Story by Melissa-Ann Reyes
A string of lights illuminated the stage just above the half-pipe as the chaotic pulse of music – bass, cello, drums, guitar, keyboards, trumpet and the occasional violin – rumbled in aggressive harmony through the once empty “warehouse-turned-skate-park-turned-venue” for the inaugural Huge Whisper Music Festival this past weekend.
On Friday and Saturday, Thrasher Warehouse, located at 1278 Underwood Avenue in the heart of the Bayview district, became home to the new music festival, a vision conceived about seven months ago by the event’s organizers, Lynn Gentry, 24, and Matt Welde, 26.
More than 15 bands participated in the music festival, which was devoted to the emerging underground arts and music scene in San Francisco. Still in their experimental first year putting on the event, both organizers hope to continue The Huge Whisper annually. Gentry also hopes to start another concert series in the near future.
“The idea was to bring back the idea of the underground, focusing on art going back to the place from which it came,” Gentry said. “The way we see it is, if it’s completely organic, it’s able to have roots.”
Gentry and Welde met through a mutual friend, Kyle Lesley, who lives in the warehouse. According to Welde, Kyle put the two men in contact because both had the same idea for a gig, which eventually became The Huge Whisper. The planning began in June 2010 and with the goal of hosting the event that August, but when bands began canceling, the event was pushed back to January 2011.
“Me and Lynn know the music’s already here, the creativity is already happening, and we wanted to get everybody together at the same time,” Welde said and added that The Huge Whisper was all about real and live musicians and positive encouragement.
According to Gentry, the goal is not only about the event gaining popularity, but also for an underground to flourish in every city.
“In the future, we want the underground to be sustainable and concrete so it keeps growing, keeps nurturing the community around it,” Gentry said.
As far as sustainability is concerned, those involved in planning The Huge Whisper printed the posters for the event and plan to release a compilation of music and a film for the festival, which they will duplicate themselves.
Gentry explained his philosophy about art, which he feels runs on three different levels. The first level is educational, the second level is on the streets, and the third level is professional. He said that if any level suffers, all of art suffers.
“The problem with sustainability is that the mainstream grabs elements of the underground and mimics it,” Gentry said. “It’s about creating a sustainable underground in such a way that it can’t be mimicked.”
Gentry described the vibrant underground scene in places like Harlem, N.Y., where artists, musicians and poets would gather to share the pulse of music, the power of words and the electricity of life through creative and original expression.
Inside the venue, the air was tinged with cigarette smoke, spilled beer and the heat from swaying bodies such as flannel-clad, barefoot women dancing in the dark.
In an empty room near the warehouse’s only entrance, musical trio Dirty Boots – which comprises Gyasi Ross, 25; James Dumlao, 25; and Rachel Lastimosa, 29 – reminisced about their beginnings and discussed the most exciting thing about performing at The Huge Whisper.
“The seed was planted in vocal jazz choir at State,” Lastimosa said.
According to Ross, the most exciting thing about The Huge Whisper was being able to play with other bands and being part of the festival in its first year.
“It’s such a great community who gets to grow with you musically,” Lastimosa said. “It’s a blessing.”
After the festival, Dirty Boots will continue performing at Mama’s Art Café every first Friday of the month as the band in residency for the In Progress Open Mic and is in the process of recording their first full-length album, which is scheduled for release April 2011.
“Musicians need to have their space to be around one another,” said Niki Escobar, 24, who hosted the festival’s second day of the festival. “There needs to be a place of synergy for people, for artists to connect with other artists who are not in the mainstream. The basic level is to get people exposed to music they normally wouldn’t look for. I want folks to be inspired by a band.”
The Huge Whisper achieved its goal by bringing together different people under one roof in the name of art and music, bound by relentless creativity and imagination.
“In the end, there are no genres, only good music,” Escobar said.