It’s been a year since Oakland Drops Beats emerged onto Oakland's growing music scene, offering a diverse musical experience for artists, producers, and music lovers alike. But the free quarterly event is more than just music; it's a party in the streets where performers and attendees are both a part of the process, says creator Angelica Tavella.
"It’s a music crawl, and not a music festival," says Tavella, a musician who spends her time between Oakland and Los Angeles. "The idea is to go from place to place and see a bunch of different music."
Oakland's musicians are far from short on creativity, passion, or energy. What they do lack, though, is exposure -- either by choice or by chance -- and the crawl gives hip-hop heads, rockers, electronic beatmakers and indie singers a chance to network with one another. “There's a lot of really great passionate music circles that are in Oakland," Tavella says, "but a lot of the time they can be isolated and they do their own thing.” Tavella has witnessed relationships emerge and co-produced shows borne out of Oakland Drops Beats, and in wandering the stretch between 12th Street and 19th Street BART, participants are part of the cross-pollination as well.
Oakland Drops beats is all-ages, and this year kicks off with a youth showcase featuring Bump Records, Youth Radio, and Today’s Future Sound. (Tavella points to Youth Radio and Today's Future Sound as important partners: “When we were getting [Oakland Drops Beats] started it was also important to have an outlet for younger people to get started playing.”)
In addition to promoting Oakland's younger musicians, the crawl has recently added workshops, lectures, and demos on various musical topics. Tavella says there’s no routine place where music-related issues and general conversations around music [are] brought up, and that she hopes for "discussion on all different types of topics that are affecting musicians."
To that end, Ableton Inc. and Women's Audio Mission are two of the crawl's partners this year. Ableton certified Trainer Lenny Kiser, along with artists doseone and Decap, host an afternoon workshop and demo that covers exploring composition, sound design, production techniques and performance. Women's Audio Mission leads a demo on analog vs. digital recording. There's even a panel discussion on "The State of Music Education in Oakland."
Highlights this year include Sparks the LS at the newly opened Oakland Hot Plate, featuring Shark Sinatra, Golden Age, Calimade Collective and Dope City Saints. Malidoma Collective has a showcase at Omiiroo, and the label which Tavella helped start, Oaktown Indie Mayhem, has a showcase at Awaken Cafe.
No doubt, it’s difficult putting on a music crawl four times a year. Even with the support of local businesses and passionate volunteers, money is a huge obstacle. At the moment, Oakland Drops Beats doesn’t have a major financial backer -- it’s more of a collaborative community project. "The venues and event producers want to do it," she says.
The crawl survives on in-kind donations and local sponsorships from different businesses in the downtown area, though Tavella says overhead costs are pretty minimal. All ten of the producers put their time and energy into planning this on volunteer basis.
Tavella hopes the crawl will grow and become a destination, "where people can find a diverse range of Oakland’s good music." And although she's excited about the experience she's bringing to people, she's also concerned about what it could become. As for her goals? Tavella wants to "keep the name clean and pure and continue to grow our fan base and the people that are involved with it."
Funding for KQED Arts is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Support is also provided by Yogen and Peggy Dalal, Diane B. Wilsey, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Helen Sarah Steyer, the William and Gretchen Kimball Fund, and the members of KQED