Richard Florida's ideas about the vaunted creative class have been lauded, just as they have been criticized. Good reasons abound on both sides. But, if Florida's 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class ... And How it's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community & Everyday Life, has one cross-spectrum benefit, it ignited communities like our own to start thinking about its inner-brain, its artists. Florida's notions are broad, too, arguing that to build or sustain a creative environment, a symbiosis of thinkers and innovators thriving in a vibrant artistic culture must interact with the community that surrounds it. Florida has long argued that tension and play between the larger and smaller sets can produce a healthy economic environment.
Locally, Florida's ideas inspired DesignBox, the Raleigh think tank, to found Spark Con—a creativity conference meant to put multiple disciplines in one tight space and let the connections grow strong. GourmetSpark, IdeaSpark, YouthSpark, MusicSpark and several others unite beneath the Spark Con banner. This year, MusicSpark—which included headliners Little Brother and World Party last year—has grown wider and more diverse. Eight venues scattered outward from the new Convention Center house an eclectic lineup: You can hear sunshine pop from national outfit Apples In Stereo (their latest record is on Elijah Wood's label), blustering rock and garage punk from locals The Bleeding Hearts and The Loners, respectively, and high-dynamics piano rock from Goner. Camp Lo does Bronx hip-hop, and breakbeat expertise flows from Q-Burns Abstract Message and house honcho Sleazy McQueen.
There's even a flamenco night, a night of free radicals with our own Crowmeat Bob leading the charge, and on the last day, an afternoon with the N.C. Symphony, Opera Company of N.C. and a "Blues Barbecue" with everyone's favorite sparks—hot catfish and cold beer. If no creative minds get their pilot lights lit in Raleigh this weekend, at long last, it won't be for lack of kindling.
Spark Con runs from Thursday evening to Sunday. For music venue listings and the full weekend schedule, visit Sparkcon.com.