Mojo Burning: Promoter Interview

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  • Thursday, 16 March 2017 13:31
Christian Tryhorn - Mojo Burning promoter Christian Tryhorn - Mojo Burning promoter
Mojo Burning returns in 2017 for its fourth annual instalment of swampy blues and smoky stoner-rock.

Bringing together band and artists from Australia and the United States, Mojo Burning is a boutique festival at the forefront of the blues-rock revival.

This year's line-up features Nick Oliveri (from Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age), Cheap Fakes, Hobo Magic, Lepers & Crooks and Sabrina Lawrie, to name a few.

Born out of necessity to showcase the immense breadth of blues talent both within and beyond local borders, Mojo Burning has expanded to incorporate a travelling roadshow in addition to its official event at Hamilton Hotel in Brisbane.

Mojo Burning promoter and lead singer for Transvaal Diamond Syndicate, who will also be performing at the festival, Christian Tryhorn gives us the lowdown on the bands and what to expect for this year's event.

Heading into the fourth edition of Mojo Burning, what can audiences look forward to?
Mojo Burning is always a super-high vibe. Bands from all over the country get a chance to catch up as mates (most acts are friends through a degree of separation or two), true fans get a chance to chat with their favourite bands (most of these relationships are also friendship based) and the audience gets a treat of AV stimulation with the addition of live artists (painting/ dancing) mixing in with the music.

It really is a solid mix of nationally and internationally touring blues, roots, rock and stoner-rock acts. This year we've added a carpark pre-party from 12pm where we'll have a bunch of muscle cars, a southern BBQ and a few extra bands to kick the day off in style.

Which bands are you most excited about securing for this year's event?
Nick Oliveri of course! What started as a simple Facebook inbox turned into a Mojo headline slot and corresponding national tour. The power of the internet haha. I've spent the last 20 years foaming on Kyuss and QOTSA. To be chatting with Nick regularly in the lead-up and to have him on our event is so much of a buzz. Super stoked.

Not downplaying any other act on the bill though, we work hard to secure the best possible line-ups of super-talented musos each year in our 'all killer no filler' ethos. You won't find an under-done band on any Mojo bill... ever.

How does Mojo Burning 2017 compare to previous years in terms of production?
Production wise, as mentioned above, we're adding a carpark stage, bringing in The BeatsBUS, Beats Cartel's party pop-up to run outdoor proceedings with the addition of a blues-rock DJ too. We're adding more live artists this year as well to tie in with the band's sets. Otherwise it will be the usual assault on the senses.

Why is it important to have niche blues festivals like this, which fall outside of larger mainstream events such as Bluesfest?
Bluesfest is great! Love that event. But is it possible for the majority of hard-working blues, rock bands to play that event? No. I've played it, but it's a bit of a pipe dream to be honest. We place our energies on the bands that aren't represented nationally by the big dogs (festivals and radio) and make sure we're giving the punter 100 per cent quality to boot.

Band selection is paramount. Boutique events are on the rise. People want an experience you know. Smaller events are made up of true fans completely there for the music and to show support; that's what makes the vibe so electric.

Weekends like Splendour and Falls are great, but they are just a big bender... who really cares who's playing? I think boutique events, warehouse parties, pop-up gigs are the future. Even venues will see a downward trend while this economy stays the way it is. With smaller pop-up events, you can design a concentrated experience and leave people with a real sense of what you're trying to do.

Since the first festival in 2014, what are some of the hard lessons you've learnt about promoting along the way?
Always learning! The first one is that you can't rely on bands or promoters to sell tickets, it's a bonus. In the past I've put energies into people's word, if they say they're good for 100 or can sell 50 tix I used to think 'then that's what they'll do!'. It isn't. Expect the minimum and be impressed if they over deliver haha.

I think you also have to get outside the box promotions-wise; it's easy to fall into the Facebook boosting mentality and just stick with that. Poster/ flyer drop, tag the streets, put on warm-up gigs to promote the brand, pop-up guerilla shows and the usual suspects. I'm always learning and always feel like I need to work harder to understand best promotional practice.

At the core of it all, work with people you trust, give the bands and promoters the tools they need to succeed and always work on building positive camaraderie between yourself as the promoter and the people who love the music you are working hard to promote.

