Indie Beat: Basilica Soundscape Arrives as the Anti-Festival

(from Billboard, September 10, 2013) The Basilica Soundscape in Hudson, New York has quickly become a cure for the typical summer festival hangover. Although it’s only in its second official year, the two-day program formerly known as Basilica Music Festival takes place this weekend and is ready to introduce new and up-coming artists. It is holding performances by underground and emerging acts including Pharmakon, DIIV, Julianna Barwick and Evian Christ. Also being held, artwork by the likes of Matthew Barney, the sculptor Lionel Maunz and the performance artist Genevieve White as well as a reading by Richard Hell.

Basilica Soundscape strives to be explicitly small, personal and weird, everything that the big-name festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella can’t be. “At this point obviously there’s way too many festivals and all of them have the same line ups,” says Brandon Stosuy, an editor at Pitchfork. “We’re trying to operate outside that a little bit and keep things interesting and eclectic.”

Originally, Soundscape was a reclaimed 14,000 square-foot nineteenth-century glue factory near the shore of the Hudson River and 100 feet away from the local train station. Bought by Auf Der Maur and partner Tony Stone, the couple wanted to turn the space into a distinctive performance and arts venue for the town’s escalating artist community. With this, Soundscape started an off-the-beaten-path festival that could take up the legacy of the now-defunct All Tomorrow’s Parties New York.

With 14,000 sq. ft. to fill, the owners started exploring the idea of the space and how they could fill it. Auf der Maur, owner of the Soundscape and former Hole bassist says, “We bring in independent artists of all kinds from the international community and everyone who sees the building wants to make something here. It’s like an impressive, industrial church.” In order to back up its commitment to small scale performances, the Basilica has a maximum capacity of 1,200 people. Soundscape is designed to be experienced as a whole articulate program, with performances and readings taking place in different rooms and crooks of the Basilica all one right after the other. “We’re interested in building something more like an old record label that maintains a unique identity as opposed to changing with whatever the prevailing trends in music are,” says Stosuy. “Hopefully people will start to trust the name of the event to the point where they say ‘Hey, that festival is coming up in six months—I’ll buy a ticket because I know it will be interesting.’”

The goal of Soundscape is to get you to pay attention through the entirety of the show, so you leave being fascinated with new bands because of the one or two you originally came to see. The Basilica is striving to reach a core audience that’s willing to pay more for a matchless experience, since they haven’t found a sponsor that is the right fit. The founders, Auf der Maur, DeRan and Stosuy, have financial goals to pay artists well, keep the festival alive year after year and a more creative goal to make something that stands out in an over-saturated festival market.