(Covers and) originals wanted

Dayton Does Dayton festival returns

By Rusty Pate

Photos by Jennifer Taylor

Photo: Rev Cool (Jim Carter) of Wyso will host Dayton Does Dayton:

The history of the Dayton music scene is a tale far too elaborate for the space this article allows. As in most cities of any substantial size, musicians and artists come and go. Some stay for decades, others seem to jet away in hours. The names and faces change, but the scene perseveres. As long as a stage sits in front of people wanting to hear music, the musical evolutionary process presses on.

The modern local purveyors remain plentiful. Vibrant and rich music continues to emanate from the Miami Valley, but any community worth its stock always stays mindful of its past.

From the revolutionary lo-fi magic of Guided By Voices to the slick and stanky funk of The Ohio Players, Slave and Zapp, pinning down the Dayton sound remains an elusive task. However, one thing is certain – remembering and honoring that diverse history is a worthy pursuit.

The Dayton Does Dayton Music Festival strives to do exactly that.

The event will take place at Gilly’s March 13 and 14 and will feature more than 20 local performers. The format allows each act to perform a set of original tunes followed by a cover song celebrating Dayton’s past or present. This marks the event’s fifth year, but the idea goes back much further.

Mick Montgomery gave the city Canal Street Tavern. He is a towering figure in the Dayton music scene and he originally conceived a similar idea in the 1990s.

The format back then focused solely on artists covering each other’s work, and Montgomery said bands really got behind the idea. He said it took place multiple years and produced some really great shows.

“It’s one of those kinds of shows that happen many times over the years where there was just a really cool show and it seemed like it went over everybody’s head,” Montgomery said. “There just wasn’t really a big enough crowd and it kind of lost steam.”

More than a decade later, Louie Wood, Jr. began promoting a series of tribute shows in the area. Initially, the focus was on The Smiths, Morrissey and The Cure. The format found an audience and he would go on to do similar shows based on The Clash, Talking Heads, David Bowie and Joy Division/New Order.

Wood was never really a cover band guy, but he developed a format that allowed local bands to play their own music and mix in unique perspectives on familiar songs. He never set out to be the “tribute show guy,” but he also understands it is good to be known for something.

Already working with Montgomery at Canal Street on other shows, Dayton Does Dayton seemed to be a natural progression. Musicians were excited to do it and the crowds followed. The idea soon took on a life of its own. For Wood, the concept is not only to put on a one-off show.

“My mindset was this was going to be like a pep rally at the beginning of every year to get people interested in local music and to celebrate local music,” Wood said. “They work on so many different levels, so many positive ways. There have been a lot of bands in Dayton that were not original bands or had no original material to begin with. They do these shows and I tell them, ‘If you’re going to be a cover band, that’s OK, but if you want to play one of these events you have to learn some originals.’”

Montgomery’s original take was a one-night affair, but Wood wanted to expand the format. He said turning it into a two-night festival flipped it from a show to an experience. Give the people an elaborate night, and the excitement gets ratcheted up a notch or two.

Montgomery was also impressed with the work Wood put into the revamped format. Perhaps most importantly, the concept had legs and served a real purpose in the larger music community.

“It’s just a cool idea and over the years most of the bands that have gotten involved in it have taken it fairly seriously and tried to be real creative in going back,” Montgomery said. “It’s not hard for local musicians think about stuff that they’ve been influenced by from other Dayton bands. That’s part of the beauty of it, really.”

The performers also get a special experience. Not only do they get exposed to the new music that they cover, they get a chance to network with other musicians. Each act has a built in audience, and that larger collective gives musicians a chance to play for people they otherwise would not be in front of. Wood said he strives to put the show in front of listening audiences rather than just some bar where people are bashing wings and trying to pick up women.

“Not only do they get excited about paying homage to Dayton music history, but they get excited about playing in a place they probably wouldn’t ever be able to play in until they establish a 500-person draw,” Wood said. “I want their friends and families to experience the show. I don’t just want them to sit at the table, twiddling their thumbs waiting to go on. I really want them to be there with their friends and turn this into an event and not just another gig. When I sign the bands up for this, I want them to have an experience and connect with the audience.”

This year’s festival features the Dayton Funk All-Stars, hardcore rap from Menace 2 Sobriety, the neo-soul of Jess Gallo (an upcoming participant on NBC’s The Voice), local radio personalities Niki Dakota and Rev Cool (Jim Carter) to name a few.

Wood said he limits performers to two tribute shows every six months. That means a constant influx of new voices and styles participate. Daniel White, AKA Barefoot Dan, is one of the voices making his Dayton Does Dayton debut, although he’s worked with Wood on a different tribute show in the past. He said a show such as this offers a lot of perks for up-and-coming artists.

“It’s really well organized – a lot of great musicians, peers of mine as well as people I haven’t met,” White said. “Dayton has a pretty rich history in terms of arts in general, from the days of being the funk capitol of the United States. We’ve had some pretty spectacular musicians and artists come out of the area. Dayton’s always been a good place to play music. There’s a lot of venues around town, small and large, that are good to play. From a spectator point, it’s always one of my favorite things to do besides actually performing, to get out and see the bands in Dayton.”

Reyna Spears, on the other hand, has played the festival before. She has played around the area for years, often singing covers. Obviously, she’s gotten more comfortable over the years, but she remembered her first time playing Dayton Does Dayton as a fun, but nerve-racking affair.

“You’re showing a different part of yourself that you don’t normally show to people when they just see you do cover songs,” Spears said. “On top of that, you’re doing it in front of a bunch of other musicians. You’re not doing it in front of people that are eating food and having their own conversations and never played an instrument. You’re playing in front of a lot of your peers.”

Wood said some bands will sign up for Dayton Does Dayton a year in advance, but he always gives performers at least three months notice to work on the covers. He checks in to make sure progress is being made, not only on the songs.

“I want them to promote hard, work hard on their covers, get their family and friends out and make this a happening rather than just another gig,” Wood said. “I think that so many of this type of event falls into that category where the bands just treat it like another gig. This is something that when they sign up for it, they have to really work hard. I only want to work with bands that have a strong desire to make something happen.”

He’s quick to point out that an event like this requires a lot of people doing a lot of work.

Just as one article cannot encompass the entirety of a city’s music history, one event can only cover so much. The idea is not to condense this proud musical heritage down to its basic elements, but to help continue the art form’s expanse. Rather than a celebration of what Dayton was, it is a spotlight shining on what Dayton is and can be. It’s a chance to come together and realize that the scene should never be spoken of in the past tense.

The real legacy has little to do with being a funk capitol or the birthplace of Robert Pollard. The real legacy lies in some kids’ garage, as they bash out three chords and dream of writing the next chapter in this proud tale.

This show gives those kids a platform.

Dayton Does Dayton is about more than simply getting a group of musicians together to play a set group of songs. It is a concept and a story that must be told and retold. It is a concept larger than the sum of its parts.

“If you can get people out because of just the idea, you’re going places I think,” Wood said. “We have names this year, but it’s not just the names that draw people – it’s the idea.”

The Dayton Does Dayton Music Festival will be held March 13 and 14 at Gilly’s, 132 S. Jefferson St. Admission is $7 per night. Friday’s show begins at 8 p.m. and Saturday begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information, please find Dayton Does Dayton on Facebook.

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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