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Scrappy label Odessa Records celebrates a year

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The plans for the inaugural Odessa Fest, a celebration of a label surviving against the odds, were set in motion months ago. Naturally, the execution is coming down to the wire.

"It's cutting it close on all fronts, which, I guess, is fun in its own way," says Odessa Records honcho Paul Finn. "I'd be a little less stressed if things were in my hands by now."

Even with Mike Glass, drummer for the Odessa-signed Inspector 22, managing most of the logistics of putting bands on a stage, Finn has his hands full. "If he wasn't involved, it probably would have taken me till like next year to do it," he says.

Finn's job for the two-night festival is wrangling all the peripheral goodies that make Odessa Fest more than just another solid slate of local bands playing at the Nightlight. The elusive Shit Horse is set to release its debut cassette tape, for instance, but the manufacturing plant is scheduled to finish duplicating the tapes the day before the show. Finn plans to drive to Asheville to pick them up. A 13-song label compilation is finally done. It still needs to be burned and packaged.

And then there's the other matter. "We're still looking for a Michael Caine impersonator," says Finn. "I've been looking for an excuse to have a Michael Caine impersonator at an event for some time now."

Philosophically at least, Odessa Fest is already more than just another top-notch gathering of local bands. "I'm not setting out to make the festival to end all festivals or do anything too novel," says Finn. He and Glass began planning when Odessa was denied the opportunity to host a label showcase at SXSW. Instead of letting the disappointment fester, Glass pushed Finn to gather the label's roster and assemble a hometown showcase celebrating Odessa's accomplishments.

"It's also kind of a celebration of surviving a year of being a label," Finn says, implicitly acknowledging the obstacles facing a label as ambitious and unlikely as his in a music industry clutching wounds independent of those caused by a global recession.

Indeed, Odessa Fest celebrates survival and welcomes new additions to the family with one big party. It embraces its broad stylistic spectrum and invites all stripes of rock under one roof.

Flagship outfit (in which Finn plays keyboards) The Kingsbury Manx, in its original five-piece lineup, is commemorating its 10th year as a band, and the first year since Odessa marked its label debut with the Manx's Ascenseur Ouvert! Shit Horse and Wesley Wolfe are commemorating their Odessa debuts. Impossible Arms are reconvening following a period of inactivity after a new business and a new baby slowed their ragged rock 'n' roll.

"They're not gonna practice or anything," Finn says with excitement. "They're just gonna go up there and let the chaos loose."

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