Eddy Nix, the owner of Driftless Books and Music in Viroqua, Wisc., and a half-dozen of his friends in the used/antiquarian book and indie music worlds, are organizing a multimedia celebration of booksellers, authors, and musicians next weekend called Bookstock. The event, billed on its website as "two days of peace, indie bookstores, and music," which will stream online May 15-17, will serve as a fundraiser supporting both indie booksellers and musicians during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down both stores and music venues.
The Facebook Live event will feature 20-minute sets by musicians, up to 50 of whom will be paired with a participating indie located near them. All donations received by Bookstock organizers will be divided between up to 50 musicians and 50 indies. In between sets, authors and poets will either share what their local indie bookstore or musician means to them in short videos or else recite a poem. The organizers are also issuing the #BookstockChallenge to amateur musicians, asking them to record themselves performing an original song or cover that honors in some way their local indie and send it to the organizers for consideration for inclusion in the festival.
While the festival itself is going to be live streamed, most, if not all, musical performances and oral presentations will be pre-recorded for safety reasons as well as quality control. Some performances will take place inside or in front of indie bookstores.
To date, 50+ indies around the country are participating in Bookstock, as well as approximately 25 musicians and a handful of authors. While participating indies are all over the country, most of the musicians thus far are located in the Midwest and are folk/Americana performers like Greg Brown, Kate MacLeod, and Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles—because, Nix said, those are the personal connections he and fellow organizer David Huckfelt of a Minneapolis band, the Pines, have already tapped into. Two Lakota multimedia artists in Rapid City, S.D., Michael and David Two Bulls, will also participate in Bookstock; the two are releasing their highly-anticipated debut CD next year. The two are paired with a local bookstore, Bird Cage. This weekend, organizers announced that Cloud Cult, a northern Minnesota-based experimental rock band with a large cult following throughout the Midwest has been added to the schedule.
Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn., is being paired with country blues musician Charlie Parr, who lives on the other side of town. “We're pretty excited,” owner Bob Dobrow told PW. “We're ‘partnering’ with Charlie Parr! I'm not exactly sure what is involved for us other than being super enthusiastic and promoting Charlie, who will be promoting Zenith.”
Parr told PW that he agreed to participate in Bookstock because he "loves" Zenith Bookstore, adding, "I’m glad they’re doing this. I’d hate to lose a place like this, local bookshops, record stores, coffee houses. I’m happy to see a lot of things change that need changing but these local businesses are super important for communities."
Parr is recording his 20-minute set at his manager’s house in the Twin Cities this week.
As of Thursday afternoon, 12,000 people had viewed Bookstock's Facebook event page, with more than 800 RSVPs. By Monday, there were 1,500 RSVPs.
Nix envisions that the Bookstock collaboration will extend far beyond a two-day virtual festival. The website will remain up, and bookstore links will be added to it, as well as details about the participating musicians, authors, and artists, including their contact information. T-shirts, CDs, and tote bags will be available for purchase on the website, and may also be used as premiums during the festival.
“This is a collaboration between indie new book stores, used bookstores, and antiquarian bookstores,” Nix said, “but it goes beyond this Facebook event. We’re hoping to gain traction and to build community. Hopefully we can transition this into a long running collaboration. One goal is to get more musicians thinking about performing in bookstores, and not just in bars. I’m sure booksellers are thinking how do we do these kinds of things."
This story has been updated. Also, an error regarding how donated funds will be allocated in an earlier version of this story has been corrected.