It Just Might Work: RiverRun, shake hands with Phuzz

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Bocanegra at Phuzz Phest (Eric Ginsburg)
Bocanegra at Phuzz Phest (Eric Ginsburg)

by Jordan Green

I’m riffing on Brian Clarey’s idea in last week’s issue to synthesize the elements of Phuzz Phest and RiverRun Film Festival with some ideas of my own about how to cross-pollinate these two major springtime events in Winston-Salem.

The audiences for the two festivals definitely need to be introduced to each other, considering that the first weekend of RiverRun overlaps with Phuzz Phest. They shouldn’t worry about cannibalizing each other; this is a case where the sum is greater than the parts. People who spend hours on end in darkened movie theaters should break off for a couple hours to hang out in a dank rock club. And rock kids who are hip to every iteration of psych-garage-pop-shoegaze-noise should edify themselves with a good documentary or Austrian crime thriller. Here’s an easy practical step: The two festival should throw in two vouchers for their respective weekend pass holders to check out films or sets at the other events.

And RiverRun should regularly program music documentaries that are specifically geared towards Phuzz’s audience. Can you imagine the enthusiasm among the hipster kids if RiverRun booked the new Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll Scene? This was a vital psychedelic music scene with harbingers of punk that was completely wiped out by the Khmer Rouge in the mid-’70s. Or, how about The Wrecking Crew, which chronicled the anonymous session musicians behind legions of hits that came out of LA in the 1960s; it opened in theaters on March 13. And the list of great rock docs from which to curate a retrospective is virtually endless, starting with the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, and spinning out to You’re Gonna Miss Me (about Roky Erickson) and Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. And of course, the two festivals should cross-promote each other. Perhaps the Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County could leverage its funding to the two festivals to incentivize cooperation.

On a related note, I’d love to see Phuzz Phest add some seminars to its programming, perhaps just because I’m a writing jock who is naturally inclined to try to impose meaning over sensation and feeling. The festival deserves credit for branching out with a skate party this year and a session on coffee roasting last year, but I have something more traditional in mind.

We have a strong bench of talent among music writers in the Triad, with various areas of expertise, whether you want to talk about Eddie Huffman’s scholarship on the 5 Royales, Ed Bumgardner’s knowledge of the Winston-Salem scene through the 1980s or Parke Puterbaugh’s familiarity with the recording of the first REM album at Winston-Salem’s Drive-In Studio. Jon Kirby and Doug Klesch would be natural contenders for a panel on the history of North Carolina soul music.

Regional music scenes with tight circles of players can sometimes seem to flash by with each burst of enthusiasm for new fads, and it’s important to maintain a lineage. Our history matters. And it points the way forward to the development of new talent and a creative economy.

Richard Emmett and Vicki Moore laid the groundwork in the late ’90s for the thriving club scene that exists in Winston-Salem today, and they could provide valuable insight on a panel about the live music side of the business. And I would love to see Mac MacCaughan (who performed at this year’s Phuzz Phest) talking about his experience as a cofounder of the 25-year-old Merge Records with Philip Pledger, the organizer of Phuzz Phest and founder of the nascent Phuzz Records.

I can imagine the New Winston Museum housing these events, and Executive Director Katherine Foster knows most if not all of the players I’ve mentioned.

Like Clarey’s proposal last week to synergize the efforts in Winston-Salem into an SXSW-like undertaking, these are just ideas. Run with the ones that make sense, and lay the ones that don’t aside.