MusicMusic Features

Springadelia Music Fest Sets a Psychedelic Vibe at Snug Harbor

Four-day event features fusion of vibrant music and the senses

math rock band, cuzco
Cuzco is a math rock band based out of Charlotte since 2016. (Photo by Hannah Johnson)

If he had been able to pull it off, Zach Reader’s very first music festival would have been wild beyond imagining. It was 2010 in a far more limitless and less developed NoDa where Reader and his friend and roommate Casey Malone were eyeing a wide open field to hold the festival in.

“It felt like it was a lawless land,” Reader says. “Nobody really was controlling it, so we thought why couldn’t we do an outdoor festival there?”

The undeveloped parcel was near Brooks Sandwich Shop, tucked away in a patch of woods right up against the train tracks. As Reader speaks, I conjure images of the festival that never was, a gathering of Charlotte’s most interesting artists and bands along with a scattering of national acts amid the moonlit electro-pagan bacchanalia of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” video.

“It felt like [we] could have pulled it off if we wanted to take the chances,” Reader says, “but we didn’t want to roll the dice that hard.”

That show never happened, but 14 years later Reader is an undisputed yet unassuming high roller. As Snug Harbor’s longstanding talent buyer, he’s preparing to pull off an event much larger and more eclectic than his earlier imaginings.

Featuring 30 musicians and seven visual artists spread across two stages, Springadelia will take place over four days from March 7-10 at the venerable Plaza Midwood music venue. Thursday through Saturday nights’ bills start at 8:30 p.m. while Sunday afternoon’s program begins at 2 p.m.

The multifaceted event celebrates the vernal equinox and the sun-dappled, blossoming high that the season of growth brings to humankind, with the most ambitious show Reader’s ever booked at Snug Harbor.

Each night, Snug Harbor’s main stage will host a headliner, including Patois Counselors on March 7, Dipstick on March 8 and Bravo Pueblo on March 9. At the same time, another set of headliners will play Snug Harbor’s second stage on the venue’s patio. These artists are Axnt on March 7, Dirty Art Club on March 8 and DJ Shrimp and DJ NPC on March 9, the latter two being members of Lofidels, a band that’s also on the March 9 bill, playing energetic DJ sets.

The weekend wraps with a Tiki Finale Day Party headlined by Aqualads.

“I didn’t want to have something going on for hours and hours at one place,” Reader says. “I know that can get boring. So, I was trying to make this a condensed, concise thing.”

Aided by Snug Harbor’s crack staff, production manager Ian Pasquini and owner Scott McCannell, Reader’s task is to move the performers on and off alternate stages smoothly with only minimal musical overlap between the two stages. To facilitate the process, each act gets an hour to set up, play and break down.

“Every [artist] will have a comfortable 30 to 40 minutes,” Reader says. “The headliners will run a little longer.”

The timetable is set so audience members can hop back and forth between the stages and not miss too much.

“There will constantly be something going on between the two areas. It’s supposed to satisfy the senses constantly,” Reader says. “I wanted to make it as interesting and busy as possible.”

punk-diy-shoegaze band from Charlotte, NC The Mother Superior
DIY punk-shoegaze band, The Mother Superior, is set to play Springadelia on March 7. (Photo by Dustie Bayer)

Despite its scope and scale, one thing Springadelia isn’t, Reader says, is a festival, a label Reader saves for multi-venue events.

Whatever you want to call it, Springadelia should make for an epic entrance into spring at Snug Harbor.

From booking local shows to running music festivals

A transplant to Charlotte by way Maryland and Orlando, Reader started booking shows at an early age. He was still attending Independence High School when he booked a heavy-metal band called Reflux at a venue called The Room. In conjunction with the show, Reader wrote a paper about how to book a show for his creative writing class.

When Reader was 21, he and Malone became partners and moved in together. They also formed a band called Blossoms. After discarding their plan to hold a festival on the undeveloped NoDa lot, Reader and Malone launched their independent music festival Recess Fest, a multi-day concert series held at venues all over Charlotte, in 2010.

“We didn’t do it every year but we operated for about three years,” Reader says. He and Malone even ran a condensed version of the fest called Grab Bag Weekend. (Malone will play Springadelia with her swooning alt-pop project Zodiac Lovers.) Recess Fest reached its height in 2013 with a bill at Tremont Music Hall featuring Archers of Loaf.

“After that it just kind of fizzled out,” Reader says.

