Jul 28, 2014
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Before the Bridge: the Many Muses of a Festival

In its third year, the free, local outdoor concert is still going strong thanks to the efforts of a handful of dedicated, singularly minded volunteers.

Before the Bridge: the Many Muses of a Festival Before the Bridge: the Many Muses of a Festival Before the Bridge: the Many Muses of a Festival

Even for a town , Collingswood has a busy weekend planned.

Oct. 13 isn’t just the monthly Second Saturday celebration with its requisite gallery openings and seasonal farmers market shopping experience. Neither is it merely the nightcap to the borough’s quarterly sidewalk sale, nor simply the eve of its latest restaurant week.

It’s not a date exclusively reserved for Collingswood to participate in the worldwide PhotoWalk; heck, even a new business is planning its opening reception for that evening.

No, among the guantlet of weekend happenings through which borough visitors and residents may run is one celebration that refuses to be drowned out in the noise of all the others: the third annual Before the Bridge music festival.

The concept is simple—stage a top-notch, out-of-season, all-day outdoor concert featuring some of the finest original musical talent local to the region. Charge a zero-dollar admission fee. Add people, mix and boom: instant party.

To execute that plan, however, means ironing out more than a few wrinkles.

Let’s put on a show!

Despite a laundry list of local sponsors that includes Pennsauken media production house Disc Makers, Collingswood Music, the Studio LuLoo nonprofit subsidiary Community Rocks! (and of course, Collingswood Patch), dollars for the unsubsidized event have been hard to come by this year, said Before the Bridge co-coordinator Mike Snyder.

“I think this year was probably our most difficult year of attaining financial sponsorship,” Snyder said. “We started earlier this year and it was still a little bit tougher.”

Collingswood is known as a town that supports its own, however, and the Before the Bridge crew are a bootstraps lot. A lot of the funds that power the cause came from dine-out donations at the Tortilla Press, personal contributions from friends and well-wishers and a very successful comedy fundraiser anchored by local comedian Carolyn Busa. A Disc Makers-produced sampler CD of Before the Bridge artists has been selling well throughout town for a $5 donation.

And it’s not like the organizers are exactly starting from scratch. Snyder and Chris Rocco, who also own the Spark Creative agency above their coffee shop, Grooveground, laid the initial groundwork for the concept a few years back, putting on three summers’ worth of shows prior to Before the Bridge, including two with the support of the borough.

After those dollars dried up, however, the pair needed an influx of new energy to keep the streak alive.

“It seemed like everyone wanted [another festival],” said Rocco, adding that he and Snyder feared that “the threat of a year without having one” would have signaled to future sponsors that Collingswood couldn’t sustain the concept.

Enter musician-promoter Nick Cain, whose Plantlife Music label and years of experience in the recording and touring industry provided new connections and a spiritual boost to the endeavor.

“With people knowing Grooveground and Nick bringing Plantlife, it was a good match,” Snyder said. “I think that this festival probably wouldn’t have evolved the way it has if it wasn’t for the partnership that we have.”

“We all bring what we do best to the table,” Cain agreed.

Cain added graphic designer and Collingwood native Brian DePue, an old high school friend whose Rolodex brought in the sponsorship of Disc Makers and an extra pair of skilled hands.

“It’s two degrees of Collingswood,” Rocco said. “'Oh, I know a guy…'”.

“We all really boiled it down and contributed to the event,” DePue said.

And although the borough government no longer has the budget to contribute to the bottom line of a music festival, Snyder said, it has lent all the non-material support it can, “to a point where I don’t think any other town in this state would be as supportive.”

Cain echoed those sentiments.

“I’ve lived in a lot of places—New York City, Philly, Chicago; I’ve never been to a place where they’re so supportive,” he said.

Homegrown talent

The concept of “Before the Bridge” reflects Cain’s tenet that solid, local original-music acts do in fact prowl the stages of South Jersey, and that despite the proximity of Collingswood to the City of Brotherly Love, the discerning concertgoer can find some gems on this side of the Delaware—or at least a fine venue in which to be entertained.

“We always want to represent homegrown talent, but the point isn’t to have all bands from around this area,” he said; “it’s that we can bring legitimate talent to this neighborhood. Why not have pride for where we are? This is where we are. This is where we grew up.”

And with the show reaching its third anniversary, Cain says, he’s having to do less recruiting as artists recognize what an opportunity it is to play there. This year’s acts include three selections from Collingswood proper: alt-rockers Goodnight Lights, the jazzy throwback duo She Hates Me and wry tunesmiths MONKO.

If you haven’t heard of them, who cares, says Rocco: a fall music festival is the perfect time to shift your musical gears from the sounds of summer and cleanse the palate with something new.

“New music releases are moving more into October because nobody can pay attention,” he said. “Even for people to…take the time and buy a CD and pay attention and listen, you’ve got this tiny window between now and Christmas.”

“It’s a change of seasons, and the energy is different,” Rocco said.

Plus, like any outdoor festival there’s more to do than just check out the talent. A vendor’s village of booths (including one staffed by Patch) will feature handmade crafts, jewelry, music and clothing, with free face-painting for children from 2 to 4 p.m., “and we’re adding stuff for people to do,” Rocco said.

“We’re trying to create an avenue for people to hang out, enjoy the music, eat some good food, and enjoy themselves,” he said.

The third annual Before the Bridge music festival will be held from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. at the intersection of Haddon and Woodlawn avenues. Guests are strongly encouraged to bring their own chairs.

The lineup:

noon - DJs Nick Cain & Brian Ross
1 p.m. - She Hates Me
1:45 p.m. - Monko
2:30 p.m. - Heyward Howkins
3:15 p.m. - Prowler
4 p.m. - Goodnight Lights
5 p.m. - Belgrade
6 p.m. - Gunfight
7 p.m. - Sweatheart
8 p.m. - JJL
9 p.m. - Illinois

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