April 4, 2002

Spring Sprawl

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If Ian Jacklin’s face looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen him on your television screen. As a professional actor and kick boxer for 10 years (the light-heavyweight fighter in the Lennox Lewis camp), Jacklin has not only appeared in a number of films, but he’s also been seen on television shows like NBC’s Just Shoot Me and Days of Our Lives.

Currently, though, Jacklin resides in Horseheads, NY where he’s acting as the mastermind behind the second annual Spring Sprawl Music Festival. If you don’t remember a first annual Spring Sprawl, it’s probably because last year the event was held at a grocery store on Manhattan’s lower east side and was called “NYC’s Winter Music Festival” That event was organized by Linda Suarez and there were 18 bands present. Jacklin’s film company, Co-Dependent Films, shot a documentary about the event. That film will be shown at the next Cannes festival among other venues.

“I basically got into the entertainment industry in the first place because I really truly believe the best way to teach people is through entertainment. People learn the most when they’re paying attention. And what do [they] pay attention to? People learn the most when they’re watching television or watching a movie or listening to music,” says Jacklin. “So, this is the most important job that I could be doing right now.”

Living in Brooklyn during the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, Jacklin could see the fires burning from the roof of his building. Shortly thereafter, Jacklin lost his job, “After 9/11,” he said, “the company I was working for pulled the plug… So, I came up here [upstate] to live with a friend until I could get back on my own two feet.”

What happened then surprised even Jacklin. “Like I said, I lost my mind. We [the country] just went through a major tragedy, I lost my job, and then I went to the hospital… I was dying, it was terrible. I basically went mental … but, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s when I moved to Horseheads.”

Once he was in Horseheads, he did some thinking and decided to host another festival. But winter was passing quickly, so Jacklin whipped out the idea for a spring music festival composed of local, unknown bands. But, as you probably already know, upstate is quite different from the city. As Jacklin puts it, “People up here have jobs, significant others, and go bowling.” Despite the differences, however, he proceeded with the planning and ended up with a monster on his hands.

“I couldn’t believe the response,” he said, “I was originally looking for 18 bands, and now we have 27. I didn’t want to turn anybody away, I wanted to hear ’em all.” And he didn’t turn anyone away.

There are three judges lined up for the event. The criteria for the judging are: performance, style, originality, and energy all on a scale of 1 to 10. There are three prizes being offered, the top prize being an electronic press kit that will include a promotional video for the band complete with backstage coverage, and interviews of the band members. The package after production costs are totalled is valued at $5,000. Second prize is a professional photo shoot for the band courtesy of photographer Rick Bacmanski. This package is valued at $350. The third place winners will receive a gift certificate for Soundwork in Horseheads, a $100 dollar value.

Despite the desirability of the prizes, though, Jacklin is quick to point out that this is not particularly a battle of the bands, that at least in some respects, Spring Sprawl’s vision is grander than that.

“I would say that, in deciding what I’m going to do [with the festival] next year, I probably am going to rethink the prizes. I’ve gotten a lot of flack about that, you know. People are like, ‘Oh, it’s a battle of the bands’ and I say, it’s not really a battle of the bands. It’s a festival. It’s about bands going out there and singing their souls, who go out and really please the crowd,” he said.

But any plans for next year remain hazy at this point. “Before I know about next year, I really gotta get through this one first,” he said. Admittedly, Jacklin says there was a lot he didn’t know when he started planning this event.

“I’m working on a lot of other business stuff as well,” he said, “and I’m getting good at it. I’m learning how to make things happen, and I love doing it, that’s the key,” he said. “Putting all of this together has been a ton of work, but it’s like I’m working on a canvas — my computer has become a big canvas. You’ve got all your editing stuff, you’ve got pictures, and then you can put sounds together with it, it’s a really fun thing to do.”

As it is, the 27 bands that are lined up for the event have each been assigned a time-slot in which they’ll have to prove to the three judges that they’re worthy of a documentary film made about them.

Perhaps one of the strangest, and most interesting things about the event is the location itself. Spring Sprawl is being held at Gush’s, a bar in Elmira. Now, holding a concert in a bar is nothing new. Holding a full-blown music festival in a bar with a Harley Davidson reputation, however, is something very different. Gush’s has a longstanding reputation as a biker bar. The image, however, doesn’t bother Jacklin and was, in fact, one of the reasons he wanted to hold it there.

“The name of the upcoming movie is going to be Small Town Bands, and Gush’s is just perfect. It’s got a dark atmosphere, a little seedy, but a really good time. It was the atmosphere of the place, completely.”

The festivities begin tonight at Gush’s in Elmira (351 East Washington Ave.) and runs all weekend long. With 27 bands playing from 6:30 p.m. to 1:10 a.m. every evening except Sunday, this promises to be one of the biggest musical events of the season. And, even though Jacklin has expressed his animosity at the festival being pigeonholed as a battle of the bands, the $5,000 worth of professional video production should certainly make for some top-notch performances from each band present.

For more information, you can visit the event’s official home on the web: www.springsprawl.com

Archived article by Nate Brown