This year's Buffalo Infringement Festival is being held online and livestreamed on YouTube. Bands and artists have creatively repurposed their homes for the event--- or found vacant spaces like parking garages to perform.
WBFO's Nick Lippa spoke with Festival Coordinator Ryan Gurnett about how the festival is managing during a pandemic.
NL: So how do you hold an infringement festival during a pandemic and how is it going?
RG: Well, it's all good. It's all digital this year. We didn't really want to put anyone at risk, especially any of our organizers who are usually at events all 11 days of the festival. So we are premiering everything on YouTube. During the week, we're premiering things at 7 p.m. On the weekdays, it is 3 pm and then an addition to the pre-recorded events we have, we also have a few live zoom events. We had the Prince versus David Bowie Dance Party, which was Saturday. On Monday we had Buffalo Infringement Festival trivia. And then on Wednesday, we're doing a double live podcast with two different local podcasts who are going to be participating.
NL: I know that posting to YouTube via some of your Facebook comments hasn't gone entirely smoothly. What's that process been like?
RG: Well, I wanted to avoid YouTube to begin with. I just didn't want to have to deal with any sort of censorship or any problems we'd have. So we're streaming a lot of stuff off WNYmusic.com which is a website that I run. And we took a couple days to update to the change in the upload limit so we could actually fit our files in. And then that didn't work. And then I'm like, 'Okay, let's try something different.' So then we tried Google Drive. And we found out that you can embed stuff from Google Drive into webpages, but you're extremely limited with the amount of viewers you can have and how much you can use it. So then we moved to YouTube. And I uploaded the first day video around 11 o'clock on Friday morning. And I didn't hear anything from YouTube until 6:15, which is 45 minutes before the event is supposed to go up. And they're telling me that there are three songs-- that usually if something's covered by copyright, you can use it, you just can't monetize it on YouTube. But there are certain artists, The Beatles, anything from the musical Hamilton really popular things like that, that you just can't use. And we had three of those in one video. So I immediately just went, 'Okay, mute the song.' And I hit process. The first song took about five hours processing. The second song took about six hours, and then the following morning, it was ready. But they certainly take their time with these things. So I've definitely learned a lesson about making sure we get our videos up a little earlier. So we don't have any problems like that again. So the good news is that everything that we have is uploaded and it's ready to go. So hopefully we won't hit that problem more than once. For me, I've posted probably a total of three videos to YouTube in my life. So I really didn't know what the process was like at all. So I've just kind of been learning how their stuff works on the fly.
NL: So what can people look forward to later this week? I know we are almost a week in to the festival up and running smoothly now.
RG: The festival started on July 23. It's going to go until Sunday, August 2. Oh man, some of the best things we have yet to come. This Thursday we're going to have movie night, (which) features a collection of music videos by local artists. We also have a 45 minute movie called transmission by a band called Darsombra out of Baltimore. They've played at least 20 different countries, they travel the world. They make this crazy psychedelic music. And I haven't even had a chance to watch the movie yet. I'm really excited about it. They do a lot of really creative things. And then the same night that that's going we also have the Miss Demeanors (burlesque) doing their tribute to composer John Williams. So we're having some burlesque appearances. One of them the theme is the movie Jaws. We have an Indiana Jones. I believe there's a Star Wars in there. So that's gonna be a lot of fun that day. On Friday, July 31, the Purple Sparkly Unicorn Potluck. So usually it's a potluck. Since we can't do a potluck herem we actually have a couple videos of our performers preparing food for their performances. It's a night heavy on electronic music. We have Jay Aquarious, who's local hip hop...nuspeak, who does electronic alternative music is going to be there. We're going to have Christy Abbey, who is a great local folk singer. And a guy by the name of My Rap Name is Alex who does a lot of really fun looping and rapping things. So that's going to be our Friday night and then Saturday is one of the nights I think I'm most excited about. Typically every year for the festival we have programming at the Broadway Market. We have all three floors covered. So the first floor is usually acoustic music and jazz. The second floor is usually like industrial and hip hop and the third floor, which is the roof, is usually for like rock bands and some of the more mainstream stuff. So obviously we couldn't do that this year. But the Broadway Market was nice enough to let us actually use their space. So we took one day with a camera crew and a sound crew and we had six bands play in the garage. So that's going to be fantastic. I've seen all the footage from it. It looks great. It sounds great. The bands performing include Sheridan, Eleni and the Uprising, the Scarecrow Show, THIS, Bloodthirsty Vegans, and The Missing Worker. So I would definitely out of all the stuff that's on there, the Broadway Market stuff that's going to be available on Saturday is definitely absolutely worth checking out. And then on the final day, which is Sunday, that's our closing ceremonies. Opening and closing ceremonies is where you kind of put a lot of the best stuff or a lot of the most interesting stuff and I think people will find that that has a lot of it. We have the Miss Demeanors-- are going to be doing another burlesque performance. We have this great band from the Brockport area called Take Two. Now Buffalo Infringement Festival originally came from the Montreal Infringement Festival, which started around 2003. And the creator of the original infringement festival actually submitted a video for us to air which is going to be on during closing ceremonies. And that's gonna be from an unpublished thesis that he tried rolling out at the 2004 infringement festival. And he at least reached out to me and said, 'I've wanted to do this for a while, but I haven't been able to because of professional repercussions. I have a job as a teacher and I work at the union now (so) I can do what I want.' So I think people are gonna have a lot of fun kind of just checking out what the old infringement festival is like and kind of seeing some of our origins.
