To just about anyone who went to an underground rock show in Brooklyn last year, he’s known simply as Todd P. His full surname, though, is Patrick, which shares a root with the word patron– and if independent music has a patron, if avid but disaffected youths in New York City have a crusader, it’s Todd Patrick. Purveyor of all-ages, low-cover shows at venues like Market Hotel, Silent Barn, and Monster Island Basement, Brooklyn’s DIY impresario hopes with his latest venture to spread his influence farther and wider than ever before.
After four years of throwing a free concert in Austin, Tx., concurrent with the bank-breaking South by Southwest festival, this year, Todd P. is putting on his own large-scale event in Monterrey, Mexico, MtyMx, which concludes tonight. Located at a mountainside drive-in theater overlooking the city, the three-day, $30 festival features many of the bands from SXSW —including Brooklyn’s own Liars, Thee Oh Sees and Air Waves- as well as a number of Mexican indie bands like Los Llamarada, Los Fancy Free and Quiero Club.
Patrick’s current mission is twofold: to include everyone, not just those who can afford it, in a culture of free expression and euphoric vibes, and to overcome America’s strict immigration laws and passive ignorance about Mexico in order to unite the independent music scenes in the two countries. He expects about 80 percent of MtyMx attendees to be Mexican. A few days before he left for Austin, where he still planned to throw a free show before his own extravaganza, I met Patrick in his modest apartment-cum-office in Long Island City, Queens. Leaning in, forearms on his knees, perpetually adamant, he described what he envisioned for the festival and what he felt that he was up against.
You’ve said in the past that the people you reach in Brooklyn are most often those who are dedicated to going to shows on a regular basis, and you wanted to throw a big one-off to reach those kids who might only go out a few times a year. The kids that most need to be involved, the kids whose lives would most be enhanced and improved, are the ones who are outsiders to this world, this kind of genuine subculture that exists in every city, including Brooklyn, and surrounds all this music. Those kids are the ones who right now, before they’re turned on, are the most frightened. They’re the ones who don’t think they’re cool, and so they’re intimidated to go to underground events that are in certain neighborhoods. So yeah, that was definitely always a concern, was to do something that appealed to kids who hadn’t come out of their shell yet.
Will a festival in Monterrey be able to achieve that? I feel like MtyMx will do that for Mexican people. This festival by Mexican standards, by any standards, is ridiculously cheap, and we made it really, really, really cheap because we wanted regular Mexican kids to come. So $30 for three days or $15 a day is — it’s not nothing, but it’s something that’s attainable to these kids.
Where is that money going to go? It seems like just the operational costs… Well, we’re also selling alcohol. We also have a city of 300 tents. We’re also going to rent an entire hotel and re-rent those rooms at a higher rate. I’m not a martyr. I don’t do this to lose money. This may be contrary to what people think I would usually say, but you can’t present an example of the way you want other people to do things and have it be a money-losing system. Who would want to be a martyr? We want this to be affordable, and we want to do it without excluding people, but basically I want to prove that you can be profitable without being ugly.
When you talk about Mexican indie rock, do you mean indie like we know it here? In other countries, which have smaller, like, cute and cuddly scenes, whether it’s Canada or Mexico or Australia or wherever, you could actually start out as a band that’s real. A bunch of dudes who know each other and practice in their basement and put out little shitty shows in coffee shops or whatever, and if you work with that, and then you compromise just a little bit and make slightly watered-down music, you can dream of being on the radio. In the States, if you’re good, and real, you are never, ever going to be on the radio. But I’ll actually be contrarian here and say I prefer our system. The reason I prefer our system is that what you have in a place like Canada or a place like Mexico is that people who are talented, good songwriters are audibly shitty.
And here you can get by, to an extent, without compromise. Those people don’t aim for the top. They aim for an audience of like-minded people, and they make uncompromising music. Whereas if you go to a place like Canada, you get stuff like the kind of shit that Arcade Fire’s putting out these days. Or any of those people, Broken Social Scene. I’m just saying, the stuff’s pretty toothless. It’s just pretty bougie. So my point then is that in Mexico there isn’t a divide between super-principled and super-commercial bands like there is here. It’s because the scene is smaller there, and it’s easier to go up the ladder.
