From tadpole to "Big Frog": festival founder expands homegrown music fest
“Hell, there are no rules here -- we're trying to accomplish something.” -- Thomas A. Edison
Anyone who has lived in Santa Fe for any length of time, and is a fan of Americana, country and jam band music, surely has seen one of the bands on the Frogville Records roster. On Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, they are holding a fundraiser concert – Frog Fest Six – at the former Santa Fe Brewing Company, beginning at 4:30 each day.
You can’t really talk about Frog Fest without talking about Frogville Records and its studio. The label formed in 2003 by John Treadwell – a graduate of the College of Santa Fe’s Contemporary Music Department. John had a job at an artist’s studio in the 1990s, and when the Grateful Dead went on tour, he decided to follow the tour and asked for time off. The boss declined his request. This was the final Dead tour before guitarist/singer Jerry Garcia would pass away and John missed it. He was furious and decided it would be the last time a boss was going to interfere with his life. “I’m not gonna let someone else’s schedule keep me from what I want to do,” remarked Treadwell, “The Big Frog”, during an interview in his Frogville Records office.
By the '90s, John had immersed himself in the Santa Fe music scene. He wanted to use the experience he gained in college to help his band friends make better records but he found that he couldn’t get the sound he wanted from the recording studios in town. So he decided to start his own studio and label. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you musicians, make records,” said Treadwell. And that's exactly what he set out to do.
In 2003, John began buying used recording gear so he and his friends could make records that sounded the way they wanted them to -- music made their way and on their timetable -- and not in an expensive studio, with the clock ticking-off dollars every hour.
It was a unique situation -- even before Frogville was a record label or studio, it was a community of musicians. One of these musicians, Nathan Moore of ThaMuseMeant, spent so much time at John’s place with his dog Frog in tow that the property soon became known as Frogville. And so the name was born.
As the ensemble of musicians began assembling the purchased gear into a studio, Bill Palmer, a Texas transplant and member of band Hundred Year Flood, was designated “Captain of the Ship” as John put it. Palmer would also serve as the key to sound aesthetic Treadwell was looking for -- today know by many as the “Frogville Sound”.
In 2004, the first Frog Fest was held to raise money for needed studio upgrades and featured most of the bands currently on the label. Treadwell chose to hold the show at the Santa Fe Brewing Company -- it's home for the past six years and running -- because as Treadwell put it, “Through three sets of owners of the bar, (Brewing Company owner) Brian Locke has always been there for us.”
The lineup for Frog Fest One included ThaMuseMeant, Goshen, Joe West and Hundred Year Flood – most of whom are also performing this year. This is the first Frog Fest without Hundred Year Flood (but key members Felecia Ford and Bill Palmer will both perform with their respective new bands.)
2011 is also the first time that the festival is scheduled for two days. “So many bands wanted to be involved and our previous start time of noon on Saturday was too early for most concert goers, so this was the best solution for all”, said Treadwell. He recommends coming both days, adding that Saturday is more of a rock 'n' roll lineup -- Sunday more geared toward country.
When asked about his favorite moments from past Frog Fests, John recalls ThaMuseMent show from the Frog Fest One. During last year’s Frog Fest Five, he noted the set by then little-known Anthony Leon and the Chain as the breakout surprise of the day. This year, he’s predicting that The Willies are going to be a key buzz factor. “They’ve been around a while, but don’t play live much anymore.” Also of note, Frogville artist John Courage is bringing his Los Angeles band to town for the show.
Frog Fest is a once-a-year fundraiser for the studio and label, both of which need support for new projects. Be there early and grab one of the limited edition t-shirts created for the event. Perhaps Mr. Treadwell puts it best: “Help good people make good music and get it out there.”
For more information on Frog Fest Six, and the full schedule for both days, visit: