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Shiny Fest: Local Label Brings Their First Festival to Le Mondo

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This Saturday, September 10th, local record label Shiny Boy Press is teaming up with Le Mondo to bring the city “Shiny Fest,” a new music and art festival highlighting homegrown acts you might miss otherwise.

Lifelong friends Collin Schnitker, Dan Gurley, and Walsh Kunkel founded Shiny Boy Press in 2020 to bring attention to their own musical projects in a hyper-saturated market. The outfit solidified following Schnitker and Kunkel’s collaborations in the improvised AV noise band 2 2 ½ 2. Faced with the unexpected loss of their childhood friend and bandmate, Alex Lori, they sought to continue his legacy through a collective characterized by the same DIY visual culture underpinning their old band.

According to Schnitker, “This is very much happening because of and in spite of Alex. He hated the formality of record labels. But it’s often the legitimacy, the ‘realness’ brought by something like a label that allows artists to find their audience.”

Organizing Shiny Fest has been the “realest” undertaking for the company to date, marking a pivotal first step towards realizing the trio’s ultimate vision of growing into a full-scale production house. The all-day event will not only showcase a myriad of Baltimore musicians, but also present ceramics, prints, and crafts by the city’s visual artists through a host of vendor stations. This uplifting of various artistic practices tracks seamlessly with the mission of celebrated experimental arts hub Le Mondo, an artist-run venue dedicated to fostering space for a diversity of arts programming.

 

Print by Brenda Botitta, one of the Shiny Fest vendors
SBP’s signature cassette tapes.

Schnitker shared that the collaboration stems from his long-standing friendship with Le Mondo executive director Carly Bales.

He says, “In a city as small as Baltimore, you do a little world-building, whether you mean to or not. I met Carly while working as a barista before Le Mondo even came together. We feel really lucky to have them hosting, since it’s a spot that pretty much any artist or arts-lover in town has come to know about.”

Shiny Boy Press amassed its catalog of artists very organically within this kind of microcosm. Mandated by the tagline “music and media for all people”, the collective has grown into the launchpad for nine distinct acts in the past two years. Taking a nod of inspiration from the all-genre Los Angeles cohort Leaving Records, Shiny Boy Press offers something for everyone, whether it’s lo-fi indie tunes by Billy Basement, Gurley, and Kunkel’s own ethereal ambient electronic projects, or the pulsing math rock of God vs Gods vs Giants vs Reptiles.

“While working on our own music, the experimental music scene in Baltimore felt too insular to break into. At first, Shiny Boy was all about experimental music, but we realized that distinction only made us a part of the problem. Walsh plays with a bunch of musicians in the city; anything from glitch-hop to shoegaze stuff,” says Schnitker, who handles visuals and communication for the organization.

“He knew a lot of people who were playing shows or occasionally fooling around on SoundCloud, but didn’t have the resources to release a record. We became a helping hand for our friends and anyone whose music might not be heard without it. Music’s a tricky thing. It plays and then it’s gone. Having a label to help mix and master an album, create merch, make music videos, and rally on social media creates this veil of importance, an image that makes people want to pay attention.”

 

Ceramic by Brenda Botitta

Between his design and business savvy, Kunkel’s penchant for artist relations, and Gurley’s finesse as resident sound engineer, the Shiny Boys are replete with the musical know-how to transform no-name bar acts into full-fledged recording artists. Despite their ample experience in the music world, however, gearing up for such a large-scale event has come with its challenges.

Multiple venue changes, a frenzy of lineup alterations, and grant application deadlines have all been obstacles as Shiny Fest approaches. Since over half of the festival roster is composed of artists who aren’t on the label, merely coordinating with everyone involved can be a daunting task. However, bolstering its in-house lineup with bigger commercial acts such as Bobbi Rush, who has collaborated with the likes of critically-acclaimed rapper JPEGMAFIA, is a great way to attract a wider audience for the musicians of Shiny Boy Press.

Shiny Fest has primarily been Schnitker’s passion project. With the event just around the corner, he’s been leaving a calling card anywhere he can to drum up interest.

Strategically placed in some of Baltimore’s most beloved concert venues, the promotional stickers with their stark, nearly industrial design in contrast with the breezy moniker “Shiny Boy Press” create a sense of ambiguity that easily coaxes the music-obsessed into a quick Google search. From there, a rabbit hole of content ranging from trippy music videos to hand-printed cassettes for sale make it clear just how much the Shiny Boys care about promoting the music of their peers. They hope that Shiny Fest opens channels to collaboration between artists of all kinds and lays roots for a “musical family tree” in Baltimore that is unbothered with the exclusivity that so often clings to artistic circles in major cities.

 

 

Tickets are available online here, as well as a Spotify preview playlist featuring some of the artists who will be performing at the event this weekend.

Shiny Fest will take place Saturday, September 10th from noon to 1 a.m. and will feature a variety of craft and visual arts vendors, including hand-dyed garments from Danielle Hernandez, ceramics and prints from Brenda Botitta, and vintage threads from Triston Grove’s Laid Vintage, among others.

The music lineup includes Bobbi Rush, Infinity Knives, G.O.L.D, Moon Tide Gallery, Lefty Bey, Billy Basement, Megafauna, Laurel Levia, B|_ank, The Arm, Walsh Kunkel, Grufton, Poodle Head, Holiday Video Star, and God vs. Gods vs. Giants vs. Reptiles.

 

Images courtesy of Shiny Boy Press, photo by Micah E. Wood

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