How did you come into contact with the Mexican indie rock scene? I started meeting all these kids who were aware of American music, and I think the reason they were aware was the internet. There’s always been this divide because most American bands are afraid to go there, and most Mexican bands are unable to come to our country. So it’s been hard to build the bridges between scenes, to make it all part of the same scene. It’s almost irrelevant in the States whether a band is from Canada or from here because Canada’s border barely matters. From Mexico, there’s just a really firm blockade. Especially for middle-class people, who are the people who form indie rock bands.
Do you think there’s a distinctive difference between the music we would hear coming out of Mexico and what we hear in New York? What I’ll say is that Mexico is a modern place with people just as educated as us, if not more so. Why the fuck don’t we listen to what they have to say? I’m not going to predict what those people are going to say. What I am going to tell you is that those people are intelligent and cultured and educated. And tuned into the conversation that’s happening in the artistic world. The fact that in this country they’re treated like podunk peasants who shouldn’t be taken seriously is incredibly insulting to those people. We should be reexamining our entire vision of that part of the world.
How will this show fit into what’s happening now in Mexican music? I think that by putting on a really big festival that doesn’t have any of that sponsorship shit, that is curated exclusively according to taste, we will prove in practice to all these sort of nascent fans of this genre in Mexico that this is actually way more fun and way more cool than all the shit that they’re being fed by the marketing machine in their country. And that goes for the American community as well. I went to a show about a year ago in Brooklyn put on by a promotion company that doubles as a marketing company. There was actually a section of the venue where they had put down carpet and they had these space age-looking chairs, and they were literally selling cell phones at the fucking concert. So bands playing were bands that were coming out of the underground scene; they were legitimate bands that were important to people in terms of their sense of community and their sense of what their ideas were. And yet there was honestly – not just one beer brand or one banner – they had projections behind the band about the cell phone company. So you end up getting a situation where to put these shows on, it becomes the norm to include these marketing companies that put that level of cash on the line. So the bands start asking for more money, and that becomes part of the landscape of putting on shows.
Which excludes more people. It excludes more people, for sure, but it also ends up defining top-down instead of bottom-up what bands get big, what shows happen or don’t happen and what trends are new and happening. When the steerage of the machine of the indie rock community is controlled by the marketing companies — because they have access to dollars and access to venues — and the bands have gotten kind of addicted to those dollar signs, well then the scene suffers.
Can you recall a certain band or a certain moment in your life that turned you on to live music? The first show that I really saw at a venue was when I saw Unrest. They were opening for The Breeders at this little tiny venue. I snuck in — you had to be 18, and I was 16. They were amazing. And that was probably the first time I was ever exposed to indie rock in that genre. That really changed me and from there I just wanted to go to little shows. I’ve been to a few bigger shows since then. I listened to the Pixies play. They opened for U2 at the Cowboys’ stadium, and it was just awful. I saw The Breeders play at that club with Unrest and it was fucking awesome. And about two years later I saw them play at this amphitheater in Dallas, and it was possibly the suckiest, most boring experience.
You think the band just hates it? Well, it’s like you’re not really playing a show, you’re making a little movie. They say that when the Greeks would act out the old plays, because there was no amplification, they would wear, like crazy hats, and be like, [booming] “Oh dearest me, what happened?” I think it’s not such a far shot from that when you think about those big rock shows. They’re like a little circus-y version of a show.
MtyMx will be big. We’re expecting like a thousand, two thousand people tops, and you can walk right up to the stage. It’s as informal as it gets. I really am opposed to this artificial divide between audience and band. Luckily none of these people are big giant superstars. Maybe Andrew W.K. But I want people to realize that the people who make the music they like are themselves regular people just like them. ‘Cause then maybe they’ll realize that they can make that music, too.