Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

37° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Marriage of genres

Imagine a concert with multiple artists on the bill. Sounds pretty standard, right? But now imagine a lineup of world-class musicians in assorted genres, who will be playing for four hours. Sound good? It gets better. There’s no stop in the music. As each artist comes on stage, he or she plays with others who are finishing up, and then begins his or her own set.

And that’s just the basic “plan” — anything can happen, as guest artists may appear, and you just might see a cellist, a rapper and a jazz guitarist improvising together. This might sound too crazy to be true, but you can see such a show tomorrow night when the Ropeadope New Music Seminar (NMS) comes to Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave.

“Usually each band gets a little of its own time and then it ends up being like a round-robin kind of thing,” said guitarist Charlie Hunter, who is headlining the NMS with drummer Bobby Previte and DJ Olive. “It’s the kind of thing that most people haven’t seen before.”

The NMS, a name which was taken from an early ’90s industry convention in New York, became a biannual showcase for artists on the Ropeadope music label after a successful gig at The Mercury Lounge, according to label founder Andy Hurwitz. But while the creative transition from individual shows to a full tour was easy, the logistical aspects proved to be difficult for Hurwitz and Ropeadope.

“Financially was the hard part,” said Hurwitz, speaking from his apartment in Brooklyn. “We got a patron of the arts type of person to pay for our buses and we couldn’t do this without him.”

NMS’s musicians, who are not restricted to those on the Ropeadope label, will travel on two buses, an arrangement which Hurwitz described as “almost like summer camp.” Hurwitz did not have any second thoughts about putting other labels’ artists on his tour.

“We’re too small to be this self-serving label that lives on an island,” he said.

In addition to the shows themselves, the NMS will feature seminars at some college campuses. Stops on this part of the tour include the University of Iowa, Reed College and the University of Kansas. According to Hurwitz, the nature of the seminars depends on the desires of the host school. He said Iowa wanted “more of a workshop for student musicians” while Reed wanted an open forum.

The musicians on the NMS tour understand the importance of these seminars and of connecting with a younger audience.

“The way things are today, you have to go out and reach people,” said rapper Lyrics Born. “Companies abused the consumer for a long time by putting out far too many bad records, (so) people began to become distrustful.”

Despite the fact that Lyrics Born puts out his releases on DJ Shadow’s label Quannum Projects, he said he does not feel strange about being on Ropeadope’s tour and is looking forward to the opportunity to expand his musical horizons.

“I’m not recording, I’m touring, so it’s not unusual,” he said. “It’s more about what ingredients can we throw into the pot to make it interesting. I just wanted to put myself in a different environment than I’m used to. As an artist you can’t really go beyond your limitations without stepping outside of yourself.”

Lyrics Born will not be the only artist performing in a new environment. World-class cellist Matt Haimovitz, who has recorded for several labels, also will play on the tour, but said he doesn’t feel like he’s an outsider.

“I can identify with Ropeadope’s independent position, strong dedication to their artists and passion for an eclectic mix of music,” Haimovitz said. “I’ve been into improvisation for years and have been fascinated by the idea of making music with artists from a totally different musical background.”

Also on the bill are Sex Mob Horns, who has been dubbed the top “beyond jazz group” by Down Beat’s critics poll; the Hammond organ- and drum-based Benevento/Russo Duo; Critters Buggin’, a Seattle-based jazz quartet; and Rich Medina, who will be the show’s host and house DJ.

Despite the range of genres represented on NMS, the artists involved feel a close connection to the musicians with whom they will be playing.

“There’s a certain kind of music that is not really fit for Walmart distribution,” Hunter said. “Those people get together and create music. Ultimately that will create some strange artistic bedfellows, but that’s a good thing.”

Ropeadope’s ability to bridge the gap between genres has allowed it to become a successful label that refuses to set strict boundaries for its artists. Hurwitz said he looks for artists with “an element of realness” that sets them apart from others.

Ropeadope is run from Hurwitz’s apartment — with the help of his assistant and cat — allowing for more of a personal interaction between him and the artists on the label.

“You’re a big fish in a small pond with my label,” he said. “We don’t have a hierarchy of decision makers. I’m the one that’s accountable at the end of the day.”

Ropeadope does little advertising, relying on word of mouth to spread knowledge about the label’s artists. As a result, places in the Midwest might not be familiar with the New York-based label.

“In certain cities, (the turnout) will be great,” Hurwitz said. “In others it will definitely be a reach, but just to be able to have a show is a success. All we have to do is execute the game plan and it’s hard to go wrong.”4

Weinberg junior Sam Weiner is the PLAY music editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Marriage of genres