Guitar Heroes


By Sasha Orman

(Published in the August 2010 issue)

Kevin Hellman is used to friends turning to him for advice on how to make it in the music biz. As publisher of the local weekly, San Diego CityBeat, and president of the San Diego Music Foundation-a non-profit that puts guitars in the hands of kids-he’s about as entrenched in the local scene as one can get. So, it would seem that it was only a matter of time before he and his colleagues decided to harness their collective knowledge into one event for the good of all local music.

That event is North Park Music Thing (NPMT), a music and media conference, to be held August 13 and 14.

Now in its third year, NPMT was inspired by Austin’s South by Southwest and New York’s CMJ Music Marathon. Through interactive panels (held at the historic Lafayette Hotel in North Park) featuring local media, legal experts and executives from top record labels including Sub Pop, Epitaph and Sony, it serves to help bands and artists get a leg up in the biz.

For music fans, NPMT is by far the largest showcase of the best local up-and-coming local talent-more than 160 artists and bands are scheduled to perform at venues throughout North Park.

Joshua Zimmerman, frontman for roots-rock band The Silent Comedy, is one of those burgeoning musicians for which NPMT was designed. But despite the industry-insider advice he can glean from the conference, he says that it’s playing for hundreds of potentially new fans that he enjoys the most.

“The first year, we played U-31, and it was absolutely out of control,” Zimmerman says.

The event has grown exponentially over the last three years, and buzz over NPMT is bringing in flocks of newcomers, including some from out of town.

“We’ve got people coming from as far north as San Francisco and Sacramento,” says Hellman. “And we’ve got people from all over the country performing.” It’s a migration local musicians are welcoming.

“San Diego can be a real tough nut to crack for out-oftown bands who aren’t familiar with the best places to play or the best bands to play with,” says Zimmerman. He adds that getting paired up with local bands can make a huge impact. “They can ask them questions, learn from them and make friends-which is the best way to break into a new city. That’s a really exciting thing.”

In just three years, NPMT has grown to encompass a music scene stretching far beyond San Diego’s borders, but the heart of the event remains local, enabling our hometown music fans to see all the best talent in one fell swoop.

“This year, we’re back,” says Zimmerman. “And I anticipate that it’ll be another really rowdy show.”