Upcoming music festival aims to show another side of Columbia

Local cassette-tape record label brings forth a lifestyle through their music.

By Claire Colby | Oct. 1, 2017

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Matthew Crook is on a mission to end boring music. The Columbia-based musician and director is one half of Dismal Niche, an experimental record label, and organizer of the upcoming music festival of the same name.

“All of the music we feature is eminent to a lifestyle,” Crook said. “Most of our artists don’t set out to use music as a career to make money. It’s a deeply ingrained, powerful thing.”

Since its start in 2013, Dismal Niche has worked to promote DIY and experimental artists based in the Midwest. Artists include Tim Pilcher & Monica Lord, Rip Rap and Solid Waste.

Dismal Niche deals largely in cassette tapes. They’re cheap to produce in small batches and provide a unique and quirky medium for music. Springfield is home to one of the U.S.’s last cassette producers, providing a Missouri connection. Within the last year, the label has started producing vinyls as well.

“We’re an extremely small nonprofit with a modest budget,” Crook said. “We get more and more support each year, and it’s been great to see an appreciation grow.”

Oct. 5-8, Crook and his business partner, Ben Chlapek, will usher in a crowd of the best experimental artists from across the country as part of the third annual Dismal Niche music festival.

“We’ve definitely built an audience for this,” Crook said. “People should come because what we’re doing is very rare in the Midwest.”

Last year, the festival sold more than $4,000 in tickets.

“We do this partially because this town has become more and more homogenous,” Crook said. “Downtown has gotten less quirky and more exclusive.”

Festivities will start on Oct. 6 with a Dismal Niche-curated First Friday’s art event and continue through the weekend with a series of experimental performances.

Dismal Niche isn’t in the business of escapism, however.

“We’re not setting out to distract people,” Crook said. “This year our artists are a little bit more reflective of the way that a lot of people are feeling about current political conditions.”

Among the lineup for this year’s festival is Moor Mother, a Virginia-based artist whose latest album was named one of the best experimental albums of 2016 by Rolling Stone.

Also playing is Kath Bloom, a longtime artist whose work has been reviewed by major publications such as Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound.

“These artists wouldn’t be here otherwise,” Crook said. “We’re the ones bringing them in.”

Tickets are available through the event’s Facebook page.

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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