Preview: God Save The Queen City

By Elizabeth Thomas

August 17, 2015

Returning for its fifth year, the God Save the Queen City music festival has a little something for everyone. Kicking off the three-day event next Thursday at the intimate Evening Muse venue in NoDa, GSTQC puts the spotlight on some incredible local and regional bands, and brings in a few heavy hitters to close out the event at The Fillmore next Saturday night.

Put on by Ink Floyd, a Charlotte t-shirt screen printing shop, creators Dave Collier and Eric Leaf have worked for the last five years to bring up-and-coming local and regional acts into the spotlight. Just a few short years ago, GSTQC hosted St. Paul & The Broken Bones, who have since gone on to open for The Rolling Stones, and even share the occasional Instagram photo with the one and only, Sir Elton John.

Benji Hughes GSTQC 2014. Photo by Carter Short.

This year, Dave and Eric hope to bring a few unique experiences to attendees. Up first, on Thursday night, bring a date and enjoy the coziness of The Evening Muse as Ravenna Colt, Water Liars, Amigo and Justin Fedor dazzle you with their musical prowess.

The party continues on Friday at the Chop Shop with headliners Diarrhea Planet, who’ve also experienced a big bump in popularity in recent years. Enjoy more upbeat rock-and-roll from Kansas Bible Company, Water Liars, Pujol, Ancient Cities, Bubonic Funk, Music Band and Jr. Astronomers.

Saturday day, take in a multitude of incredible local acts — for free — at the NC Music Factory, including Temperance League, Pullman Strike, Black Market, The Sammies, Hungry Girl and Giant Squid Squad.

And then, for the main event, Deen Ween Group, Future Birds, Benji Hughes and Alternative Champs will bring GSTQC 2015 to a close at The Fillmore Saturday night.


With an ever-growing music scene, God Save the Queen City is an opportunity for both local music fanatics and those who may not be familiar to experience the best musical talent Charlotte has to offer, exposing concertgoers to acts that may not have otherwise discovered– all at a reasonable price.

We sat down with GSTQC co-founders Dave and Eric. They shared their thoughts on the local music scene, how GSTQC has grown since its inception, what first-timers can expect and how the festival earned its name.

Eric Leaf (Left) and Dave Collier (Right) at GSTQC 2011.

CLTure: What inspired the first God Save the Queen City?

Dave Collier: It’s been five years. I can’t remember that far back. I can barely remember last week! Haha. As I recall it was Eric’s idea, and since I love live music and being out in the Charlotte mix, I was totally down to green-light it and make it happen.

Eric Leaf: At the time Ink Floyd was based in a sketchy old warehouse on Louise Avenue. It was home to a skatepark (Saturday), lots of cool artwork, and we had a really cool vibe going on there. We had talked about doing a three-band show at the skatepark, and realized that lack of parking and adequate restrooms, and no A/C would hold us back from doing something bigger, so we decided against that. And by then, we decided more bands would be better anyways. The Chop Shop was just opening its doors and so we were lucky to marry the event with them where it’s been each year, including this year (last at the current location). It was a natural fit. We had a lot of mutual friends and Jay and Tracie have done so much for local music prior to this, and since this. In the end, that first year set the tone for a lot of this. It was an awesome time.

CLTure: How did the event earn its name?

Dave: I was kicking around some ideas. It’s so hard to come up with something you’re going to like for a long time. “Queen City” was in the back of my head as naming anchor, and then the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen came to mind. Marrying the two– God Save the Queen City– seemed kinda fun and catchy and so the name stuck. In the back of my mind I’ve always had some concern that people are unfamiliar with the event and brand might think it was either a religious thing or a British-specific music thing of which it is neither. Haha.

Eric: Dave gets the credit for the name. I really liked the play on The Sex Pistols, too. Being a t-shirt company, we often see play on iconic things. So I thought it vibed well and aligned with our own brand, Ink Floyd.


CLTure: You’ve played host to so many artists and groups that have gone on to have extremely successful careers. Is there one group you’re extremely proud to have known in their early days?

Dave: There are many, but clearly St. