This is part two of a two part interview between RVAJazz founder Dean Christesen and his replacement Aaron Williams.
Aaron Williams taking photos at the most recent RVAJazz Fest. Photo credit: Patrick Jarenwattanon of A Blog Supreme
You can read the first half of this interview here.
Williams: You mentioned RVAJazzfest. What gave you the idea to put it on and the confidence to put it on? Can you give some insight as to how much work there was to make it successful?
Christesen: The reason I did the first one is because I believed for all of the talking I did on the blog, it didn’t matter unless I brought it into the real world and actually provided live music for people to hear. I was doing a lot of reviewing and recapping of live performances for people who weren’t able to be there, but it’s like hey, why don’t I put on an event that people can come see?
The goal from almost the very beginning was to do something like that. When I finally decided to do it in September/ October of 2008, Matt White came to me with this grand plan of having Steven Bernstein down and how I was going to be part of that plan.
I was like, “hell yeah!” How can I not be part of that plan? Fight the Big Bull was one of the reasons that I started the blog because of seeing their successes. They were just signed to Clean Feed Records for their first album (Dying Will Be Easy). Fight the Big Bull with Steven Bernstein fell into my lap and that’s how the first event started.
Yeah, it was a lot of work but that was also my first taste of that and how much work it is going to be. As musicians, all of us put on events: we are all booking our own gigs and promoting them. I think this was actually more work than just putting on a single event.
With the blog, a lot of our sponsorship money came with the underwriting on the blog. It was, “Help pay for this event, I will write an article about you.” So that became not only articles about the three bands and Steven Bernstein, but now five sponsors. That became a lesson for me on delegating work and being editor as well as all of the basics like time management and basic fundraising, that kind of thing. That first event was a big lesson in many ways and I think it was a huge success.
The Camel was still in its early days of that ownership and it was exciting to see them so ecstatic about the business. It is tough to see them ecstatic like that again because they see great business all of the time, especially with bands like No B.S. and big punk festivals. That first time, it was great seeing them celebrate a good night of business and knowing I had a part in it. The second RVAJazzfest, in 2010, had an unfortunate turnout because of the weather and everything.
Williams: But now it is in April!
Christesen: Yeah. That was a good lesson too. The lesson wasn’t: don’t make anything happen in the winter. The lesson was how to deal with extenuating circumstances like that and having a back up plan. That second year, I didn’t really have a back up plan. I didn’t expect that to happen. I didn’t really have a choice. The Camel is a business and they needed something to happen that night. It had to go on and I didn’t have a back up date or anything. That is why the third year was a little more of a success. I was more prepared.
How do you feel about maybe one day producing RVAJazz fest?
Williams: That is maybe one of the most memorable nights during my time in Richmond. Steven Bernstein had come and done a workshop at my high school that had seemed at one point like it wasn’t going to happen. Seeing people that don’t ever listen to that type of music so excited was incredible. I walked in there and usually when I go into The Camel, I at least recognize everyone in there. When I walked into the RVAJazz Fest, I was like, “wow, who are these people?”
Christesen: A lot of that has to do with the title of the event and making a big deal out of it. It was like, hey musicians, you want people to show up at your gig? Maybe try making a big a big deal out of it. Don’t treat it like just another gig for you, because it is not. I’ve seen Richmond musicians get better about that in the past few years.
Williams: Steven Bernstein has one of the personalities where you just wanted to be there. You just want to listen, whether he was talking or playing. It is important to have those events to get people excited about the scene as a whole. That introduced a lot of people to Glows in the Dark, Fight the Big Bull and Boots of Leather. To have that opportunity in the future would be incredible.
It brings people from, I don’t want to say the circle, but outside the circle in and make them feel a part of it. That event certainly helped Richmond as a whole even the second and third times. It also cool to do that while seeing someone from out of town.
Christesen: I have in the past done other events too. So it is not about limiting yourself to one event a year. You can do this as much as you want. We have presented Glenn Wilson, helped sponsor Matana Roberts coming to town and Jason Ajemian a couple of times and things like that. As many times as I can put on an event and bring the music off the computer screen into people’s lives, I’m going to do it. Especially when you find a band that you believe in and music that moves you, try and spread the word.
Williams: Do you have any parting words?
Christesen: Yeah, you’re going to do great.
Williams: Thank you.
Chrsitesen: I have faith. That is why I have chosen you.
Williams: Well, Chicago is in for a treat. It’s a little bigger scene, but it won’t take you long.
Richmond will certainly miss Dean when he is gone, but it certainly won’t be long before we hear from him again.
Now it’s back to the important stuff: jazz music.