Summertime is a time for music festivals, and one of the most unique of these is the International Pop Overthrow (IPO), a series of gatherings devoted to the multitude of forms that pop music takes. Think anywhere from the late 1950s all the way into the 2000s to get a style-sense. On an average evening at an IPO show, you’ll hear some Rickenbacker jangle guitar and tambourine, maybe some freaky ’80s synths, probably a ton of vocal harmonies, and a great deal of energy.

That’s how David Bash likes it. The founder of the festival and a champion for the continuance of these genres, coupled with an insistence that great new music is never an oxymoron, Bash is once again on the move with his event. We had an opportunity to catch up with him to discuss.

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David Bash with Jason Falkner

How long has International Pop Overthrow been happening, and what was your impetus for getting it on its feet?

International Pop Overthrow, or IPO as it has come to be known, began in 1998, in my home base of Los Angeles. I wanted to create a platform for artists from all over the world to be able to play on bills with like-minded bands and in front of people who would dig what they do. I was sitting in a Carl’s Jr. having lunch with my good friend, music attorney Ben McLane, and suddenly I said “I want to do a music festival”, and illustrated my ideas to him. He responded “you should”, and that was all the impetus I needed. The first IPO festival took place from August 21-30, 1998. I had invited many local bands of course, but also several from around the U.S. and the world. I was shocked at how many accepted my invitation! The festival went extremely well; several of the shows were packed and some were sold out, and spectators from all over the world came. I’ll never forget it! Things branched out from there, and here we still are, 20 years later, doing anywhere between 12-16 each year, all around the world!

It’s a great idea for a touring festival, being a “power pop” gathering of like-minded musicians, almost all of whom are independent. IPO is also a really tight community. Could you talk about that aspect of it?

First off, I’d like to try to eradicate the myth that IPO is strictly a “power pop” festival. It certainly was back in the day, but over the years I would keep hearing from bands who did melodic music which wasn’t necessarily power pop, who would say “we’re pop, why aren’t we being invited to this festival”. Spectators would say the same thing about some of their favorite bands. Over the years we’ve definitely expanded our parameters, and now, although the majority of bands do power pop, many do all kinds of pop, every pop rainbow you can think of!

At each IPO we feel a sense of community, but none quite as much as IPO Liverpool at The Cavern Club, where we stick most closely to the original ethos of bands from all over the world under one umbrella, and the sense of a worldwide community of pop musicians and fans is palpable!

As welcoming as IPO is to new talent, you also have a very loyal circle of musicians who seem to frequently be a part of the festival(s). Who are some of those mainstays and would you tell us how some of these long relationships began?

Yes, that’s certainly true. I’ll tell you about two of them: in the mid-’90s I read a review in Yellow Pills magazine of an album by an artist called Jeremy. The review indicated that I would like the music, so I contacted Jeremy (yes, wrote him an actual letter!) and he sent me his CD. Not only was it fine, jangly pop music, but I felt a certain spirituality from it. I called Jeremy and we spoke for an hour about music, God, and life, and soon he and I had become good friends. Over the years he’s played almost every IPO city we’ve done, some every year like LA and Liverpool, and he has become a friend to so many musicians and spectators. The other is Dave Rave, from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who was (and now is again) in a band called Teenage Head, who was pretty well known in the ’80s. Through mutual friends I met Dave in 2001, I think. Over the next few years he played several IPOs, but in 2010 he said to me “I want to play every IPO you’re doing this year”. That was a tall order to be sure, but not only was he true to his word, he did the same thing for the next three years, and finally ended his streak of 50 straight IPO festivals (I kid you not) in London, in 2014. He followed us all over the world for four straight years! I don’t know how he did it, but he’s definitely the hardest working performer I know!

There are some drawbacks, and we should discuss these…keeping a concern like this going is a labor of love. It takes a lot of time, often a lot of money, and usually involves top-flight talent that, nonetheless, does not have Drake-level name recognition. What does your preparation schedule look like in terms of putting IPO together?

It usually takes three or four months to put everything together, from the booking of a venue to the booking of bands to putting the lineups together, getting gear together, etc…I used to do this all by myself, but when our roster expanded to more than five cities in the early 2000s, my girlfriend (now wife, thankfully) Rina Bardfield offered to help me, and although she’s an Aerospace Engineer, which is a very intense job, somehow during her off hours she’s able to help with several aspects of the festival. I couldn’t possibly do it without her. I love her very much, and thank her for her help!

When you are working with venues, how do you engage them? You have a bit of a built-in following that probably helps with persuading club owners, but in my experience, selling live acts with original music is becoming a tougher sell by the year. How are you handling this?

