Music Interview

To Build a Better Mousetrap

A Beer-Laden, Cigarette-Smoking, Impromptu Meeting with Michael Jones

Marcus Pan

Farm Funk Fest ‘97
Better Mousetrap Productions is headed by Michael Jones. This small independent producing company is behind the upcoming Farm Funk Festival, slated to occur in Somerset NJ the last weekend of May, 1997. The three day party has thirty-five bands on the roster, a BMX freestyle competition that is to run all three days and tons of other activities. Legends Magazine has gotten involved behind the scenes and hopes to bring you coverage of the entire event before, during and after…straight from the assaulted pits of Somerset Stables. For more information from the World Wide Web, get the latest direct from the official festival website at http://www.zenweb.com/faf97.

Michael Jones and I met at the Somerset Ramada over a few beers and bummed cigarettes. Jones had plenty to talk about, as did Chris Eissing of Mean Little Man Productions who has the job of media coordinator for the event and scheduled this meeting between Jones and I. The Farm Funk Festival has grown up, so to speak, being heralded by some as the “Woodstock of New Jersey.” It’s being held at Somerset Stables in Somerset New Jersey, and will last for three days and two nights, the last weekend of May and extending into the first of June. The event has more than thirty bands on the bill including Wishbone, Yasgur’s Farm, Screaming Violet, Jeffrey Gaines, Star/Force and more; most are local acts. Other events occurring simultaneously include a BMX freestyle competition sponsored by Jump For Joy’s Steve Wisbeski, freestyle skating shows and martial arts expositions. There will be volleyball tourneys every night, mad drum circles and just enough going on to give the unwary a headache. Held on 180 acres of land (mostly parking), visitors are more than welcome to camp out on the site and spend the entire weekend schmoozing around. Onsite preparation and related services are being provided once again by Population VI. While there won’t be alcohol for sale at the event, you can bring your own booze as long as they are not in glass bottles for safety reasons. In advance, tickets are $25 for the entire three days of the event.

One of the first things that Jones had to say concerned the name Farm Funk Festival. He stressed that the “Funk” in the event’s name was not intended to mean the music involved is all of a jazz/funk nature. Contrarily, bands there such as Yasgur’s Farm (Woodstock era rock), Yolk (alternative rock), Wishbone (psychedelic & classic rock), Screaming Violet (alternative rock) show this to be false. There are a few bands thrown in that are of a more “funky” nature just for brevity’s sake. But the word “Funk” was actually coined to show the event was held on a farm where dirt, mud and other “funk” would be rampant. “It’s killing my advertising,” quips Jones.

The big idea behind Farm Funk Festival was to provide somewhere for original and aspiring musicians to show what they have. The band lineup itself runs like a local band listing rather than a bill of events. Being planned since February of this year, the fact that Star/Force, Jones’ own musical outfit, is playing on Friday and Sunday shows his commitment to the fact that he just wants to have some a good time, stating how he just wants to “be part of a good show.” Jones is hoping to provide a place for the local college and upper high-school students to “blow off steam for crunch time.” Finals are done (or nearly done) in most educational institutions in the area, and all the kids are going to need someplace to whack out for a few days…bring in the summer of ’97 with a blast, so to speak. Anywhere from 4000 to 5000 people are expected and while Better Mousetrap is of course looking to bring in a little money for Jones to live on, the commercialism of the event is extremely low. Consider that $25 in advance ($30 at the door) brings you three days, two nights of fantastic entertainment. Even throwing out and not considering everything else planned, you’re still paying less than $1 a band. The price is right, Population VI is nearly set with the site, the weather looks like it may be gorgeous and central Jersey can rock the summer into place rather than wait for it to slowly overtake us.

Farm Funk Grows Up
Jones and I spoke a bit about the past of the Farm Funk festival; where it was and where it is now. Last year, the festival was a one day event that attracted 200 people. Originally put together by members of Wishbone, it was mostly an outlet for their friends and family to get together and listen to them play. They started bringing in more bands onto the then single-acre party. Michael Jones was there last year. He remembers how the rain started, and he decided to lend a hand in the sound department. The rain continued to drizzle down and suddenly Burgundy & the Mother Sound, the festival’s ’96 headliner, disappeared - bus and all - from the event. There it was; Farm Funk Festival ’96 was out of entertainment for the night. So Jones stepped up. Grabbing his bass guitar from his car, he went up on stage with a drummer and “just jammed.” He started to pull people from the audience to come up and play a bit in true Woodstock-era Wavy Gravy style. We had the rain, we had the audience ending up on stage and we had Jones in the middle of it all trying to get something fun happening. He even remembers, after the first twenty minutes of playing, how the G-string on his guitar snapped. He kept the session going for at least an hour, and the event still ended up being a good time for the couple hundred that showed up and dared the rain to fall.

