on large record labels and less well-known bands who apply and meet the standards for performing, MACRoCk gives exposure to new or just unknown acts, and makes for one hell of a good show.
Saturday afternoon also features music-related panels, a time for participants to rest their eardrums-– this year’s panels include ones on making/selling band merchandise, devising your own recording studio, and the ins and outs of college radio.
I can’t list the over 100 bands performing this year, but you can find them at HYPERLINK http://www.jmu.edu/wxjm/macrock/flash.html jmu.edu/wxjm/macrock/flash.html and you can check out the schedule there, too. Some highlights on Friday include “smartrock” folk/pop group the Mountain Goats, the rock-pop goodness of Of Montreal, the electronic wunderkind that is Kid606, and the emotional rock rollercoaster that is Q and not U-– and all this happens in just the first two hours!
So if you’re wondering why the streets are so empty this weekend, lines so short, and videos so easy to rent, it’s because of MACRoCk, and its performances from artists as varied as the groove-centric Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra to the eclectic Wesley Willis.
MACRoCk is happening April 4-5 in various locations around downtown Harrisonburg including PC Ballroom, Court Square Theater, and the Little Grill. Weekend passes $20, single show costs vary. Go to jmu.edu/wxjm/macrock/flash.html for info on tickets and times.