Multiflora Music Festival 2017 Feature in the DCist

New D.C. Festival Puts The Spotlight On Global Music

Jim Thomson is at the center of the D.C. area’s rich music scene in various roles. Born in Alexandria and raised on an organic apple orchard near Front Royal, he later became a founding member of GWAR, playing drums for the legendary shock metal outfit. Other credits include local bands Alter-Natives, Bio Ritmo, CSC Funk Band, and most recently Time Is Fire, which is fronted by an Iranian-born Sufi poet and backed by players steeped in punk, dance, and experimental music.

Though he is still an active musician, these days it is as a producer and presenter that Thomson’s impact is most recognized. He owns and operates Electric Cowbell Records, a boutique label, and runs Multiflora Productions, a booking and promotion agency that specializes in what it calls “roots-to-future” music. This often translates to sounds that draw from global influences, but set in a contemporary context.

Through Multiflora, Thomson has curated shows at Captial Fringe, The Hill Center, D.C. Public Libraries, and clubs throughout the area. He is upping the ante this month with the Multiflora Music Festival, which takes place through the month of October at various venues.

“Our mission is to present international artists from abroad as well as showcase the diverse multicultural communities in the region,” Thomson said in an interview with DCist.

The festival, whose theme is “Search For Sanctuary,” kicks off on Sunday with a performance from Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Participating venues include the Bossa Bistro & Lounge, Tropicalia, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, The Hill Center, as well as several others (Disclosure: My monthly show at Bossa is part of this festival).

Thomson has been wanting to stage a festival since he moved to the District in 2012. He developed a clearer idea of what it might look like after attending the Chicago World Music Festival in 2015. Part of what drives Thomson is the gap between D.C. and the international acts that criss-cross America but bypass this region because of a perception that there aren’t venues for them in which to perform.

“I guess nobody was willing to take the chance,” he reasoned. “You could see some groups like this at some performing arts centers occasionally, like Millennium Stage, but definitely not in the clubs.”

Musicians from places as far as Niger, Venezuela, and Spain are part of the Multiflora Fest’s programming. Pulling off a successful festival would prove to artists and agents that there is an audience in D.C. that wants to hear music from distant lands, something that should be obvious given the fact that people from all over the world live here.

Thomson is also facing other headwinds, in addition to this perception of the city’s audiences.

“Well, we are currently crowdfunding this festival and asking for donations to get it off the ground,” Thomson said. “We are keeping ticket prices low and sometimes free for the festival, but we want to pay the musicians a living wage, if possible.”

An annual event is Thomson’s eventual goal for the Multiflora Music Festival. He acknowledges that the planning for this first attempt was somewhat rushed, largely because Thomson is doing nearly all the legwork himself. He hopes to use the crowdfunding campaign to collect enough seed money that he can put together a more directed effort next year and beyond. Thomson is also eager to receive feedback from attendees so that he can balance reality with expectations at the start of the planning process.

Most importantly, Thomson hopes people will come out and listen to music that may not be very familiar with.

“I want to encourage people to come out and welcome these musicians,” he said. “Everyone knows the feeling of walking into a party where you don’t know anyone. What is more human than to make a stranger feel they’re welcome?”

The Multiflora Music Festival takes place October 1 to October 31. Visit the website for full schedule and ticket information. Those interested in supporting the festival may donate to its Indiegogo campaign.

BY SRIRAM GOPAL IN  ON Sep 29, 2023 12:20 PM

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