Now in its fourth year, The Best Love Is Free returns to the Fine Line on Saturday, February 9 with a stacked line-up. The Chalice's Sophia Eris will play solo with her band Sexy Delicious; I, Colossus will perform their newly revised set; Later Babes (members of Soulcrate and We All Have Hooks For Hands) are set to rock a mash-up DJ set with a live band behind them; and the mighty Cecil Otter headlines with a rare solo performance.
Gimme Noise sat with Botzy of Culture Cry Wolf, director Adam Dunn, and organizers Crista Bell and Matt Raskin, who are all ready once again to bring their brainchild to life.
Gimme Noise: How did The Best Love Is Free initially begin?
Botzy: Initially, it was something that Wesley Opus and myself came up with. I had already been organizing events back in Arizona, but Best Love is Free was probably my first real [event] in the Cities. We sold out the Nomad the first time, right away. It was a bigger response than I ever imagined. It was one Culture Cry's first or second shows. I know Kanser played, Culture Cry Wolf, Sector 7G... It's definitely evolved and been polished up each year.
Was the free CD concert-goers receive always an element?
Botzy: Yeah, [but] rather than taking open submissions like we do now, when it initially started we were getting tracks from friends.
Crista: We targeted hard the first year.
Botzy: We burnt CDs -- Crista, Wes and myself. The second year we got the relationship with Copycats; it'd be really, really hard to do without them.
Crista: We would not have gotten the mixtape to the level that it's at without Copycats involved in it. He really pushed for it, got us great prices, great sponsorship, and then also opened up a lot of Copycats connections to us, which was really cool.
Botzy: I don't think it really became [what it is] until we opened it up to the public, which was last year. Once you get a large number of submissions, you can create a very cohesive vibe to the whole tape, and exposing people to music other than people they already know about.
How many submissions were there to choose from?
Crista: It's insane.
Botzy: We actually got less this year than last year; we had 775+ last year, this year it dropped down to 550. There's only 22 tracks on the CD, so 550 down to 22 is a jump. We released the newsletter and submission process right the week of Thanksgiving, kept it open for a month. I made a conscious effort to pick people who are involved, active and present, and are putting out good music.
The whole event has this real community feel, with many artists involved expanding beyond the show onto the CD and the video series associated with the promotion.
Matt: The videos were such a cool thing, and Adam to be able to do it. We took focus maybe away from the sponsorships and that becomes a little bit more of a centerpiece of what the event is.
Adam: The funny thing about the videos, though...
Botzy: You wanted to do more?
Adam: I'm like, we should do more of them, because we knocked them all out shooting-wise in two days. So I was like, I shot 'em all, so now I just have to sit on my computer and edit them all. The funny thing was, last year was way more hectic for me with less, with smaller amount of videos. mainly because the very last one we shot, we had a monstrous time frame that I had to be like, alright rappers! We've got three hours to shoot this, then I've got to be on a plane to Jamaica to go direct a music video. Literally right before. Hats off, though, for the video pairings Botzy did this year.
Botzy: There were weird combos of people, too. Ecid and I have never worked together in any capacity, aside from doing shows together, so that was an interesting pair-up.
Crista: Adam and Katie [Kroeck] and Sapient together in one room is just kind of a phenomenal mash-up of three minds.
Adam: Last year, she did a watercolor painting video, this year she did it in acrylics. It turned out awesome.
The line-up has some nice variety to it.
Botzy: Credit to Crista Bell on the line-up.
Crista: We have an interesting line-up this year. I think Kay Flay was our wild card last year, I'm not sure who's the wild card this year.
Botzy: Later Babes!
Matt: Later Babes!
Botzy: Later Babes are probably what I'm most excited about. You start the show with a very fragile voice in a happy tone like Sophia, and then I, Colossus... Their new line-up is instrumentally incredible. There's a ton of new material.
Adam: I was blown away by their new set; it's a totally new sound. This line-up is so cool, because it's gonna be this big build.
Botzy: Then Later Babes at the height of the night.. They don't have a vocalist. It's Get Cryphy with a live drummer. The vibe of the night by the time Later Babes comes on...
Crista: It'll be a dance party.
Botzy: Everybody's dressed fancy, just intoxicated enough to have a crazy awesome dance party, and then followed by somebody serious like Cecil. He's gonna just kill it.
Adam: It's gonna be a totally memorable experience.
Matt: There's definitely a flavor change throughout the whole night. Each one will be very different, and it'll definitely keep people entertained. I love seeing everyone having a good time and what outfits people come in. You put the concept out and people actually show up and embrace it. It isn't like we're trying to make money, we're trying to get good people together and get them to hang out. It's about the music, it's about the event, but it's more about bringing people together.