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BassUp! - October 20, 22, 2006

Atlanta's premier bass-centric festival, BassUp!, will be held on October 22nd at the Atlanta Institute of Music. In its third year, BassUp! is a yearly celebration that attracts bassists from across the United States and allows them to gather, exchange information, listen to performances, and play music within a bass-focused environment. Included with this year's event is the addition of the Solo Bass Open Mic that will take place on October 20th and provide up-and-coming bassists the opportunity to perform unaccompanied bass in front of other bass enthusiasts.

In the following interview, BassUp! organizer Darren Michaels discusses this year's event.

How did BassUp! get started?

The festival got its start in 2004 when Adam Nitti, Trip Wamsley, and I planned a show together in Atlanta. Pretty soon, we had Joseph Patrick Moore, Jim Lambie, and Keith White on board to play. Unfortunately, Adam had to drop out of that year's lineup, but we threw one heck of a bass-playing party nonetheless. That attracted enough sponsorship to make BassUp! 2005 a big success.

This year, the performances will be on Sunday, October 22nd at the Atlanta Institute of Music, 5985 Financial Drive, Ste. 200, in Norcross, Georgia. This year's event also includes a Solo Bass Open Mic on Friday, October 20th at the Mocha Match Coffee Bar, 627 E College Ave, Ste. F, in Decatur, Georgia.

Who are the clinicians this year?

This year we have a fantastic lineup which includes Adam Nitti, Trip Wamsley, Russ Rodgers, Brady Muckelroy, Bernhard Lackner, and me, but the list may grow a little more.

Adam Nitti lives in Nashville now, but he's still an Atlanta bass hero. He's a noted session ace and has released three albums as a leader. Adam is also a prolific educator. He's the Chief Learning Officer of and an instructor at Victor Wooten's Bass/Nature Camp. The man can really play a bass, too. He's currently the touring bassist with Steven Curtis Chapman.

Trip Wamsley has performed at every BassUp!. Since 1988, he's been touring the world and playing a plethora of styles including pop-rock, funk, R&B, and zydeco. Currently, he performs as a solo bassist, and he wows audiences not only with his bass-playing proficiency but also his razor-tongued wit as well. He has three albums out as a soloist, and a fourth is expected to be available by October 2006.

Russ Rodgers is a staple in the Atlanta bass scene. He's been playing in this region for over 30 years and teaching for over 15 years. He is the founder of the bass department at the Atlanta Institute of Music, and he continues to teach there today.

Brady Muckelroy hails from San Marcos, Texas. Though he comes from an extensive drum and bugle corps background, he nixed the sticks and picked up a bass to fill the vacancy in a local church's worship band. Since going the bassist route, he's experimented heavily in the instrument's solo role, and the two resulting solo bass albums have turned a lot of heads.

Bernhard Lackner is from Austria. Although he's still in his mid-twenties, he's performed with a long list of musical heavies. Plus, he's got some pretty big performance credits under his belt including Euro Bass Day (Italy), Outreach Jazz Festival (Austria), and the NoiBassisti Bass Festival (Italy).

I tour and perform as solo bassist throughout the United States. I'm the self-proclaimed "common man's solo bassist." I have released two solo albums, and I live in Atlanta where I teach a hefty student load, work as a sideman, and zealously promote the spread of solo bass music.

As a side note, what I think is interesting about this year's show is the teacher/student dynamic within the group of performers. Russ was Adam's teacher and Adam was Bernhard's teacher and my teacher as well. Also, Trip was pretty influential on Brady's playing.

What are some of the subjects the instructors will cover during their clinics?

Adam Nitti will discuss efficient technique and solo phrasing among other topics. Trip Wamsley will present his thoughts on combining techniques to achieve sonic depth in solo bass music. Russ Rodgers will present his killer reading, scales, and styles methods. Brady Muckelroy will give us insight into using tapping and harmonics in a musical way in both the band and solo setting, and I will offer some introductory methods into obtaining a bigger solo bass sound and how to gig as a solo bassist.

As always, all of the instructors are open for Q&A so come prepared to ask questions about what's plaguing your own progress as a bassist.

Are beginners with little playing experience encouraged to attend?

This event is open to players of all experience levels, ideologies, genres, genders, ethnicities, economic classes, and age groups. One of the fundamental goals of this festival is to gather bassists and bass lovers of all walks of life in one location at one point in time. No one player has it all. The more of us that come together, the stronger our overall knowledge will become, and the likelihood of the continued survival of the electric bass will be more apparent.

As a beginner, I would have given my fretting hand to see a show like this. Besides being just a cool show, it would have given me insight into the potential of the instrument. As a progressing player, it gives me the opportunity to discover the holes in my playing and gain the know-how to fill them in. Perhaps to some of the masters of the instrument, it would re-ignite the fire. Come one. Come all.

What is the cost, and where can people register?

Here's the coolest part. Due to the generosity of our sponsors, every event in this festival is completely free. The open mic, clinics, and performances are all free of charge. Just for being a bassist, you get free knowledge at the clinics, free entertainment from the performances, and a free ego-check at the open mic.

Could you give us a schedule of events taking place at BassUp!?

The schedule is still a bit loose, but the tentative times are in place. The Solo Bass Open Mic will be from 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM on Friday, October 20th, and the clinics will take place before the performances on Sunday, October 22nd. The festivities on Sunday will begin around 1:30 PM and run until 10:00 PM. Be sure to check the BassUp! web site for the most up-to-date schedule.

Will those in attendance be able to participate during the clinics using their own basses?

Yes. Bring your bass and a cable, but be prepared to have some quiet time with them as well. Some clinics will be more performance intensive than others. Bringing a notebook and something to write with may be a good idea. Also, bring extra money to purchase the performer's CD's. These folks are giving us a whole lot for very little so let's show them that you appreciate it.

Who is sponsoring BassUp!?

The main sponsors for the event are the Atlanta Bass Gallery and the Atlanta Institute of Music along with some wonderful donations from East Hall Recording and the International Institute of Bassists. A few more sponsors are expected to come on board, but there's always room for more. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, visit the BassUp! web site for information on how you can do that or to make a monetary or time donation.

The clinicians are brought to you by SWR, D'Addario, DR Strings, Gallien-Krueger, and Glockenklang.

Are there any giveaway opportunities available during the event?

Definitely. We will have strings, t-shirts, stickers, as well as gear available for the taking. We will have a raffle to win something big, but it hasn't been finalized yet.

Can you tell us about the BassUp! Solo Bass Open Mic?

I'm really excited about this particular part of the event. The Solo Bass Open Mic is open to all bassists. It gives folks that may not otherwise have the chance to perform as a solo bassist. I know a lot of closet solo bassists have something lovely to share. Now is the time.

The rules are:
- Each player gets 15 minutes to play.
- No looping and no effects are allowed.
- Each player wishing to participate must contact me at least two days prior to the actual night if they wish to perform.

Other than that, there are no prerequisites. We don't need to approve any demos. No one has to beg or plead, and no anonymous envelopes need to be stuffed with cash. Come out and take a chance to wow us all or fall flat on your face. There is no better place or better time to give it a try. It will be stupendous fun!

By the way, the names of all the open mic participants will be displayed along with a link to their web site on the BassUp! web site. A big thanks goes out to the Atlanta Bass Gallery for providing amplification for the open mic show.

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