My First Comfest
By Andy Gallagher
Friday night, through what can only be described as pure, dumb luck, Trains Across the Sea got the chance to perform on the Solar Stage at Comfest for 37 minutes (we had to cut two songs because of time).
Since this obviously was our biggest show yet, it will go down as either the greatest live experience any of us will ever have in our lives, or it won’t. Both are sobering realizations—we’ve either peaked, or life gets better from here.
Regardless, there were two interesting things I took from the experience: 1) Playing Comfest doesn’t necessarily mean your band is any good, and 2) it probably won’t lead to anything.
The cool part about Comfest is that all the bands know this.
Curiously, the bands that play Comfest aren’t selected by respected members of the Columbus music community (though I’d certainly love to see the lineup if they were). They’re picked by those on the Comfest planning committee, which dovetails nicely with a founding principle of Comfest: Your community is only as good as your involvement in it. Don’t like the band selection this year? Figure out how to be on the committee that picks them next year.
What this means from a band’s perspective is that being chosen for Comfest isn’t necessarily a critical validation of your “art”—it’s merely a chance for exposure.
And exposure is probably all you’ll get—every band knows there’s no money in it. You play for free, and blow your lungs out up there trying to play harder than the five other acts performing at the same time on other stages, knowing that, at best, you’ll sell maybe five or six CDs, or maybe get another hit on your MySpace page.
It won’t buy next week’s groceries, but it might, if you’re lucky, turn a few new people on to your music. And that’s why Comfest is so important to the Columbus music scene.
If you want to make money, you move to a coast. If you want to become famous, you move to a coast.
But if you want to make music, you find the nearest basement and drag all your instruments down there and fill it every Tuesday night with your heart and soul, and play in bars on weeknights to nobody and pray the whole year for the one opportunity to play Comfest just so the rest of Columbus can maybe understand your take on the world.
And even if you don’t get in, you’re still there supporting those who did, and trying to figure out how to get in next year, when you might have an opportunity for not a damn thing but the chance to play…if only for 37 minutes.