In the meantime, he had formed friendships with McCannell and Snug Harbor co-owner Jason Michel. Reader came onboard as the venue’s talent buyer in 2013. At first, Reader felt like the new kid of the block, so he resisted his instincts to diverge from Snug Harbor’s then-established pattern of booking rock ‘n’ roll. With time, Reader started to sprinkle more diverse genres and eclectic artists into the mix to test the waters.

“We started to embrace different crowds and crossovers,” Reader says. The practice eventually cemented Snug Harbor’s reputation as a haven for diversity and Charlotte’s most vital independent music venue.

Reader also began to spread his wings. A longtime attendee of Raleigh’s multifaceted Hopscotch Music Festival, Reader worked the fest last year as its club production manager, putting together several club shows. That experience provided the spark for Snug Harbor’s vernal multi-day event.

“I got to see the inner workings of a world that I knew about, but on a bigger scale,” Reader says. “It made me feel a little more comfortable about trying something like ‘Springadelia.’”

Behind the scenes of making Springadelia

Strictly speaking, Springadelia may not even be a psychedelic music show.

“I wanted to make it colorful and not just what you think of as straight ahead psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll,” Reader offers. He says he likes mashed-up compound words. “Springadelia” just popped into his head and he liked the sound of it.

Just how much psychedelia will be heard throughout Springadelia may be in the eyes of the beholders, the ears of the listeners and minds of the musicians playing the event.

local Charlotte, indie band Bravo Pueblo
Latin electronic trio, Bravo Pueblo (Photo by Sarah and Elias Kosmorama)

Given her all-encompassing definition of the genre, Liza Ortiz considers both Springadelia and her band, Latin electronic trio Bravo Pueblo, full-on psych.

“It’s music that amplifies or inspires a mental voyage that takes you beyond your physical surroundings,” Ortiz says.

Brendan Grove, guitarist for Boone-based heavy cosmic-rock trio Rugg, considers the event at Snug Harbor and his band as hardcore psychedelia.

“The category covers a lot of ground. That’s what makes it so fun,” Grove says. “We can play heavy nasty riffs [and] breakdowns … while keeping roots in lighthearted spaces and not take ourselves too seriously.”

On the other hand, William Schoonmaker of Charlotte instrumental math-rock outfit Cuzco sees little point in distinguishing music and bands as psychedelic or not; what matters instead are the eclectic strands of sound woven into Springadelia, he insists.

“Psyche is a genre of music that incorporates so many different paths,” Schoonmaker says. “What Springadelia brings is the most interesting avenue everyone [who is] a part of it decided to take.”

“I’ve [been] listening to things [and thinking], ‘Does this feel psychedelic?” says Reader. “Is there psychedelic influence in [the music] or things that have influenced psychedelic-type music?”

At the end of the day, what really matters to Reader are how well the disparate strands of music and performance weave together at over the four nights. 

“I’m always about the crossover, connecting different crowds together and exposing them to other bands,” Reader says. “There’s a chance that several of these bands playing might not have even had the same people watching them as the band before or after them.”

In a sense, eclecticism is psychedelic, a multifaceted prism through which sounds are heard, sights are seen and experiences are processed.

“There’s a psychedelic essence to the whole thing,” Reader says of the event. “With the springtime thing, like blooming and new life and good energy, it’s [like] transcendentalism.”

Reader feels the “spring” portion of the event’s name evokes positive energy to tie into the time of year and the season of new growth. Meanwhile, the psychedelia portion creates “a chance to play around with the look and sound.”

Stage lights’ key role in creating a captivating show

To bolster the event’s psychedelic or psychedelic-adjacent sensory allure, Springadelia boasts no less than seven visual artists devoted to enhancing the neural impact of performers on the bill. These artisans of light and motion include NA$A, Adam Cope, Vision.Stains, Sweat Transfer, Splat Daddy, Thomas Miller and Hemi Sync.

“We’re having a lot of visuals by some local and area projector-visual-type people,” Reader says. “They’ll be running simultaneously in the main room and out back on our big patio wall.”

“There are two schools of thought for these live visuals,” says Grove. There are the old school liquid lights with pigment and oil on curved glass employed by Pink Floyd during psychedelia’s heyday. Then there is a newer approach where analog video-synthesis creates feedback loops mixed with analog video gear.

alternative-punk/pop band from North Carolina, Rugg
Rugg, a self-described NC garage fuzz band (Photo by Mike McClellan)

Grove’s band Rugg employs both approaches, having already collaborated on its own shows with some of the visual artists at Springadelia, including Thomas Miller, Splat Daddy and NA$A.

“This adds unbelievable amounts of texture to our live shows and allows people to enter this creative trancelike state where we are all traveling outside of the venue and our own bodies and ego to absorb the energy around us,” Grove says.

