It’s Simple: Just Push Play

00:00 September 30, 2011
By: 2Fik

SimplePlay Productions Renews NOla's Music Scene

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[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

Party Monster DJ's Dragon Den's Silent Disco on 7/14/11.

If you can remember EOTO packing the downstairs room of Blue Nile back in March 2009, Tipitina's in November 2008, or Howlin Wolf in November 2006, thank SimplePlay. If you can remember Mike McKenzie joining PANTyRAiD onstage at Howlin Wolf last December, thank SimplePlay. If you're an avid live music fan in New Orleans, chances are you can thank SimplePlay for at least one of your favorite live music memories.

Comprised of founder and CEO Ron Richard and partners Alex Bowen and Nigel Rafferty, SimplePlay Presents is one of New Orleans' most prominent independent concert booking and production companies, and 2011 marks their five-year milestone in concocting memorable music experiences for the masses.

"Our vision is not just throwing concerts and making money, it's providing people with an experience," says Bowen. "Whether it be 70 people or 1000 people, we wanna provide an experience they're gonna remember, not just another concert."

What has now blossomed into a multifaceted live music booking and promotion company over the past five years actually has its roots in a post-Katrina T-shirt startup. An outlet for productivity following the storm, Homegrown Designs—pre-SimplePlay—became Richard's focus, and the first show they sponsored hosted Sage Francis at the now defunct Shiloh on Tchoupitoulas.

"We maybe sold four shirts, but we made like two grand off tickets," says Richard. "So it was kinda like, 'Well, enough with clothing, let's just start doing music.' And then it just evolved from there."

Having discovered a lucrative opportunity in an industry he loved, Richard started booking shows around New Orleans, first at Shiloh with the booking agent there and soon enough out on his own. A majority of his early shows involved local jamtronic group Gravity A and his friend Josh Mayer, better known as DJ/producer Ooah of Glitch Mob and PANTyRAiD.

Ooah introduced Richard to Michael Travis and Jason Hahn, former String Cheese Incident members performing under the name EOTO. Their visually mesmerizing, 100% live remixed set was a huge hit locally, and Richard continued to bring them back to the city.

More networking and notice meant more shows, and amidst these growing successes, Richard put a new name to his music industry endeavors: SimplePlay Presents.

"Being at a show and getting paid to hang out with people and meet the people that we meet, it's more like 'play' than work in that sense," says Richard. "And then 'simple' because people sometimes tend to make things a lot more complex than they should be. Live simply, try to keep it simple."

That mantra served him well as he continued booking and promoting more and better shows over the next few years. The all-star lineup of SimplePlay's Jazz Fest 2009 latenight show at the Howlin' Wolf included EOTO with Michael Kang and Steve Molitz, Pnuma PA, Lotus, Lyrics Born and M@Peoples with Gravity A. The roster of past—and present—SimplePlay shows balances both local and national acts, established and up-andcoming, and demonstrates a diverse and refined taste for music and live show experiences of all genres.

Then in early 2010, Richard found a likeminded and easygoing business partner in Bowen, who was studying music business in Austin and also had a stint managing his own venue in Baton Rouge. Introduced by a mutual friend and former business partner, Richard and Bowen hosted their first show together—the Floozies at the Dragon's Den in February 2010.

Their partnership successfully combined the two's different industry experience, contacts and business relationships, and Bowen's light and speaker rigs, which have elevated the overall quality of their live productions.

From national acts like Glitch Mob, Break Science and Ra Ra Riot to a host of local artists—GIVERS, Caddywhompus, High in One

Eye, Big, Fat & Delicious, The Local Skank, Enharmonic Souls, Good Enough for Good Times and Jealous Monk, to name a few— SimplePlay focuses on quality of music and live performance over any particular genre.

"Our main thing is that we don't wanna be just one genre," says Bowen. "We wanna have funk, we wanna have blues, we wanna have mainstream, we wanna have electronic music. We don't wanna cater to just one crowd, we wanna cater to as many people as possible."

