This Friday and Saturday, the Mid-Atlantic College Radio Conference (MACRoCk) will sweep the streets of downtown Harrisonburg for the 15th year in a row. Can you sense my excitement? I attended MACRoCk for the first time last year and my only regret is that I hadn’t gone sooner. The two-day celebration of all things indie music will take place in a variety of venues all within walking distance, including Artful Dodger, Blue Nile, Clementine Cafe, Court Square Theater, Downtown 34, and Little Grill Collective this Friday, April 6th and Saturday, April 7th.
I got a chance to speak with this year’s organizer, Philip Kim, about MACRoCk- past, present, and future. MACRoCk began back in 1997 with the idea that music can thrive independent from corporate influence. The conference was hosted by WXJM, JMU’s college radio station, and took place on the university’s campus. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that MACRoCk officially became a non-profit and moved into the heart of downtown Harrisonburg. Since the move, MACRoCk has thrived and become the largest independent music conference on the East Coast! Some nationally recognizable past acts MACRoCk has showcased include Sufjan Stevens, Elliott Smith, Saves the Day, and Coheed and Cambria.
MACRoCk isn’t just your typical music festival, it’s a conference meaning that, on top of the 90 or so acts concert-goers get to enjoy, there are also a number of topic panels and a label expo. This year, 3 panels– “Gotta Get Dat News,” “Kinda Like Woodstock,” and “Spice Up Your Shirts”- will take place on Saturday afternoon. “Gotta Get Dat News” between 12 and 1pm at Ruby’s will give MACRoCkers a chance to catch up on recent music news as told by some of the most popular industry bloggers of the moment. You don’t have to go far for the second panel, also at Ruby’s beginning at 2pm, “Kinda Like Woodstock” features first-hand accounts from a variety of past festival-goers. Between 12 and 2pm, make sure to stop in at Laughing Dog for “Spice Up Your Shirts.” Bring your own blank t-shirt (or buy one on-site) and receive a free screen print of this year’s MACRoCK logo!
In addition to the panels, during the day on Saturday, the Blue Nile will host a label expo. Independent labels, booking agencies, PR groups, distros, local businesses, and independent vendors will all be in attendance from 11am to 3pm. Kim noted that panel and label expo aspects of the conference are particularly important because “…these exchanges and ideas can inspire or encourage other people to create in their respective ways…whether that be making music, making a record label, making their own music event, or something not yet thought of.”