Splat Daddy is the quintessential liquid light-show artist, Grove offers. In contrast, Thomas Miler manipulates and mixes digital clips live.

“Splat Daddy and Thomas have been a team now for a handful of years,” says Grove. “They blend their favorite styles when teaming up, [like] power rangers.”

Ben Verner and Chris Walters, of Charlotte neo-psych outfit The Wormholes, couldn’t be more pleased with the prospect of Springadelia light shows.

“We’re lucky Zach reached out to us,” Verner and Walters write in an email. “With the theme of the fest centering around psychedelic audio-visuals, we know we’ll fit right in. Oftentimes, we’re the only band on the bill with our own live visuals, so we’re very excited to see how this aspect of the fest will inevitably elevate the entire weekend experience.”

With any hallucinatory or mind-expanding experience, there is an inevitable a comedown. Springadelia makes it a gentle deceleration in the form of a tiki-themed patio party on Sunday, March 10. With fast, coiling twanging guitars, and thundering drums, celebrated surf-rock guitar slingers The Aqualads head an afternoon bill including TBD Brass Band and Rene Escarcha, The Queen City’s legendary Filipino-born Elvis Presley impersonator known as RenElvis.

A fixture of the Charlotte music scene in the 1990s and early 2000s, RenElvis has long been out of the limelight for some time.

“[Escarcha] has a good relationship with our general manager Chris Burns, and it just so happened that RenElvis messaged Chris, asking if … he could play sometime soon.”

Reader felt the early afternoon timeslot and the tropical/Martin Denny-style exotica theme would be a perfect fir for the Charlotte icon.

“I don’t think [Escarcha] is planning to play too much more, so this was the best thing I could think of,” Reader says.

The patio bill also boasts three DJs for the tiki-themed finale to Springadelia: Bo White of Patois Counselors, Marta Moons, and Zzzzaappp, the latter being Reader’s tiki DJ alter ego.

local psychedelic group, Wormholes
Wormholes is an audio-visual psychedelia group from Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Justin Smith)

“Between Bo, Marta and myself we all love that stuff and have records and music to share,” Reader says. “I wanted a nice afternoon hangout, just to kind of wind down.”

Wherever audiences drop in during the four-day Springadelia extravaganza, Reader hopes attendees have a fun weekend characterized by building musical bridges, audience crossover and artist exposure.

“There’s intentionally a few well-known names mixed with some not-so-known,” Reader says. “Hopefully that will mutually benefit everyone involved.”

Eclectic and experimental singer-songwriter Joshua Cotterino plays March 9 and looks forward to many of the event’s performances, including sets by Patois Counselors, Zodiac Lovers, Lofidels and Dead Tooth.

‘I hope [attendees] … will feel some of that indefinable magic that live music can bring,” Cotterino says.

“For a brief moment in time, we hope the audience gets transported to a realm of cosmic energy and temporarily forgets that a world outside even exists,” The Wormholes’ Verner and Walters write. The pair declines to pick favorites among the event’s lineup.

“Every single show is special to us,” The Wormholes write. “A bill this solid means we’ll be ready to crush.”

Cuzco’s Schoonmaker says audiences will ideally come away from Springadelia with “a ‘love you forever’ mentality, with a melancholic idea.”

He’s excited to see Hiroshi Jaguar, “because that name is sick.”

“I just hope they don’t hate us for not being as good as all these other amazing bands we get to play with,” says Kevin Kinne of densely layered Charlotte shoegaze rockers The Mother Superior. Kinne says he’s stoked to see Palomino Blond, Rugg and Ego Death Machine.

“We hope [the audience] connects with [Springadelia] and walks away with joy and a sense of fulfillment from the whole event,” says Bravo Pueblo’s Ortiz, who looks forward to catching performances by Clarity, Dirty Art Club, The Wormholes and Top Achievers among others. Bravo Pueblo’s new single, “Cambural,” drops March 9, the same day at the trio’s headlining Springadelia set.

alt-rock band from Boone, NC, Rugg
Rugg band members (Photo by Julia Lynn)

After wishing that everyone at Springadelia “will melt into hyperbolic primordial ooze and return back to their physical state by the end of the set,” Rugg’s Grove turns serious.

“We hope that the people see that there is amazing music all around them, and that the psych-rock scene here is just getting started,” Grove says. He puts Springadelia artists Hot Garbage and  Seismic Sutra on his “must see” list.

“Ideally Springadelia is a unique experience that people want to have again,” Reader says, before obliquely touching on the event’s springtime theme of growth. “Hopefully we can expand on it next year.”

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