Indiana Daily Student

Bloomingtonfest promoter stands behind his bands

This year's Bloomingtonfest marks Steve Duginske's most intense effort to bring together a unique mix of music and community. Although the third annual festival kicks off tonight, Bloomingtonfest's story starts more than 10 years ago in Carmel, Ind., Duginske's home town. \nWhen Duginske was 12, he got into punk rock through his friends, the people he met that would be a big influence for years to come. He and his friends would skateboard and hang with 15- or 16-year-old kids who were in bands and setting up shows. Being a skateboarder and watching the videos, he heard bands like the Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds and The Accused, and loved the music.\nHe had no idea the music was accessible in Indiana until about a year later, when the Circle Jerks and the Necros played at the Arlington Theater in Indianapolis. Because he was too young, he got his parents to drive him.\n"(The shows) were big enough that I could ask my parents to drop me off, even if the place was on the edge of a bad part of town," Duginske says. "Since I had tickets from Ticketmaster, my parents knew it was legit.\n"I remember my first show. I had such an energy rush," Duginske says. "Seeing the Necros and the Circle Jerks in this dingy venue … it was such a sense of community. It was like, 'All that matters right now is us in this room.'"\nRemembering this energy, Duginske recalled how the music became a big part of his life in high school. Although it didn't save him from any life-threatening situations, it had a drastic impact on his life. \n"It just gave me an identity, a place and something to build and create with," he says. "I have seen so many people (at 16, 17, and 18) with none of that, and it kills me. I remember back to when I was that age and remember all that I was doing, all the energy I had, and it makes me so happy. \n"I spent almost every weekend and some weekdays meeting people from all over the world, hearing amazing music and being a part of not just a local community, but a community that spreads itself all over the world." \nDuginske realized that there was more to punk rock than just music; he wanted to build something and be part of it. Duginske started organizing his own shows in his hometown area when he was 15. It all started when he met some people who shared his interest in Maximum Rock and Roll magazine. He answered a classified ad by mail that asked if anyone in the Indy area read the magazine, which then put him in contact with them by phone. \n"I was really glad I met those people, even though my parents hated them," he says, laughing.\nFour new friends and a rented VFW hall equalled an all-ages show in Beech Grove, Ind., during which Trenchmouth and Evenscore were the first bands Duginske ever booked. Living in Carmel, Steve set up more and more shows in the area, anywhere from Lions Clubs to strip mall spaces.\n"My best friend from junior high and I rented out an old Lions club from an old lady that we told we were 18," Duginske says. \nSuddenly, bands contacted Duginske, even though he had no idea where they got his phone number. After the first successful summer, Duginske found it hard to turn down bands, especially his favorites. \nOnce he started high school, he started organizing shows at a park with the help of a friend. The friend didn't tell her bosses that punk rock shows were going on there, so bands kept on coming, even though she knew people in charge would not want them there. \nOnce she moved out of town, Duginske and his friends were left with no place to put on shows during their senior year of high school. \nFortunately, one of his friends knew a landlord who would rent them space at a local strip mall. The landlord expected a record store to fill the site, but instead the four friends converted it to Sitcom, a venue for punk bands. \n"My first year after I got out of high school, I went to (IU-Purdue University at Indianapolis) and focused on doing shows. Even my senior year of high school, my main focus was to do shows and not on school," Duginske says.\nAfter a year at IUPUI, he decided to break ties with Indy and hit Bloomington. Sitcom's fate didn't lay solely in Duginske's hands, however. Once he left for IU, other people kept Sitcom going. People volunteered to run it, making it a community effort and keeping the energy flowing.\nDuginske met up with former Indy ties in Bloomington and continued setting up shows. By this time, people had his number and wanted him to find places for their bands to play.\n"Bands kept calling, and that's probably why I kept on doing it," he says. \nLuckily, his friends Icky and Matt, who lived in a house on Seventh and Bryan Streets known as the Bryan house, let them do shows in their basement\n"At that time, there was not a need to have an ideal place because not a lot of people came to the shows," he says.\nStill, bands like Frail, Spirit Assembly, Still Life and Franklin played the Bryan house, making Steve's first summer in Bloomington one of the best he ever had.\nBy Duginske's junior year, setting up shows was second nature for Duginske. Bloomingtonfest began to brew in his head, out of desperation to break the routine.\n"About three years ago, I got to a point where I wanted to do a different type of show," Duginske says. \nHis goal was to bring local punk bands together and make it cheap for attendees. \nHe didn't want it to be only about music. To make it more of a community experience, he decided to hold a vegan potluck so people could interact.\n"I always want there to be something different so it doesn't get stale," he says. \nNow in its third year, Bloomingtonfest has included potlucks, volunteer work and tremendous amounts of community activities to keep the weekend interesting.\n"I would always tell people to do something. I want this to be felt by the community," he says, emphasizing how huge he hopes Bloomingtonfest will be. "I hope it's to the point that it's craziness; that wherever you go, there will be Bloomingtonfest people there. In the restaurants, on the streets, wherever."\nI almost wish I could just go to enjoy it and nothing else, but I know it's going to be great anyway," Duginske says.\nRecently Duginske moved to Atlanta, where he plans to add a degree in graphic design to his general studies degree from IU. \nHe's not planning to set up shows in Atlanta because a thriving music scene is already in place. It might be stepping on toes, he says, and he doesn't want to displace anybody. \nFortunately, before leaving Bloomington, he connected with Secretly Canadian Records and Jagjaguwar Records to organize this year's festival, realizing there was a chance that he might be gone. With these two labels, he planned the biggest Bloomingtonfest yet, in which the formal fest covers two venues. \nStill, there are many other things going on in town that can be considered part of the weekend, upping that number to five venues. \nDuginske heard from his collaborators that people will be flying in from France and California. However, getting the word out about the biggest and most diverse Bloomingtonfest ever was the next and most crucial step.\n"I got out all of my Heartattack and Punk Planet (zines) and wrote down any Midwest addresses and just sent information and fliers out to all of them," Duginske says.\nBloomingtonfest is mainly Duginske's baby. He started the whole thing because of his love of music, and it was that way from day one. Duginske's shows come across with sincerity because they're not for money or recognition but getting the music out to people. \n"Steve is such a great promoter because he is always genuinely excited about the shows that he sets up, where most other promoters are pretty jaded about the whole thing," says Ali Haimson from the Sissies.\nNick Iverson from Three in the Attic shares the same sentiment as Haimson.\n"Steve, I would have to say, has been one of the biggest supporters of Bloomington music," Iverson says. "I think he is more of an unsung hero … he has put on over a million shows anywhere he could find a space."\nWhile Bloomingtonfest is generally called a punk rock fest, it offers a variety of music ' all independent. Last year the music ranged from the hardcore band By the Grace of God to ex-Braid member Bob Nana's City on Film. This year, there will be even more variety. \nDuginske hates using the word "punk" because it means so many different things to so many different people. Duginske's theory of punk doesn't just include today's music or people.\n"I think punk rock people have existed throughout history. It's a group of people mainstream society just couldn't grasp.\n"There are a lot of bad subcultures out there," Duginske says. "For a kid to get sucked into punk rock is a great thing for them. Today I take what I have learned in the last 10 years of doing shows and being involved in many communities, and realize that anything is possible if you make it happen.

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