Frigid temps, mountainous snow, horrendous travel, enough snow days to drive a parent up the wall. Most of us would agree—this has been a heavyweight winter. If you’ve been stuck in the winter doldrums, we can relate. We also know there’s a way to bust those blues. Enter The Rochester Thaw.
What is The Thaw? It’s Rochester’s newest music festival, created by Nick Novotny. Novotny is an active member of the Rochester community. You can find him practicing zymurgy as assistant brewer at Little Thistle Brewing Company, banging out the beats with local band Loud Mouth Brass, and as a sound technician/stage hand for Northern Sun Productions. And now he can add “music festival founder” to his already impressive resume.
Thaw: The Inception
Novotny was generous enough to answer a few questions about his passion project.
MTMM: What inspired you to start The Thaw?
Novotny: Seeing how the city of Rochester has embraced and supported the growing music scene is what did it. The festivals that are currently adding so much to the landscape—like ROCKchester and the Rochester City Jazz Fest, as well as the shows put on through My Town My Music and Art Heads Live—have all shown that the city is hungry for supporting local art and music. So, I wanted to try to create something that would provide another platform for getting great artists from our region to perform for those hungry music fans.
MTMM: How long have you been working this project?
N: Planning started in mid/late December. The idea had been kicked around for longer, but when it actually came down to “this is the date, start booking,” that was it.
MTMM: What kind of vibe are you trying to create with this festival?
N: This is an event centered around the love of music from our region of the country. We are so lucky to have such an abundance of amazing talent around here, and being able to showcase it in any way really is such a big part of all this, especially in a city like Rochester that has this great fire in the music and arts community with all of the growth in recent years.
The goal is also to provide a high quality music show for everyone involved. Make the experience great for bands, the production and other event staff, and of course for the fans!
MTMM: Did you have a specific musical feel in mind when curating artists?
N: I wanted the music to be diverse. That way, there would be something for everyone, regardless of what their music tastes are. So, we have everything from alt rock, delta blues, Americana, psych-rock, and things in between. Each act brings something different to the table.
MTMM: What are some challenges of planning a festival in Rochester?
N: The biggest thing was location. I’d had the idea for months prior to having a location locked in. Nowhere seemed quite like the right fit. Then The Castle opened and it seemed like it was too good to be true. They have a beautiful room, a great sound/light rig built in, and Threshold Arts running the space, who were open to letting me throw a first-time event there.
MTMM: Any inside or behind-the-scenes tidbits you can share with us?
N: As if the main fest wasn’t enough, just wait ‘til you see the after party! The team over at Bleu Duck, with production help from Carpet Booth Studios, is gonna transform their place and provide a great way to close out the whole night!
Of course, when we talk about a music fest, we gotta talk about the music. Novotny has, indeed, curated a diverse lineup of artists. Read on for a quick rundown of each.
General B and The Wiz
Indie-Blues / Psych-Rock
“Weird name, fun music. Let’s rock and roll.”
As their social media pages describe, General B and the Wiz are “made up of a few really nice jazz boys who are into some really weird, yet wholesome, stuff.” Loud guitars and driving rhythms provide a solid base for the Jack-White-tinged vocals of lead singer Quincy Voris. The true musical talent of all the members is obvious, and their high-energy performances make even the most reserved concert-goer forget to stand still. It’s clear they’re here to have fun, and they make damn sure you will, too.
Put on your dance pants!
Americana / Alt Country / Indie Rock -Pop
“Violiner. Singer. Songwriter. Teacher. Eater. Lover. Friend….”
Those are just a few of the words that Jillian Rae uses to describe herself. A classically trained violinist, Rae has roots in Northern MN and calls Minneapolis home. Over the years she has provided violin accompaniment to dozens of musical acts from the surrounding region and beyond. She is now establishing herself as an important voice of the Twin Cities’ music scene in her own right. Rae makes it difficult to box her into any one genre, with music ranging from folk to edgy pop. The latter sound will be most apparent on her upcoming album I Can’t Be the One You Want Me to Be, scheduled for release May 2019. Her music is genuine, showing the vulnerability of emotion while drawing you in with smooth, powerful vocals.
Watch Rae as she rocks her violin guitar-style on this re-work of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”.
“The only complaint I ever have about his sets is that they come to an end. Mike—the man and musician—exudes quality.” Ed Hoffman, Ed’s No-Name Bar
Hailing from Winona, Mike Munson has cultivated a reputation of compelling, intricate songwriting and outstanding blues technique. He says he has always found himself drawn to music that accomplishes the most with the fewest resources. Munson seems to use that approach in his own music as well, though the end product is far from simple. His original songs showcase masterful musicianship that spans the genre from forlorn to foot-stomping. Add thoughtful lyrics and a voice built for the blues, and what you get is a true gem of an artist.
Watch those fingers fly!
Indie / Alternative / Rock
“I I F O I IC”
Trevor Bartlett, Cameron Bartlett, and Zach Zurn make up this indie rock three-piece. The Minneapolis-based trio has roots in Rochester, and we are always stoked to have them down to play a hometown show. Painting dreamy soundscapes is something Author does with deft hands. The atmospheric quality of their music leaves the listener with a wistfulness that they may not have known was even there.
Karate Chop, Silence
“Let’s Get Chopped.”
This rock quartet says it best:
“Our fists of fury play instruments. Our Sensei is modern radio. We rock. We funk. We pop. We know nothing about karate.”
All we know? They’re comin’ to make you dance.
Get your warmup here:
“Fear. And minimalist folk punk pulled out of pure desperation and necessity.”
Audrey Robinson of Peas and Carrot is here to rock your face off.
Ready, set, go!
Nik Hamilton does musics. He is involved with several musical projects around town, including backing band for VILD. Hamilton is fostering his own solo career as well, which has found him playing at Split Pine, ROCKchester Fest, and others. Hamilton also works at Carpet Booth Studios.
Hamilton as one-half of levelest:
Whew! Convinced, yet? Then hustle over and get your tickets!
You don’t want to miss this festival! Whether you are looking to dive into regional acts on the rise or are eager to experience what the hometown talent has to offer, Novotny and The Rochester Thaw Music Festival have it all.
We’ll see you there!