Is there anything Dave Britt hasn’t done in the music business?
He’s a musician. As a former part-owner of All-In Entertainment, he helped run the concert calendar of regional clubs such as Amos’ Southend in Charlotte, The Music Farm in Charleston and Headliners (now defunct) in the Vista. Britt was a co-owner of The White Mule, the sorely missed Main Street bar and listening room.
Britt, who has long been a player in making St. Pat’s in Five Points happen, also puts music together for the River Rocks Festival and this weekend’s Rosewood Crawfish Festival. The latter is part of his duties as executive director for the Greater Rosewood Merchants Association.
The association is partnering with Sustainable Midlands’ Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival, so Britt is also taking a bite out of the July 20 festival.
“It had a really good showing last year, and I think we can really build on it,” Britt said, noting that in its fourth year the festival, usually held on a Sunday, is moving to a Saturday.
The Crawfish Festival changed its date this year, too, moving back a week.
“Since Kenny Chesney was in town, there was no way I could compete with that,” Britt said about the country superstar who played at Williams-Brice Stadium May 4. “Think about the traffic alone.”
The Crawfish Festival has some competition this weekend. There’s the Eau Claire Fest locally and the S.C. Poultry Festival in Batesburg-Leesville. But it seems like the city can handle multiple festivals on the same date.
“When we had the River Rocks Festival, I was worried about the (Love Peace & Hip Hop Festival, also on April 13), but both events were hugely successful with completely different niches,” Britt said. “The more festivals I work with, my goal is that they don’t become homogenized. As long as you can keep it fresh as your concept, I think it can do all right.”
The following Q & A with Britt has been edited for space and clarity.
You’ve been a talent buyer and bar owner, but with your current position it seems like you’ve transitioned into a new phase of your career.
It’s been nice to have a steady job. I have to hustle for the organization now instead of always for myself. It’s been nice to have that consistent paycheck and the stability. It’s improved my ability to work in a professional scope. It’s made me have to adjust some things to do business with folks in different ways. I have to go to City Council from time to time. Just network with all the other executive directors in the city to try to figure out the best ways to develop our areas.
But you’re still booking club shows, like at 5 Points Pub. Is that hard to let go?
I mainly do the club shows so that I can maintain my relationships with the agents for when I’m ready to buy shows for festivals. It just helps keep me in the loop, because if you call an agent and you haven’t talked to them in a year, sometimes they forget about you or they don’t take you seriously. If you’re on their radar, it helps.
After the success of last month’s Love Peace & Hip Hop Festival, it’s obvious that the genre is wanted in a festival setting. Talk about putting hip-hop, particularly Ben G, a rapper who perennially has a packed show at a St. Pat’s in Five Points unofficial stage, on this year’s crawfish lineup.
I thought it was weird that he was overlooked at other festivals. You know, we got criticized in the Free Times a little bit for having the same old mid-’90s headliner that brings out a certain demographic. If you have a winning model for a festival, there’s no sense in trying to re-create the wheel. But what I did want to do was get a little more progressive with our side stages and really spotlight the artists who are really doing something in Columbia. I want to appeal to a broader section of music fans this year.
Indie rock, which has a significant local following — there’s a radio station, WUSC-FM 90.5, dedicated to independent music — has often been underserved at festivals.
I wanted three stages and I wanted them all to have a cohesive flow. The main stage is the easy one, because it’s the model that we’ve always done. I did throw a country band on there for the first time ever, too.
Let’s just try it all. You can’t be everything to everybody, but in a festival you can offer something to everybody. I just have to see what the reaction is to it.
The indie rock, that stage to me has a great flow of artists for people that like that kind of music. For myself, as a music fan, I could tell by looking at those three stages that I’m going to be conflicted in what I want to even watch.
How can you still find time to play in a band? Is that your way of relaxing?
It’s getting to a tipping point, but I think it’s kind of ironic that this band, The Rival Brothers, is becoming successful at the same time everything else is progressing. I just keep doing as much as I can do. We’ll see what happens.
For most of your music career you’ve been a guitarist and frontman. How is the keyboard-playing sideman roll?
I was just really good friends with all the guys in the band and I felt that I was missing out on a good time with them. I wanted to give myself a new challenge playing keys. It’s been a great experience getting out of having to be the guy doing all the heavy lifting.
You’ve been in the local concert game for almost 20 years. Just about everyone working in the clubs in the late ’90s (has) moved on. How have you been able to maintain longevity?
You just have to have a passion for music. And it’s interesting, Columbia is in a really different place than it’s ever been before (as far as) the potential to support (live music).
You still struggle with club shows, but I guess it’s always going to be like that. Since we don’t have a national venue, what’s happened with Columbia is the only place to see national talent is at festivals. I think they’re thriving because there is no place to see your favorite band or national talent except at these festivals.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.