Robby Takac Weighs In On Music Is Art
The Music Is Art Fair is ready to continue its annual tradition, but has been forced to change venues. In previous years, the Fair has coincided with the Allentown Art Festival, but due to logistical problems, is setting up stage at the Erie County Fairgrounds on August 11th. In an interview with Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, I had the opportunity to hear the underlying causes of the change. Robby also divulged his favorite places to visit during a stay in his hometown.
LS: How do you feel about not being a part of the Allentown Art Festival this year?
RT: I look back over the past 5 years and I see that the Music Is Art Fair has grown from a street party, to a community group which has affected tens of thousands of lives in WNY in a positive way. Our outreach programs like, UB, the WNY high schools, the battle of the bands program and the Buffalo Performing arts program, were born because we love the art festival weekend here in our neighborhood and we were willing every year to go out and make that happen. That was our benchmark event and unfortunately we’ve been taken away from that. It bums me out. I hate that we are not in our neighborhood and most of all I feel like all of the great stuff that has grown from this, it feels weird that it is not connected with my neighborhood anymore and I still consider Allentown my neighborhood. On the other hand, the folks that were involved had been unbelievably accommodating to us. They have embraced us whole-heartedly. The mission of MIA is to take the music community and the arts community and meld them together. Between those two parties, we wanted to create something that benefited both of them. It is still something that I feel is being achieved but you better believe that on August 12th when it is over, I am going to put a call into city hall.
LS: And you should! I know a ton of Buffalonians really missed you guys this year.
RT: We want to try to make something happen with that before next year while at the same time assuming things will go as well as I foresee them going at the fair, then we will begin a new tradition there as well. At the Allentown Art Festival, it cost us so much money because we didn’t share any of the expenditures with them at all; we had to do everything on our own. We had to buy our own security, toilets, do our own clean up, everything even acquire our own permits and so for us, we didn’t have the time anymore anyways to raise the kind of funds we needed. We needed to go somewhere that already had an infrastructure; I was not going to have it not happen.
LS: With the turn out that you have and the amount of people that look forward to MIA, there was no reason for you not to do it.
RT: You know I wish we could be doing the fair in the city. We could have done it on its own anywhere, but that is not what this event is about. This event is about bringing people together and dancers musician artists qualm together and may not know each other because they come from different worlds. Clog dancers and punk rockers don’t often hang out together. Here they get a chance to. But it is more than that. People are enthusiastic about art and there are thousands of them walking around my neighborhood who are open to the idea anyways. There are all these people in Buffalo doing all these cool things so the fair is almost a bigger cross section of people in a way because we don’t know if these people are even remotely interested in art or music, they might just be interested in chickens and knitting. But at this location people are more comfortable with their children being there as opposed to downtown. There are also just as many creative minds in Gowanda as there are in Allentown. It needs to be opened up to that. Perhaps this is what we intended to happen in the first place. I think things tend to happen for a reason if you are doing them for the right reasons.
LS: Do you think that your festival will grow to be similar to CMJ in New York City?
RT: I don’t know if that is the intention of this. Obviously the scope of that is pretty amazing, it is quite a tradition. I think this is more pinpointed to a neighborhood. This is more like a big block party, a huge block where the block is WNY. That is why the being hooked up with Allentown and other events that we talked to locally about being involved in and we spoke with people and they were excited but once again, we just couldn’t work the logistics out. When we got to the fair we had everything we needed, wide open space and the infrastructure and because the Art festival is such a large event itself, I felt that in order to have all that in place and still reach the 40 thousand people that wander through there wasn’t keeping with what we wanted the event to be in the first place.
LS: Do you feel this is a platform for undiscovered bands?
RT: Yeah, locally. There are all these bands in one place at one time getting to hang makes for a huge networking opportunity. A lot of bands playing, we searched for a ton of bands that we didn’t even know, and to get them to come out, tons of high school bands and just names around town, we didn’t want a lot of the usual suspects. We went for a lot of new acts, like West Seneca West Rock Ensemble and the Heads that got arrested for playing on top of their high school, the Last Conservatives and a lot of funky groups, rappers, DJ types.
LS: What band do you make it a point to see when you come back?
RT: I know who… Lance Diamond at the Elmwood Lounge.
LS: What is your favorite venue?
RT: Probably the Town Ballroom. I just love the way the room is. To stand on the stage and play and see the entire audience is awesome. We did a show there about three years ago and it was amazing. The Continental had its charm but it was not an easy place to play. I think of those days with a bit of romanticism. The old Aud was great too.
LS: Whatever happened to your old punk style from your first three albums?
RT: We don’t play a lot of those songs anymore, but we’ve been trying to reach back. We played There You Are for a little while on our tour but it fell out of the set for some reason. It is fun to have stuff like that in the mix but it is funny how you have to be careful about how you put it into the set. Sometimes too much of it sets the vibe of the show off and we have a lot of songs that people are coming to hear and there is a limited attention span. You have to deliver those tunes and a generous proportion of a hitch to keep people’s attention. We feel like we can reach back a lot more now though because we have done a ton of the new album already.
LS: What is your choice restaurant in the Queen City?
RT: I really like Chef’s, and Mythos on Elmwood, I love that place. And for coffee, Blue Mountain Coffee, they have the best coffee there.
LS: What bars to you frequent?
RT: Well, I quit drinking about two years ago so I don’t have that much use for them, but of course I used to always go to K. Gallaghers. We had a great Christmas party there one year.
LS: What do you want to tell other local bands?
RT: Stick to your guns, man, that’s the answer.