A decade ago, David Bash hoped the International Pop Overthrow would live up to its name — literally.
“One of the missions was always to have the international pop scene overthrow mainstream radio,” says Bash, the Los Angelesbased producer of the traveling festival.
“At the time we first started, mainstream radio either would lay Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys or real heavy stuff like Limp Bizkit or Korn. There wasn’t as much melodic pop music happening. I wanted to try to bring that back.”
Bash hasn’t exactly overthrown the conventional world order, but he has turned IPO — which makes its first-ever visit to Detroit this week with four nights of music at Paycheck’s Lounge in Hamtramck — into a 10-year success. After starting as a 10-night affair in August of 1998 in Los Angeles, IPO has shows scheduled for 13 cities this year, all over the U.S. and, since 2003, at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England, the spiritual home of IPO thanks to the Beatles and other native sons who defined the kind of pop music Bash is promoting.
“Of course pop music is different things for different people,” he notes, “but for us, in a nutshell, it’s melodic rock ’n’ roll that features strong hooks, choruses, often-times harmonies — the kind of songs that stick in your head after they’re over.
“It’s not necessarily retro, but it definitely hearkens back to a time when good, strong pop songs were being played on the radio.”
Bash, 49, conceived the idea of IPO — named after the 1991 album by the now-defunct Chicago band Material Issue — in the mid-’90s, when he was reviewing albums for a variety of outlets. “I got to know a lot of the bands whose CD’s I was reviewing,” he says. “They found out I was from Los Angeles and told me how much they wanted to play in L.A.
“So I thought, ‘Why don’t I create
an environment where bands from all over the world could come and play under one umbrella and have it all be good, melodic pop Gun bands so they would like each other and people who came to the show would have a good chance of liking most if not all of the bands playing.”
Chris Richards, who leads the Detroit group the Subtractions, says IPO buoyed a scene that was listing in the music world.
“It basically keeps a flame, which is power pop, alive in each of these cities,” says Richards, 39, whose days job is in music sales for the Warner Music Group’s Livonia branch. “I think the bands that kind of hold onto that ‘power pop’ tag, it seems like it’s just getting smaller and smaller as the (music) industry shrinks, anyway.
“So for people who just love the whole core of the Who, Beatles, Kinks, Beach Boys, (IPO) keeps the whole thing alive, which is great.”
Bash, who used Internet outlets such as MySpace to discover new groups, held IPO exclusively in L.A. for four years, hosting eventual stars such as Kara’s Flowers, which morphed into the multi-platinum Maroon 5, The 88 and The Features. Then — at the suggestion of bands whose “pockets were getting too light” to travel to the West Coast — branched out to other cities, including New York in 2001 and Chicago the following year.
“Each year we keep adding new cities whose scene are pretty strong,” Bash explains.
Detroit was a natural to join the IPO roster, Bash says. Bands such as the Singles and Richards’ Subtractions had played at festivals in other cities — the former has even been part of the Liverpool show — and spread the word that the metro area, where the Romantics and Marshall Crenshaw had launched careers, had much to offer the IPO world.
“I knew there were a lot of really good pop bands in Detroit,” Bash says, “even though Detroit is much more known historically for Motown, the MC5 and Stooges and those kind of rock ’n’ roll bands like the White Stripes and so on.
“But you have a very good scene there, and it became clear we could do four solid days of Detroit pop and fill that with some other bands that are from nearby and have a really good festival.”
Most of the 31 groups playing at Paycheck’s this week hail from a 40-mile radius that Bash feels makes them part of the local scene. The Singles and Richards will be joined by homies such as the Hotwalls, Mike Elgert, Let’s Talk About Girls, Woodward, the Great Lakes Myth Society and the Pop Project.
“It’s funny,” Richards says of the Detroit scene, “because it seems like there’s always some new, super-youthful band, which is great to see.”
Jeremy, meanwhile, comes in from Kalamazoo, while the Pillbugs, Chris Arduser and the Deadbeat Poets are from Ohio and the Barry Holdship Four represents Los Angeles.
None of the bands are paid at this point, but Bash contends they still glean substantial benefits from being part of the festival.
“There’s a lot of exposure,” he says, “plus they get to be on bills with other cool bands and play in front of people who will likely dig what they do. And the bands get to network with each other.
“One of the things these bands complain about constantly is when they’re booked at clubs, they’re often opening for somebody who’s very different than them, so they may have a big crowd there, but that crowd’s not going to get it. With us, every band, even though they don’t sound alike, are all likeminded. I think it winds up being a positive for everybody.”
With East and West Coast swings and the Liverpool show still ahead this year, Bash is hoping 2008 is IPO’s most successful year ever. He also hopes to “set up shop” overseas in Sweden, Spain, Japan and Australia in the near future. The Overthrow has not necessarily been achieved, but that’s certainly not stopping him from continuing to try.
“We get bands and people coming back year after year, sometimes traveling a long way, because the experience they get at (IPO) they don’t get anywhere else,” Bash says. “I think there’s a lot of places that have great pop bands and people who want to hear them, so we’ll keep trying to find them and grow that way.”
The International Pop Overthrow Festival takes place Wednesday through Saturday (April 9-12) at Paycheck’s Lounge, 2932 Caniff St., Hamtramck. The music starts at 8 p.m. every night except Thursday, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $8 per night. Call (313) 874-0909 or visit www.internationalpopoverthrow.com.
Wednesday: Andy Reed, Chris Arduser, All Right Tokyo, Apartment 4, Woodward, Great Lakes Myth Society, the Pop Project
Thursday: The Documentarys, the Starfire Band, Billy King & the Idylls,Tone & Niche, the Respectables, the Hotwalls, the Badways, the Thunderchickens
Friday: Special Delivery, Spy Radio, Bazooka Jones, the Barry Holdship Four, Sunday Painters, the Pillbugs, the Deadbeat Poets, Fig
Saturday: Mike Elgert, Chris Richards & the Subtractions, Let’s Talk About Girls, the Singles, Citizen Smile, Sons of the Gun, the Lessmores.
Send your thoughts and comments to