Now, times have changed. Trying to get his hands further into the Farm Funk Festival since that fateful night back in ’96, Jones knew that something could come of this event that could be bigger, better and a helluva lot more fun for a helluva lot more people. Going from a handful of bands to over thirty, from one acre to 180, one day to three days. And that’s just the first things that come to mind. The 1 night show has been turned into a 3-day event. Entertainment and the bands appearing are a main attraction, true, but the bands are no longer the only thing happening. Better Mousetrap has turned the Farm Funk Festival from a concert into a mega-party that’s ready to stomp Somerset.

Michael Jones
Michael Jones, as stated previously, is the man behind Better Mousetrap Productions, now functioning for slightly over nineteen months. Previously, he worked for Indigo Jones, a coffee house in New Brunswick which recently closed its doors. Indigo provided their public with fine coffee, a comfortable atmosphere and a good collection of original artists and musicians. At the coffee house he did booking. Here is where he met his partner in crime, Chris Eissing of Mean Little Man Productions, who’s claim to fame is becoming more and more known throughout central New Jersey as an independent producer of small, aspiring and experimental musicians in the area. With players such as Brian Fallon of No Release, Misercordia and more, Mean Little Man Productions is on the verge of making their mark. Expect to hear more of Chris’ work and musicians as we are scheduled to sit down for a similar interview and rap-fest.

Indigo Jones closed its doors and held a blowout of sorts that lasted for nearly twenty-four hours straight of music and mayhem. Jones handled the bookings previously and showed up hours late for the day, much to the chagrin of Eissing who was dead-set on meeting him. They finally did when Jones waltzed in late that day, the last day of Indigo’s open doors. He remembers walking in to hear the music already playing, happy to see that someone took it upon themselves to just get up and show the initiative to start the show without him. Upon meeting Chris, Jones “liked the way and how quickly he worked,” and a rapport was established. This rapport let to Eissing’s function as the media coordinator for Farm Funk Fest ’97.

Currently, Better Mousetrap Productions is Jones’ claim to fame and livelihood. He does nothing but run this independent promotional business at the moment, and seems happy with the way it is turning out. His call to the member of Wishbone who previously ran the festival ended in him taking control of the show. “I just got involved and kind of rose to the top,” he says of the event, and has the desire of “putting together a quality show.” Wishbone, says Jones, “just want to perform.” They didn’t want to end up as organizers, which is what Jones sees himself as rather than an actual promoter. “I would call myself an organizer & a teacher. I don’t want to impress on anybody.” he says. “I just want to play.” And his underground attitude, painted nails (much like yours truly, albeit a lighter shade of color) and constant forward momentum proves what he’s about; fun. Expect to see him on stage throughout the event and performing as well with Star/Force, a band in which he performs on his bass guitar (hopefully with his G-string in tact this time). Star/Force is slated to hit the stage both Friday and Sunday. And even beyond Farm Funk Fest ’97, Jones hints to “Things in the kettle for August and beyond.”

Farm Funk Festival ’97
Run by who I believe is a man with the vision, drive and attitude to pull off Jersey’s best music festival, Farm Funk Festival ’97 is sure to be a kick-ass party. I hope to see you there, and you can expect more from Legends as I sit down with Chris Eissing to talk about the event & his work and aspirations, Steve Wisbeski of Jump For Joy to discuss the BMX freestyle events and his running Kontest ’97 series, as well as some of the bands ready to go on stage and kick the summer of ’97 into high gear. I have plans to (hopefully) sit down with Screaming Violet, Yasgur’s Farm, Star/Force and other bands on the roster. Population VI, as always, has provided an excellent place to party and has done a great job in prepping the party site. I’ll be there for the weekend; just look for the stealthy goth. And with promised threats from Jones about pulling me up on stage on more than one occasion for nothing more than to see me squirm, I might not even be hard to miss. It’s a well-spent $25; and one great excuse to stomp Somerset Stables.