THERE HAVE ALWAYS been certain members of the Portland community who seem practically omnipresent. Jona Bechtolt is one of those dudes. Beatmaster for the Blow, one-half of We Two and the Universe, laptop maestro of YACHT, and co-pilot for the ever-popular UrbanHonking.com, now Bechtolt has yet another title to chalk up on his resume of all things awesome.
On Saturday the 26th through Sunday the 27th of August, Bechtolt will host the third annual Catch that Beat festival in Astoria, OR. Like an espresso shot of NW talent, the fest packs 27 bands into 14 hours, and follows up the next morning with vegan pancakes and more fun to boot.
MERCURY: Given how many other summer music festivals are already in motion, what was the initial inspiration for Catch that Beat (catchthatbeat.com), and what do you feel sets it apart from the others?
BECHTOLT: I'm not going to pull any punches: Catch that Beat is at least top eight. At least. Do we have the "best" bands? Absolutely not. Let's just address that immediately and move on. Now, do we have acts that are genuinely excited to be there? Again, not always, but, honestly, can you blame them? Our location is, admittedly, not the most ideal. The weather in Astoria—with all due respect—leaves more than a little to be desired, and, if we're really just laying it all out, I certainly won't ever be accused of being the easiest person, boyfriend, son to deal with, let alone promoter of a multi-day event, one that is essentially thankless and—the more I think about it—just an almost overwhelming amount of stress, anxiety and passive-aggressive interactions, to the point where you legitimately feel like taking out as many people as possible before turning the barrel on yourself. Hypothetically, of course! I think. No, definitely, I would never, ever kill anyone. But yeah, this year should be great. Really pretty pumped on the whole thing.
Why did you choose to hold the event in Astoria?
Astoria is one of the most beautiful cities in America. Hands down. In fact, Newsweek has consistently ranked it as one of the "Top-600 Places to Live in the World, Aside From the 70-80 that Immediately Leap to Mind." The aquarium, the minor league hockey arena, the generous Red Lobster locations... brother, this town has it A-L-L. The A is for "Astoria," followed by an inferred colon (:); the L is for "Little" and the second L is for "London," because we have fabulous shopping, music, theater, and the second-largest concentration of limeys this side of Our Lady Britannia. Are you ready for the ROYAL TREATMENT? Then treat the entire brood to CATCH THAT BEAT, GUV'NR, and put another shrimp on the barby! OOH LA LA!!! MAMA MIA!!!
Considering how busy you are, how much of a challenge has it been to put all this together?
Oh, it's been a pleasure. Between the tri-daily drives back and forth from Portland to Astoria, multi-week fill-ups at the pump, spending every waking minute trying to pin down these mid-afternoon time slots for some do-nothing band that nobody's heard of and, let me assure you, nobody wants to see... oh, it's just been a walk in the park! If you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic. Can I be completely open with you? It's been a nightmare. A walking nightmare. Do you know that I now have to take pills for the first time in 17 months? And I'm scared. I am scared. There. It feels good to be candid like this. Open. Honest. Finally. And I guess it hasn't been THAT bad. I'm certainly looking forward to the "Mini Bagel Pizza Roundup" and crossbow expo.
If you could, please name a few highlights from the previous two years.
Excellent question. Of course, I'm sure your readers are expecting me to say the Spin Doctors—hell, even I don't know how we pulled that one off. THAT was a crazy night—hello, mescaline!—and one that I'll not soon live down. In fact, I technically can't, thanks in no small part to probationary measures put in place by the state of Washington and Proposition 518-C, not to mention a laundry list of personal demons, both subconscious and very, very real. But, I think—and people who were there will agree with me—that seeing Richard Jeni do what he DOES... I mean, to label the man a standup comic is like claiming Steve Vai is a "guitarist." Sure, Stevie plays guitar, but do you know what I'm fucking saying? These are people who TRANSCEND, people who innovate and aren't afraid to be—what am I looking for?—provocative, people who aren't afraid to be PROVOCATIVE, to take an audience by the goddamned sack and say, "HEY WORLD, ARE YOU READY FOR THE REVOLUTION... OF LIFE?" So Rich comes in and, of course, he's just a sweetheart. Big old puppy dog, wanted to know everything about the town and the festival and we did dinner and drinks and it's great—it's better than great, it's brilliant—but then the thing is, he gets on stage and it was just... something else. And I'll never forget it. I've actually tried to—that's how disturbing it was.
What other activities do you have planned?
Oh, we have lots for the whole family. How does this sound? Second annual saltwater drinking contest, make-your-own-graham-cracker bar, Dinty Moore presents Dinty Moore Beef Stew Pavilion of Hardships and Volleyball, unmanned informational kiosk, unisex restroom, somewhat nearby Staples (7.3 miles), Koosh-sponsored "Diablo/Jester Stix" tutorial (day two only), and much, much more!
What else have you been working on these days?
I'm actually working on a novel. It's vaguely a Koontz by way of Steele kind of science fiction, sexual thriller sort of thing. Definitely not Pulitzer material, but I have a decent editor—lady named Marcie Voen-Huup out of Carson City—and we're looking at—cross your fingers, right?—a February 2008 release. Paperback, of course, probably one of those supermarket reads. But, I have to say, I've really been taken with the craft. Okay, so the hook is, it's all from the point of view of an alien named Lord Ruguu Mambda, who has been sent to our planet (Earth) in the hopes of selecting a virgin bride. Meanwhile, his son, Prince Mealth Ruguu is home on Mambda-6 Joee, anxiously plotting a coup of sorts. Anyhoo, I don't want to give TOO much away, but it is ENGROSSING. Aside from that, I have nothing. Have you ever tried to write a 900-plus page erotic epic from the fucking point of view of an alien king? Jesus. The weird thing is—and a lot of people don't know this—but I'm legally illiterate, so each completed page is proofed by my 10-year-old, Neal.
Other than that I'm about halfway through a new YACHT album and DVD that will come out in the spring of 2007. I also have this new Blow album that Khaela [Maricich, the other half of the Blow] and I made that comes out on K Records in the US on October 24, and on Tomlab in Europe on September 15.
Sat Aug 26 (noon-2 am)
Spider and the Webs
Mise En Abyme
JC and the Killers
The Watery Graves
Tim and Morgan as "CTRL ALT AWESOME"
Alex Mahan as "I'm Alex"
Sun Aug 27 (10 am-noon)
Special vegan pancake breakfast and press conference for the launch of a new video blog on Urban Honking featuring Ultimate Blogger 2 (and Catch that Beat performers) Tim and Morgan. There will be an extensive autograph session and special appearances by Ultimate Blogger 2 contestants Alex Mahan and Tim Donovan.