You are so right, Dw. Venues are constantly either eliminating live bands who do original music in favor of cover bands or DJ’s, and those who try to stick it out with live bands often end up closing because they can’t pay the rent anymore. Fortunately, there are some venues which have survived this change in the industry, and we’ve been equally fortunate to find some of these and hold IPO there. We’ve had some with which we’ve been working for 20 years, and we’re very thankful for that, as I know how difficult it is on their end to make ends meet! When a venue with which we’ve been working closes, then I have to do a bit of a sales job in getting a new one on board. Yes, our resume helps, but each year it gets tougher and tougher, as there are fewer available venues who are, therefore, in more demand than ever. Sometimes I have to start the process as much as seven months in advance just to reserve dates!

For many years, the Not Lame label has been home to the annual IPO compilation, but label head Bruce Brodeen has ceased business. You have now secured a relationship with the Omnivore label. First, what would you like to say about the Not Lame partnership which, to me, was a terrific collaboration?

Well, Bruce Brodeen is one of the coolest people I know and a true champion of pop music. He maxed out his credit cards to start Not Lame in the ’90s, and for a while he was the only mail order company in the world for pop music. So many musicians owe him a huge debt of gratitude, as do I, for releasing the IPO CD from Vol. 3 through Vol. 20, first under the Not Lame monicker and then under his more recent umbrella, Pop Geek Heaven. When he stopped operating his music endeavors, it was a huge loss for so many.

How has the Omnivore relationship been in this first go-round?

It’s been excellent! Omnivore has a core of very good people, who have been very enthusiastic about this project. To be sure, there has been a learning curve for both of us, but we’ve slogged through the paperwork and other red-tape, and we now have a finished product! I thank Omnivore very much for coming on board, and I hope we have a fruitful relationship for many years to come!

Because of Omnivore’s distribution capacity, will IPO still be a small-run release as before (so don’t delay, kids), or are wider distribution opportunities on the horizon?

We’re definitely doing the same number of CDs as before, but the fact that Omnivore has distribution and can get the CDs into stores will be a big help to spread the word about the IPO CD to more than just the core group of pop fans who are our major target group.

What is the fan reaction like? As I mentioned before, you have a lot of new faces coming to the shows, and then you have old friends who schedule their summer vacations around IPO. What does that mean to you in this day and age?

The fan reaction to IPO festivals has been generally positive all these years and I’m very thankful for that, especially to those who come in from different parts of the U.S. and the world. It’s very gratifying and reinforces my belief that we’re making a mark in the world. Of course, I’m most thankful to all the artists who have played over the years. I hope they know how much it means to me, and to the people who attend the shows.

Of course, there are people who have different ideas of how I should run the festival, and many of them make good suggestions. I’ll try and follow those which I think are doable, but unfortunately, many of them are not, and I hope people understand that when one looks at the situation from the inside, as I do, sometimes things are seen differently and suggestions can’t be carried out. I do the best I can, and fortunately, most people realize this and are happy to attend the festival as is.

Music – be it big label, independent, bedroom pop, or whatever – is in a strange netherworld right now. The hits are as big as ever, maybe bigger. But there are very specific sounds that rise to the top. All the other music types are still being made, and probably even more than they ever were, thanks to the Internet…and yet, people don’t go after this new material and are content to say, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore” (to paraphrase Greg Kihn). What is your take on this?

It’s absolutely true, Dw. Rock music has, first and foremost, always been the domain of younger fans, but for many years there was always room for older artists taking a more traditional approach. Those days are virtually gone, and for that reason, today’s charts are filled with boy bands, girl bands, hip-hop, etc…to which I say, “more power to ’em”. Today’s kids deserve to have “their music” as much as we did. Certainly, the approach is very different, as sales are way down in favor of streaming, but as much as my generation may not like it, that’s progress. Having said that, things in the music business tend to be cyclical, and there’s going to be a day when “our” kind of pop music will make a comeback, and there will be more young bands like The Lemon Twigs who endeavor to make some great pop records!

What would you tell people who have this mindset that good new music stopped in ’78, ’88, or ’98?

I hear that all the time, and to people like that I say this: “you just need to look in other places and you’ll find a lot of great music, songs that remind you of the days when you were growing up listening to The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac or Marshall Crenshaw.” I will point them to the IPO website, which has links to the music pages of all the artists playing the festival and, if I have the opportunity, I will play them the latest IPO CD; invariably, people will say “wow, this is great-I had no idea people were still doing this kind of music today!!”. Responses like that make me secure in the knowledge that there are a significant number of people out there who would love IPO, if only they knew about it. I wish I had the budget to advertise on radio or in newspapers, but I don’t, so I have to do the best I can with what I have. I’m proud to say that, while other festivals have come and gone, after 21 years, IPO still survives and is still viable!

