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Greensborofest changes hands, but marches forth

by Ryan Snyder

BY RYAN SNYDER ryan@yesweekly.com

In its eleventh year, following hundreds of performances and thousands of local music indoctrinations, the Greensborofest baton will be passed once again this weekend.

Mike Wallace, who took the reigns of the free, weekendlong tour of Greensboro’s independent music scene in 2009, handed off the festival to CFBG co-founders Max Benbasset and Jack Bonney back in June. There’s never actually been a true owner of the event since its inception, just people with a heartfelt interest in its success charging themselves with stewarding it for another year.

“It seemed like a natural shift over to Jack and Max, two guys who have been around Greensboro for a long time and have been always been a part of making it a cool place to live,” Wallace said. “The new CFBG record and art co-op really becoming a hub for folks in town, and I liked the idea of that being kind of at the center of things this year. I honestly had no apprehension about handing it off, I knew they’d do a great job and this year’s fest is going to be killer.”

Wallace, who serves as guitarist in Winston-Salem psych-pop band Estrangers and Greensboro garagehands Drag Sounds, shifted the load to dedicate more time to music, but will remain involved in an organizational and artistic capacity when Estrangers perform at the kickoff event hosted by Show of Hands. The nonpartisan voting advocacy event at the Downtown Greenway will not only christen Greensborofest on Thursday, but will also serve as an introduction to the newly painted underpass at the Spring Garden exchange. The event will star the weekend’s de facto headliner, acclaimed Winston-Salem-born DJ, Jamla Records founder and super producer 9th Wonder, along with his understudies King Mez and iconoclastic female emcee Rapsody.

With 24 performances in total, this year’s event has scaled down noticeably from recent years when multiple shows would occur at once. Bonney, who has been involved in varying degrees since it was founded by Zach Mull and John Rash, said the idea was to consolidate the event to favor homegrown artists over out-of-town acts. This year’s booking originally intended to promote only Greensboro artists, but its coinciding with Show of Hands presented a unique opportunity.

“With a festival like this you are bound to leave out bands that should be on the bill, but once we realized that the festival could coincide with the huge Show of Hands event on Thursday Night, we knew that we could stick with our original plan of keeping the festival smaller than last year,” Bonney said. “Also, having two shows going on at once means you’re going to miss bands you really want to see and we didn’t want that to be an issue this year.”

So who to see? The vinyl connoisseur Bonney says he’s especially looking forward to 9th Wonder and Rapsody, whom he calls a game-changer among female rappers. Elsewhere, Friday night’s presentation at the Blind Tiger is a chance to see the cream of the crop in Greensboro indie rock with performances by soul-punks the Leeves, laconic electro-psych group Casual Curious, shoegazers Jenny Besetz, noise-rockers Mutant League and afro-punk ensemble the Brand New Life.

For the full schedule of venues and events, visit greensborofest.org.

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