Bonfire Dub uses its platform to help local artists ahead of Ghost Light Sessions concert Thursday
Bonfire Dub plays the Vilar Performing Arts Center’s Ghost Light Sessions this Thursday, July 9 at 7 p.m. But for Scotty Stoughton, the band’s lead vocalist, lyricist and acoustic guitar player, that great honor for the band comes with a driving intention to make life a little easier for musicians struggling without an income and with no end in sight.
“We are incredibly grateful and really appreciative of the opportunity. We look forward to giving people a lot of joy and a lot of fun,” Stoughton said of the band.
The band is focused on curating a performance meant to capitalize on the Vilar’s sound quality and provide a true listening experience to the small audience in the seats.
“The Vilar, for us, demands a level of respect. We take it very seriously playing there, so we want to deliver a really thoughtful evolution of a night of music,” he said. “It’s going to be like a train just starting out, slow and thoughtful, but at the end, we’re going to let it go where it’s going to go.”
Stoughton works in music promotion with his company, Bonfire Entertainment. He organizes festivals, including WinterWonderGrass and the new, social distancing-compliant RiverWonderGrass concert. From that angle, he sees artists’ struggles with the coronavirus pandemic from both sides of the spectrum.
“For the artists that are out there playing, night after night, to pay rent, and to give us one of the most important elements of our existence: music. For them not to be taken care of, and feeling really lost… that’s something I’m really mindful of,” he said.
As a small business owner, Stoughton was able to receive loans that will help him survive financially and be able to organize festivals next year or whenever that is possible again. But full-time musicians don’t always have that luxury.
“I’m really concerned moving forward. There’s no end in sight for them. So anything I can do with my organization to shine a light on their plight, honor their dignity and support them as humans. That’s the half that I’m mostly focused on. I will survive. But how do we take care of these artists?”
With Bonfire Entertainment, Stoughton was able to use RiverWonderGrass as a way to provide a performing opportunity to musicians, while also giving the money back to them. He’s also using this time to think about how he can provide opportunities and assistance to local musicians.
“Last festival, we donated $12 or $13,000 to national programs,” he said. “Instead of throwing $1,000 to a music relief fund — that’s great — I’d rather throw it to the three local guys who are struggling in my backyard. I hired local pickers to play my daughter’s birthday, and paid them really well. They said, ‘you don’t have to pay us,’ and I said, ‘this is how WinterWonderGrass supports local artists.’”
In the long-term, he hopes to make their experience in the live music industry more sustainable. For example, he’s thinking about how he can retouch touring schedules so that artists can financially survive on playing 100 gigs a year instead of 200.
“It’s brutal for them,” he said.
He’s also thinking about raising ticket prices so that artists can “make their worth.”
Above all, he’s thinking hyper-local when it comes to supporting artists. In order to make that global impact, he said, it’s important to focus on what we can do where we are.
“If we remember to focus on picking our art, and our fruits and vegetables locally, we’ll survive,” he said.
The Vilar is selling a limited number of tickets to each of the Ghost Light Sessions performances, and will be enforcing social distancing guidelines at the venue. All attendees should wear a mask except when seated during the show. The live stream will start at 7 p.m. and can be accessed at vilarpac.org/streaming.
For more information, visit vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497.
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