Last but not least, you had some significant health issues in recent years. How are you doing today?

Thank you for asking, Dw. In January of 2015, I had a heart attack, which apparently almost killed me. Thanks to the advice from my friends on Facebook who either also had a heart attack or had family members who did, I decided to do everything my doctors told me, changed my diet radically, started exercising, lost 70 pounds, and got healthy. In the past couple of years, the weight has crept back on a bit, but there’s no way it will ever be back to where it was, and I haven’t gone back to eating the junk I used to eat. I plan on being here a long time; hey, somebody’s got to run IPO, and that somebody is going to be me!

You can still be a part of IPO 2018. Here is the current schedule of festival appearances.

Friday, July 27:
Fais Do Do (18+) – Big Stir Night!!
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
7:30 Cait Brennan
8:15 Blake Jones & The Trike Shop
9:00 Michael Simmons
9:45 Sitcom Neighbor
10:30 The World Record
11:15 The Armoires
12:00 Leslie Pereira & The Lazy Heroes
Saturday afternoon, July 28:
Fais Do Do (All-Ages!!)
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
2:00 Blaine Campbell
2:45 Sean O’Brien
3:30 TBA
4:15 Shplang
5:00 Basement Beat Revival
Saturday evening, July 28:
Molly Malone’s
575 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles 323 935-1577

$10
7:30 Almond&Olive
8:15 Danny De La Matyr
9:00 Double Naught Spies
9:45 Luther Russell
10:30 Baz Francis
11:15 The Automatics
Sunday afternoon, July 29:
Fais Do Do (All-Ages!!)
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
2:00 Marie Danielle
2:45 TBA
3:30 Jes Hudak
4:15 Daisy House
5:00 LuAnn Olson And Randell Kirsch
5:45 The p-22s
Sunday evening, July 29:
Fais Do Do (18+)
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
7:30 Justin Levinson
8:15 Counterpush
9:00 Jesse Vaz and The Velvet Reign
9:45 Raised On TV
10:30 Jed’s A Millionaire
Monday, July 30:
Skinny’s Lounge
4923 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood 818 763-6581

$10
7:30 Jason Berk
8:15 Danny Henry
9:00 The Living Dolls
9:45 The Yellin’ Bells
10:30 LoveyDove
Tuesday, July 31:
Molly Malone’s
575 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles 323 935-1577

$10
7:30 Sam Marine
8:15 The Fulcos
9:00 The Tearaways
9:45 Popdudes
10:30 Mike Isenberg of The JETS
11:15 The Jay Goeppner Band
Wednesday, August 1:
Silverlake Lounge
2906 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 663-9636

$10
7:30 Jessica Gerhardt
8:15 Hollow Fortyfives
9:00 Jeff Whalen (of Tsar)
9:45 Diamond Hands
10:30 Norman Kelsey
11:15 Wet & Reckless
Thursday, August 2:
Silverlake Lounge
2906 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 663-9636

$10
7:30 The Motion
8:15 The Ex Teens
9:00 Twenty Cent Crush
9:45 Spythrenius
10:30 Evil Maria
11:15 Drool Brothers
Friday, August 3:
Molly Malone’s
575 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles 323 935-1577

$20
7:45 Rob Bonfiglio
8:30 David Myhr
9:15 Chris Price
10:00 Roger Joseph Manning Jr.
11:05 Danny Wilkerson (one song, with special guests)
11:15 Linus of Hollywood
12:00 Fernando Perdomo
 
CLICK HERE to buy tickets in advance
Saturday afternoon, August 4:
Fais Do Do (All-Ages!!)
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
2:00 Gentle Brent
2:45 Mason Summit
3:30 Jim Wilson
4:15 The Jeremy Band
5:00 Kalina & Kiana
5:45 TBA
Saturday evening, August 4:
Fais Do Do (18+)
5257 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles 323 931-4636

$10
7:30 The Bognar Brothers
8:15 Morty Shallman
9:00 The Bobbleheads
9:45 The Seven & Six
10:30 Davey Meshell & The Transatlantics
11:15 Brian Jones Was Murdered
Sunday afternoon, August 5:
Skinny’s Lounge
4923 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood 818 763-6581

$10
2:00 Anchor & Bear
2:45 The Galaxies
3:30 The Shamus Twins
4:15 Suite 100
5:00 The RAZ Band