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The new RaleighPalooza festival gets melodramatic for a day



RaleighPalooza is a new music festival scheduled to bring 38 bands to the Raleigh Convention Center this weekend. A one-day smorgasbord of what festival organizer Jamie Malerba described as "pop-punk/ alternative/ pop-rock," the event will seek to satisfy what Malerba sees as an underserved local niche.

Owner of Lo Fidelity Music Group, Malerba says one impetus for RaleighPalooza is pragmatic; these sort of hard-rock and soft-pop bands have tended to skip North Carolina on tour recently, so she wanted to find a way to rope them into the Triangle.

"Unfortunately, due to the economy and the price of gas, a lot of these tour packages haven't been hitting as many cities as they used to, including Raleigh and even Charlotte," she says. "A handful of the bands on our lineup have skipped North Carolina on their last few tours, so we wanted them back."

One of the debut festival's biggest draws should be Alesana, an act who, by the numbers, might be Raleigh's most successful band. After they last played in Raleigh, headlining an at-capacity show at the Lincoln Theatre, frontman Shawn Milke bemoaned how touring structures had changed. The merchandise overload and multi-band pile-ups such acts depend upon can cause a paralysis of options among fans. RaleighPalooza represents something more akin to one-stop shopping.

"It's gotten to the point where, when we started, three bands was enough for a tour; now you need six. Venues and promoters don't even take you seriously unless you've got six bands in your package. To me, it's just become ridiculous," Milke said. "You have six bands on the tour and every band has 12, 13 T-shirts. The level of competition has just gotten so vast when it comes to those sorts of things."

Indeed, the economic reality of touring in a pop-punk/ alternative/ pop-rock band is changing. It's uncertain whether Malerba's idea of such an all-you-can-take buffet of emotive singers and melodramatic dynamics is the answer, but she's hoping the area is receptive.

"We hope RaleighPalooza will be an annual event that will impact the city in a positive way," Malerba says. "We are the 'Do It Yourself' mindset and we hope to collaborate with local companies and other small businesses to make this an exciting and memorable event."

RaleighPalooza certainly fills a category otherwise ignored by the rest of the festival scene. Last year, The Brewery—the longtime flagpole for the sort of music RaleighPalooza will specialize in—was bulldozed. New pockets appeared, making the Oak City a mecca for no-frills hardcore, hip dance music and off-kilter pop-rock. Venues like Kings and Slim's keep a steady flow of new headliners coming through town, while larger rooms like The Pour House and Lincoln Theatre keep the rock scene staples—Americana, cover bands and today's metalcore offshoots—employed. Other events, like the Bull City Metal Fest, Duke University's Brickside Festival, Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival and Death To False Hope Fest, have popped up to fill niches, while Hopscotch (owned by the Independent Weekly) brings 175 bands spanning genres downtown for three days each September. But none of these cater to the sounds of RaleighPalooza.

And when these bands do show up, it's generally more expensive. Lincoln Theatre's upcoming calendar, for instance, promises tours headlined by For Today and A Skylit Drive, Protest The Hero, and Coheed and Cambria, all acts that fit the new festival's demographic. To see those 13 bands will run fans close to $60; RaleighPalooza boasts 38 bands for $50. And there's plenty of variety for fans to latch onto, from Alesana's dramatic metal-meets-Broadway extravagance to The Ready Set's Gym Class Heroes-meets-Smash Mouth featherweight pop, or from The Early November's early-'00s emo to Forever The Sickest Kids' Sum 41-esque anthems.

The music might not reflect the styles most closely associated with the state, but Malerba says the name's pun was a nod to regionalism. "It's a fun play on words of the well-known Lollapalooza that takes place in Chicago," she says. "People seem to remember 'RaleighPalooza.' We wanted to keep our ties with the city of Raleigh, because this is our home and where our roots are."

With that handle, though, the festival seems even more unlikely to shake off comparisons to Warped Tour. That traveling one-day festival, after all, grew out of the original, roving Lollapalooza.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Different spaces."

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