NL: How is that talking with people during a pandemic? How has it been in interacting with artists putting on an infringement festival during this totally different setting?
RG: Everyone's been actually really great to work with. I set a deadline. Almost everyone kind of hit the deadline right on the head. We, probably out of the 66 submissions we had in music, I'm gonna guess about two thirds of them submitted videos, which is definitely a higher percent than I thought it would be. I started doing Infringement about three years ago and one of the first jobs I had to do was I had to call all the acts and confirm them. And as someone who's a little socially anxious, it made me nervous. But as I started calling people, I realized, everyone was nice. And when you deal with musicians, that's not always the case. But a lot of these musicians have been a part of the festival before. They know the work that goes into it. And they also know that it's completely volunteer run. So I think because of all those things combined, they're always quite easy to deal with.
NL: Moving forward, what do people got to know if they want to tune in for the Infringement Festival, you have YouTube, but you also have the Facebook page up and running. What are the best ways for people to really link in?
RG: Sure, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/InfringeEveryDay, that's the official infringement page. You can go to the events tab on there and you'll see everything that's either already happened or is going to happen in the festival. Plus, there'll be YouTube links there. You can also go to wnymusic.com. And at the top of the page there, we have a Buffalo Infringement Festival tab that has the entire schedule listed out. It also has a bunch of information about the festival including what we're all about. And very detailed information about our mandate and our rules, if that's something you're interested in, and it also has links there to all of our visual artists.Our painters and things like that. So we still found a way to try and show off their art as much as we could as well.
NL: And one of the cool things I have to imagine was having everything taped to it's a great archival process for infringement festival moving forward. That's kind of neat, right?
RG: I think that for me, that is like the greatest silver lining of all of this. Since I've been been working with Infringement Festival I like trying to bring in people trying to bring in young music students and people so they can kind of get some industry experience before they graduate college. So I've actually been at Fredonia over the last two years. And a lot of the time if I gotta find a playlist, I have to search for all these videos in different places. Everyone uses their own website for it and YouTube's search is just, it's ridiculous to try and actually find things. Having one festival in one place where everyone can find it, I think is fantastic. And I'm hoping it'll kind of show people a little more what we're about and get people more interested in the coming years.
NL: And speaking of coming years, is this something that if we do have Infringement Festival in person again next year, are you going to employ a lot of the ways you're doing this with YouTube and streaming moving forward next year?
RG: That kind of depends on how we're doing with volunteers. All 11 days worth of footage was assembled by one person who was an intern by the name of Vincent Lima, who I should mention because he did just a bang up job with everything. So we really just need the people who can go out to the venues. And you know, even if you just have an iPad and want to record a show or stream it like people who want to be a part of the festival as someone who's are like almost a record keeper, that is absolutely something we would need going forward. So we always try to do our best to archive everything as we can. But you know, even with working with volunteers, you'll have someone who's really an important part of the festival one year and then the next year they just disappear and then you don't know where all their stuff is. So I think using wnymusic.com is kind of a central place to have all the footage-- I think is going to be good for us. And I think one of the big problems that people don't know about is that a lot of the local venues around here actually don't have strong enough WiFi for us to stream from their events. So that's still going to be a problem for us going forward. But hopefully people will kind of see what's online this year and want to be interested in help us helping us document it the following year.