By Gary Graff
It's been 18 years since Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac founded the Music Is Art Festival in his home town of Buffalo, and he's watched it grow from two stages to 19, with a crowd of 30,000 last year.
And he wasn't about to let a pandemic end that streak.
So Takac and his cohorts have pivoted to a virtual version of the festival -- from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Sept. 12, with 19 channels of music and art operating simultaneously via musicisart.org. And he's doing his part to drum up attention by recording a cover of the Kiss song "Hard Luck Woman," as well as a video, with the tribute act Kiss This!
"We thought it was important for us to try to make this happen," Takac, 55, says by phone from Buffalo. "This has been an annual event. We made it through some pretty crazy things before and still made it happen. It's our first foray into this (digital) world, and maybe it's one of those weird, positive things that could possibly spin out of this whole experience we're living through right now."
Takac says the Music Is Art team began planning the virtual festival as a contingency six months ago, when pandemic-related shutdowns first began. The organization began stockpiling video equipment, ranging from "pretty high-tech to almost caveman like technology" in order for the festival to proceed with no audiences but "just a series of broadcast locations."
"The thing about this festival is it's always so much," Takac explains. "If something wasn't what you liked, all you had to do was turn your head and there's a country band playing, or there's a polka band or some EDM -- or forget about music for a minute and check out some art.
"We wanted to create that same chaotic vibe. The only way to make it truly chaotic was if it was all happening at the same time." Of the 19 channels, Takac says 17 will feature live performances and events while the other two will carry pre-recorded segments.
The "Hard Luck Woman" cover, meanwhile, was a bit of fun that allowed Takac to play "with friends of mine from the old days, from when I was in bands in high school." A big Kiss fan growing up, the melodic, pop-leaning song isn't necessarily one of Takac's favorites but he enjoys it as something that "really stuck out" in Kiss' catalog.
"I researched a little bit and found out that Paul (Stanley) wrote that song to play for Rod Stewart, which is kind of interesting because it always sounded like something Rod or the Faces would have done," Takac notes. "I guess Rod didn't want to record it, so Kiss wound up doing it."
The video for the song, meanwhile, will premiere during the Music Is Art Festival.
The Goo Goo Dolls, meanwhile, will be keeping Takac busy after Music Is Art. The group is planning a livestream concert from a Buffalo studio, he says, and another is being considered from one of the city's music venues. Meanwhile the band will be releasing its first holiday album, "It's Christmas All Over," on Oct. 30, featuring Yuletide favorites and some original material.
"We're just trying to do what we do, and what we love to do," Takac says. "In my heart, I need it. I know people need music and stuff, but I need to feel that connection, too. It's freaking me out; For the last three decades of my life we've had this awesome relationship (with fans), and it feels like that relationship is being tested right now.
"So anything we can do to try to keep that going is great. John's done a lot of streams, I've done a few. Putting out music...anything that keeps it going, man, we're just gonna do it."
Buffalo's 18th annual Music Is Art takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, with 19 channels of performances via musicisart.org. Festival founder and Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac will premiere the video for his cover of Kiss' "Hard Luck Woman" with the tribute band Kiss This!