Are there any plans for expanding the festival even further?
We'd love to take the festival outdoors at some point. To get there though, I feel we really need to be selling out the venue for a year or two first. As mentioned, I think the future is in alternate, location ideas. Find a property, set up a few stages, set up a camping space and a bar and let the bands go for it over a weekend. That's our Mojo utopia haha.

In your opinion, what is the enduring appeal of blues and blues-based rock that attracts an almost continuous stream of new musicians and bands to the genre?
There's something deep, dark and eternal about a blues progression. We know where it came from... we are nothing like that, so why does it resonate so much? I don't know. Everyone can identify with having the blues, but it usually isn't all doom and gloom; it's uplifting and cathartic.

At the core of blues rock is groove. Groove is so important and is also eternal. If I hear a band and can feel the groove in my bones then I love them straight away.

Blues and rock for mine complement each other perfectly; the groove and aggression of rock and the feel and storytelling of blues. It's a total win and it blows me away that more people can't recognise that and it isn't picked up by major outlets a lot more.

There's a lot of blues talent in Brisbane; any bands or musos you've currently got your eye on?
There is a lot of blues talent in Brisbane. But what is 'blues'? I reckon, alongside metal, it's one of the most argued genres. Everyone's got their opinion. This is blues, that ain't blues, that definitely ain't blues.

For mine, anything with a blues progression or that makes me think of the blues is blues. Period. If it's got a rock edge or moves into a stoner-rock bridge... even fucking better. Blues seems to be owned by the old in Brisbane especially, the key is to bring in the new or the blues will be just that, a genre for the old.

There are Brisbane blues greats like Mojo Webb at the top, Brisbane blues rock like TDS, TRA, The Blackwater Fever, Brisbane-ish blues-influenced bands like Hobo Magic and Trapdoor. It's a shame, but blues seems to be a dirty word sometimes. I really didn't discover it until I was 30. We need to push it out through blues-inspired bands and get the genre picked up by the next generation.

How does the local Brisbane scene compare to those interstate?
The Brisbane scene seems to be made up of an old guard and the new kids coming up you know. It's important to all work together to meet in the middle. We played a show the other night with Transvaal Diamond Syndicate, The Blackwater Fever, The Royal Artillery and Deadweight Express. Four of my favourite bands. But it feels like we're kind of the old guard hey.

We've toured hard, kind of been there done that, excitement lies in hitting the venues around Brisbane and witnessing young bands doing the blue, rock, stoner rock thing and doing it well. Still some work to be done in Brisbane I feel.

Nationally, there are a host of great bands. Obviously Melbourne is the epicentre of all genres of music in the country. They have the biggest cross-section of scene bands but their weather is shit or I'd be there haha. The national scene is there but not strong. Wish more people would work hard to unite it.

Bring old blues and new blues together, bring stoner rock together nationally, bring rock together nationally. That's our mission. Who's with us?

What do you personally look/ listen for when searching for potential bands to play at Mojo Burning?
The music must be good, it has to move me. The band needs to be professional in approach and on the road to making it with set-up, social platforms, a strong brand presence and sound and generally good people to boot.

We continually adhere to the 'all killer no filler' ethos as mentioned so it has to be gravy baby. We promote bands not quite there on other events throughout the year. Mojo bands have to kill it. If I see them live, they need to pump... and they all do! Live show is ultimately where it's at.

Which artists (alive or dead) would you have on your ultimate, dream festival line-up?
Ah man... it's so broad isn't it. If we went too large we'd be moving away from the festival core values of supporting the scene and hard-working musicians doing their thing.

That being said, a headline bracket of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac with straight blues from John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf would be pretty amazing wouldn't it haha. Throw in Clutch, QOTSA and RATM and you have a 100 per cent foam party.

Realistically though, I'm fucking stoked with every Mojo Burning line-up each year. I 100 per cent back and rate all bands on the bill and will continue to push the cause nationally and internationally with a view to tightening up the scene and giving bands a sense of identity and belonging in something larger.

Mojo Burning takes place at Hamilton Hotel (Brisbane) 25 March.


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