Last Thursday evening, Finn Riggins, a charming, shambling, indie rock band from Idaho, drove three hours from Austin, Texas, to Houston to play one gig at the functionality-named SXSW Overflow Fest. The trio had played a daytime show in Austin earlier in the day, and aside from the Houston gig, they had three more South by Southwest shows in the next two days. Then they pointed their van east and challenged the next leg of a seemingly endless tour.
"You get tired fast," admits Eric Gilbert, the band's lead singer and keyboardist.
Fatigue or no, Finn Riggins is just one of thousands of bands who make the ritualistic spring trip to Austin to play for anyone they can, while trying to plot a tour that makes the round trip not only worthwhile but affordable.
Corbie Hill and Bart Tomlin—Triangle residents, musicians and now festival organizers—had bands like Finn Riggins in mind when they assembled Let Feedback Ring, a three-day, four-venue event that runs this Thursday through Saturday in Raleigh.
"We wanted to catch bands on the way back north," explains Hill, who now contributes to the Independent.
In the festival's second year, he and Tomlin are staying small, drawing from networks they've built with their own musical projects. Finn Riggins, for instance, invited Hill's then-solo project Where The Buffalo Roamed on tour in 2008. Hill liked them and, in turn, invited Finn Riggins to play his festival.
"He got in touch with us last time he did Let Feedback Ring, but it just didn't work out," says Gilbert. The timing was better now. Finn Riggins plays Friday night at Slim's, between stops in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilmington, N.C.
The first Let Feedback Ring—held July 4, 2009, as the pun might suggest—was a single-day, nine-band marathon on the shaded patio at Sadlack's on Hillsborough Street. Shoegaze, noise and post-rock bands filled the bill.
"Most of my friends just play that kind of music," says Hill.
But this year's lineup is much more diverse: From the Little Steven Van Zandt-approved Charlotte bar band Bruce Hazel and The Temperance League and the alternately pensive and bombastic post-rock of Chicago's Community College, to Caltrop's potent brew of heavy blues-rock and The Huguenots' buoyant mod pop, Let Feedback Ring Version 2.0 embraces much more sonic variance than the old name and form might suggest.
That variety wasn't necessarily a conscious decision as much as it was just an outgrowth of Hill's and Tomlin's booking philosophy. They book bands they like, ones they know and, mainly, bands they want to watch.
"We were still thinking of bands when we had everything booked up," says Tomlin.
It proved to be a good thing, too. The inevitable last-minute adjustments—such as replacing The Bronzed Chorus when the Greensboro duo canceled—caused no major headaches, just mild disappointment. "It's almost like it's too easy doing this," says Tomlin, pointing at the number of bands now depending on constant touring to try to make money.
Hill says the bands he's most excited to see are all friends with whom his relationship extends past the music. And both Hill and Tomlin underscore the importance of facilitating networks among bands.
"Bands that are on tour," explains Tomlin, "when they hear a band they like, they start to think, 'We should play with these guys.'"
Indeed, Finn Riggins' Gilbert noted his own excitement to play with Gray Young again, a band they met on a previous stop in town. And, unlike those manic four days in Austin, there's no pressure to play the set that will make you famous. "There's not a lot of expectations," Gilbert says. "It's just going to be a really good show."
Let Feedback Ring runs Thursday through Saturday in Raleigh at Sadlack's, Tir Na Nog, Slim's and the Berkeley Cafe. Set times and more information is available at http://www.myspace.com/letfeedbackring.