Springboard South: A Peculiar New Festival Arises at CityCentre
An interesting experiment unfolded this weekend at CityCentre. The Springboard South music festival was the brainchild of Barry Coffing, a music and film industry vet who's the director for the Houston chapter of the National Association of Recording Industry Professionals (NARIP).
The idea was to create a platform for independent artists to perform and network with industry pros lined up to counsel them individually on everything from artist development to music licensing, something akin to the original intent behind South by Southwest.
More than half of the 45 bands and musicians invited were locals, and Sunday's participants (the event ran for three days) seemed altogether satisfied with the proceedings. Springboard South had a wealth of talent on display, and the mentorship and advice from folks occupying the suit-and-tie end of the music business seemed to be a nice step toward filling a niche in a town from which too many artists move away to become "real" pros.
Let's not kid ourselves, though: CityCentre ain't quite Sixth Street. The crowd of people in attendance on Sunday were mostly moms and dads with their young children in tow -- not quite the target demo for many of the musicians onstage.
The Dead C Scales
It's possible that some folks discovered their new favorite band on their way from Ruggles Green to Urban Outfitters, but for most at the sprawling shopping/eating/dwelling complex, the free live music was a pleasant, momentary diversion, not the main draw.
That doesn't mean the tunes were no good, of course. The first band I caught was the Dead C Scales from Spring, whose danceable, semi-psychedelic rock fit perfectly with the cool, overcast afternoon on Sunday. The drummer and keyboardist layered vocal harmonies over some tasty guitar licks while very young children ran around and danced wildly on the Astroturf paddock in front of the festival's main outdoor stage.
It was clear right off the bat that this music festival was going to be of the family-friendly variety. One was immediately struck, for example, by the distinct lack of drug-taking. In fact, smokers were segregated to the sidewalk in front of beer haven Yard House.
This was not necessarily a bad thing. The children having their faces painted and chasing soccer balls around gave the event an innocent, low-key, summery vibe, helped along by the easy grooves of the Dead C Scales.
When they wrapped up, I wandered over to the Flora and Muse bistro, where a small stage was tucked into a back corner. There I found local singer/songwriter Jonathan Ross playing originals like "When You Get Home," accompanied by William Golden on lap steel. Here, Ross's troubadour-ish country sound did indeed create an Austiny feeling, even in the midst of a suburban wine-and-french-fries joint.
Ross showed off some nice, twangy finger plucking on "Heart-Shaped Stone" and accompanied himself on harmonica.