You do not have to be a jazz aficionado to appreciate the workings of San Francisco Offside Festival’s co-founders – musician Alex Pinto and local music presenter Laura Maguire. Rather, at its core, the festival is about expanding the awareness of unique, local talent. The plethora of talented musicians all share the commonality of having cultivated their art in the Bay Area. Underscoring these sentiments, the festival’s founders exalt the local San Francisco music scene in their mission statement – “Our hope is that the San Francisco Bay Area ultimately gets the recognition it deserves as home to a rich, diverse, and exceptionally talented jazz community.”
So what better way to spend your holiday weekend, than participating in the second annual SF Offside Festival. The festival spans three nights, introducing creative and genre breaking music performances each evening. Details about the schedule and how to purchase tickets are listed here. You can also sample some tracks from the artists that will be performing here.
Untapped Cities: What was the original inspiration or catalyst to creating this festival for you personally?
Alex Pinto: When I was in school at McGill University in Montreal, the local jazz musicians decided to start their own festival, called the Off Festival, to feature all the local musicians who lived in Montreal and to instill the idea that great music, great jazz happens all year round. This was in response to the feeling that so much attention was placed only on the Montreal International Jazz Festival held every summer for just a few weeks and with mostly an out of town line up. Their efforts really unified the local musical community and actually led to more programming opportunities for the local musicians within the International Jazz Festival so I was inspired by their work.
In the Bay Area, I felt like there were plenty of festivals for jazz music, but none that really featured anyone who lived here. I met Laura through just playing in the city and she was the perfect ally.
How has the planning for this year’s festival changed since your inaugural festival last year?
AP: We learned where to play, where not to play and honed our marketing strategy. We ramped up the visual element of our promotions and have found that people have really responded to that. Hernando Buitrago came on board as visual director and has made a huge difference. We’re also now a fiscally sponsored project of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, which allows us to secure grants and donations. This has opened a lot of opportunities up for us, but now that we’re effectively a business, our paperwork has piled up and the administrative hours have dramatically increased.
What are you looking for in artists when selecting them to fill the line-up?
AP: We want to firstly support the musicians who live in the Bay Area so we only look for musicians who live here. Secondly, Laura and I want to program musicians who write their own music and who are really taking risks. We feel that there are plenty of venues for standard repertoire so we want to give audiences a taste of cutting-edge, new music that defines modern approaches to jazz. Finally, we strive to present a diverse cross-section of the scene, so programming musicians from a range of ethnic backgrounds and featuring female instrumentalists.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform most this year?
AP: Mucho Stereo - a new project featuring Jaz Sawyer on drum set with two electronic artists, Mike Boo and Asonic Garcia. I know Jaz really well and have gotten to know Mike and Asonic through their awesome work with Secret Sidewalk. I have no idea how it will sound, but it’s going to be a great cross section of analog and digital worlds.
AP: It’s making the musical community tighter. We’re seeing more collaborations and cross-pollination among artists in SF and Oakland. I think it’s also putting the Bay Area community on the map nationally. We were featured in NPR’s jazz blog, A Blog Supreme, last year as a new presenter finding new audiences for jazz and as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, so hopefully what we’re doing to elevate the music as an organization will then extend to individual artists in that the next time they release an album or go on the road, there will be recognition and validation in what they do because they live and work here.
To get tickets to the festival and learn more about the festival, arts and its founders, check out the SF Offside Lands’ website here and on their Facebook page. San Francisco Offside Festival is a fiscally-sponsored project of San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.