Conundrum Music Hall is celebrating its 4th birthday on June 13th with a humdinger of a party, Conundrumfest, a blitzkrieg of a festival featuring 15 bands, 3 comedians, 4 artisans, and 2 food trucks.
Jasper staff writer Michael Spawn caught up with Cecil Decker, a key organizer of the festival who runs sound at the venue and fronts the nerd-rap group Autocorrect along with a variety of noise projects, to chat a bit about the festival. For full details, check out their Facebook event page here.
Jasper: Pretend that I don’t know anything about Conundrumfest and have no idea what it is. Tell me what it is in the simplest way possible.
Cecil Decker: Well, Conundrum is turning four years old and I wanted to have, like, a party, because I like parties. And we decided the best way to do that would be do gather up a bunch of people who have been involved with Conundrum a lot in some way, whether or not their actually involved in working there. People that have just played there so much that it feels like they’re just a part of the place, you know? It’s a party for anyone who has ever been a part of Conundrum to celebrate it’s still being around.
J: So are you masterminding this thing?
CD: Myself and Jeremy from Daddy Lion, Jeremy Joseph, we’re both sort of the evil masterminds—the brain trust of putting it together. It was sort of an idea I had and I was like, ‘I can’t do this alone.’ And Jeremy had done Villa Villa Cola last year, which was a huge success, and I said, ‘Well, he clearly had a little more experience in this than me.’ You know, I’m used to a little three-band rock show. I don’t if I can handle a fifteen-band all day extravaganza. So he’s been a huge help and between Indie Grits and Conundrumfest it’s been an eventful Spring.
J: How long have you been planning this?
CD: We planted the seed in Tom’s mind probably in January. January and February. Then we kind of backed off a little bit until late March and it’s been sort of full blast since then, just contacting bands, and then you re-contact the bands, because it’s that thing like, ‘You know that thing we talked about two months ago? Can you still do that?’
J: Did you get all the bands that you wanted? Were there any no-thank-yous or no-can-dos?
CD: There were some no-can-does. There weren’t any no-thank-yous. There were, I think, two that couldn’t do it. But it was like, ask everyone and make the event as long as it needs to be for all the bands.
J: What is it about Conundrum itself? What do you think separates it from a New Brookland Tavern or an Art Bar?
CD: Well, as a musician, Conundrum sounds really good. I know there’s some aesthetic and vibe you get from other small venues, but Conundrum sounds really good. Like, the stage sounds good and the room sounds good, and that’s a huge point of pride for us first and foremost.
J: And by us, you mean. . .?
CD: The whole Conundrum consortium. I’m a sound geek and I run sound there. There’s Tom and there’s Jeremy and a couple other people who are behind the scenes. I just mean the Conundrum staff.
J: Is your appreciation for Conundrum purely acoustical?
CD: Well, we’re not a bar, right? Because we’re not first and foremost a bar, we make our money on bringing the arts to people rather than having music shows and selling a lot of liquor. The entire vibe of the places comes from that. You don’t have a show where. . .it will never be Bey’s, right? There’s never a show where you’re playing and there’s not a single person listening. When people roll through, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re a music venue!’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, you booked a show here.’ So that’s the number one thing. We’re trying to be more arts inclusive. We have artists setting up shop at Conundrumfest—painting and crafts and things they’ve made and we do more film events. It’s still a music hall in name because that’s our primary thing, but we definitely try to be more inclusive to all the arts. The Soda City Cirque did an amazing show there recently. So it’s definitely a place where you don’t ever know what you’re going to see but you know it’s going to be really interesting. We try to bring types of programming that you wouldn’t get at Art Bar or New Brookland. That probably works because we’re smaller than them. It’s a really infinite room and it feels good to be there.