Central to managing audience expectations and promoting shows is an effective marketing campaign, overseen for SimplePlay by their third partner, Nigel Rafferty. Rafferty, a Loyola music business graduate, has gained valuable experience running the box office and promotions for Tipitina's and various national festivals, and SimplePlay's online and social media presence has since benefited from his input and collaboration.

Growth continued consistently and swiftly, and soon the SimplePlay team had developed a roster of artists to manage all concert bookings for, adding to the company's list of skills and offerings. In a city flush with diverse talent, knowing which artists to book from a business standpoint could be an overwhelming effort. Per usual, SimplePlay prefers a more natural and organic approach to finding their artists.

"Scouting the local scene and seeing who was doing what and who was really hardworking and ready to take it to the next level—who we thought with the right help could really go somewhere," says Richard. "Also doing a show or two with them and liking the way they worked, liking their sound, and then talking about working with them in the long term."

Currently on the SimplePlay roster, indie soul/pop group Royal Teeth and funk quintet EarPhunk are both New Orleans-based bands touring locally and nationally to promote debut EPs they each released earlier this year.

Lafayette electronic producer Young Hedons, Baton Rouge dubstep duo High Top Kicks and Atlanta dubstep producer Uprise round out the roster and represent SimplePlay's expansion into other music markets in Louisiana and around the South.

Part of establishing a more regional presence has been their monthly bass party, Sub:Stantia at The Office on 3rd St in downtown Baton Rouge. The kickoff event in July featured High Top Kicks, Nashville's This is ART, Young Hedons, and DJ Triz-A, and September's show featured SEXYTIME, a collaboration between MiMosa and Sleepyhead, and Black Swan. If you're in the Baton Rouge area October 13th, catch Archnemesis, High Top Kicks and more at the next Sub:Stantia installment.

Just past their five-year anniversary, SimplePlay's five-year plan for the future includes booking and promoting arena-size shows, securing spots on festival lineups for the artists on their roster and, ultimately, producing their own festival.

Their more immediate future, however, includes a foray into silent discos—dance parties where the music is broadcast through an FM transmitter to wireless headphones rather than speakers, staging the illusion that a room of people is dancing both in sync and in silence.

SimplePlay hosted their first silent disco at the Dragon's Den this past 4th of July, where High Top Kicks, Lafayette's PartyMonster, local mashup artist Jermaine Quiz and others performed simultaneously on two different stages, the audio for which could be toggled between with the headphone's dual channels.

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[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

High Top Kicks' SubStantia show

After positive feedback on the show and increased interest in the silent disco technology, SimplePlay answered this new demand by partnering with Silent Storm Sound System for 500 wireless headphone sets for their new disco project, Silent But Deadly. They held their first Silent Disco at the House of Blues in Dallas on September 30th, and their first in New Orleans is set for Wednesday, October 5th, and features High Top Kicks and PartyMonster along with Pretty Lights Music artists Michael Menert and Supervision.

Having come so far and with several irons in the fire, Richard and Bowen shared what advice they would give other aspiring music industry professionals, and what they would have told themselves five years ago.

"Try not to get pigeon-holed into one genre," says Richard. "If you really wanna do it for fame, you gotta expand your horizons and like all kinds of music."

"You're only as good as your last show," says Bowen. "Not in terms of how many people were there, but in terms of it sounding right, the music being right, the lights being right, because consistency is very important. People really care about what they're gonna hear, whether it's a home-run show with 1000 people or 80 kids having the time of their lives."

Check out their website, http://www.simpleplaypresents.com, Facebook and Twitter for regular updates about upcoming shows and festival appearances.

Upcoming shows

dam-funk + master-Blazter Tuesday, October—One Eyed Jacks

The airborne Toxic event (w/ Roney & Boytim Entertainment) Friday, October 14—Howlin Wolf

sTaR slinGeR + mux mool Saturday, October 15—One Eyed Jacks

perpetual Groove + earphunk Wednesday, October 19—Howlin Wolf

Toubab krewe Friday, October 28—The Maison

Galactic + JJ Grey and mofRo (w/ Roney & Boytim Entertainment) Monday, October 31—Howlin Wolf

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