Route 32 isn’t just for vehicles anymore. While the road connects New Paltz to Kingston and Albany, two 21-year-olds have altered its path to pave something new: a booking agency, music collective, festival and a growing family.
Jake Harms and Kali Quinn, the founders of Route 32, both moved to New Paltz within the last year or so; Harms, to find a new place, and third-year student Quinn, to study art history at SUNY New Paltz.
Each had similar complaints about what felt was a reserved music scene.
“When I moved up here I was under the impression that there was some awesome music scene because I went to one good show,” Quinn said. “I realized there wasn’t a variety of genre.”
Harms said he felt there was a lack of consistency for a cohesive music collective. He started putting on shows in his basement, featuring underground bands that weren’t playing often at bars and venues in town.
“Even when I moved here originally, the first show I went to was Godchilla. I have since learned to love Godchilla and I like everybody in it a lot, but I knew that I wanted there to be more things. If that was the most popular band in town, I wanted more,” Harms said. “I felt with the basement shows, a lot of people got exposed to really good rock ‘n roll and other things they wouldn’t have necessarily heard if they were going to Oasis. Our emphasis is to bring indie rock and punk music and less jam bands.”
Quinn said they are focused on more “experimental, sub-genres” but also other genres — “things that kids won’t hear on the radio and don’t know exist and are awesome.”
“I feel like kids come to shows now to hear music, experience music, learn and enjoy, rather than get shitfaced and try to court the other sex,” Quinn said. “[We’re] bringing a real music community in the bubble of New Paltz. Bringing something more raw to something that’s so sheltered.”
Harms and Quinn have been booking many shows each week in New Paltz. Though most of their shows have been at DIY-type venues, they have booked some bars in town, including Baachus, Oasis and Snug’s. Harms said they have made a lot of the shows 18-plus. Quinn said they not only focus on local bands, but balance out by booking musicians outside of New Paltz.
Harms, who is in the band Nelsonvillains, recently went on tour and said he understands the importance for collectives like Route 32.
“I can meet cool bands on tour and say, ‘Hey if you come to New Paltz, we’ll treat you well,’ instead of like, ‘Hey, I can show you to a venue and leave you there.’ If you know anything about booking, the worst thing someone says is, ‘Oh, I’ll help you out,” and they give you a list of venues,” Harms said. “That’s like a brick wall.”
Quinn said they provide bands with a place to sleep and food. She said it’s nice because “you form really good friendships.”
“Because we are so welcoming and true to what we believe in, bands from other areas are excited to come here and are shocked how sweet we are and how awesome the crowd is,” Quinn said. “One funny thing is this band from Bard…they don’t have a scene there and they’re like begging us to be a part of our scene. They are so envious of the New Paltz scene that is just developing.
It’s cool that the surrounding towns feel that way.”
Through booking smaller shows, Harms and Quinn got together and decided to put on their own festival called Route 32 Fest. With hardly any experience and only about a month to plan, a Route 32 team of 15-or-so people hosted a one-day, outdoor festival on May 20, 2011 with 22 bands.
“It happened to be the day that everybody moved out of their dorms, which was kind of a pretty big oversight. We still had 200-plus attendees on record. We were able to pay all of the bands,” Harms said. “We had the cops show up twice. If anything, that taught us how complicated it is to do something outdoors and how liable you are. Even though it’s awesome, it’s almost dangerous.”
With the success of the festival, the two said they decided to plan a second one, but “this year we’re kind of making it a lot smarter,” Harms said.
From March 29-April 1, over 40 bands will play at Oasis, Snug’s and two DIY outer venues. Harms said doing a South by Southwest inter-venue styled festival was more feasible and easier to manage than another outdoor festival.
The festival will host many local bands including Year On A Mountain, Nelsonvillains, Lightning Bug, Young Neighbors and 16HPP. They are also booking out-of-town bands.
Instead of having a larger team from last year’s event, both Harms and Quinn are doing everything themselves, but could still use help. They are also trying to use a shuttle system for the festival, which they used for a “secret show” farther outside of town. Every 15 minutes or so, five or six different cars would shuttle people from town to the venue.
Quinn said they are also looking for videographers, photographers and anyone else willing to help out for the festival and shows in general.
Harms said they choose bands for their shows and the festival that fit into a certain mold of performers they want in their
“When we’re booking shows, we try to make the sets make sense,” Quinn said. “The town and vibe of the music make sense with each other. The bands we do book often make sense with each other.”
Quinn said the collective is always looking for more musicians and they should speak to Quinn or send her an EP.
Quinn said she is also hopeful that when younger crowds, attend their shows, they will be inspired to create their own bands and keep the music scene growing.
“People get jaded by the fact that they’re here for four years and then they’re leaving. Or they stay here for-fucking-ever. I know a lot of kids that are my age who don’t care about these shows we put on. It’s literally because we didn’t hit them at the age when it was impressionable for them to care,” Harms said. “It’s not that they don’t like the music we’re bringing, but it’s like that crowd is less likely to want to come out to these shows just because they don’t have the same outright passion that comes from people being young, really wanting to belong to a scene.”
Both Harms and Quinn said they understand networking is a large aspect to their booking agency. They are currently trying to work with Salvation Recording Co. and other outside resources.
“It’s a cool thing to learn when you’re young ‘cause that’s all you really have. Everyone else has a lot of money and power and ownership of things. We don’t have shit, but we know we have good taste and we know what we want,” Harms said. “Nobody can take that from you.”
Harms said ultimately, they want to raise the bar but “include everybody.”
“We want to make kids realize there is new music. There are new genres. And it’s not shitty. There [are] really creative people and music is not dead,” Quinn said.
More information on Route 32 can be found on rt32fest.tumblr.com and Route 32 on Facebook. Tickets for the festival can also be purchased online.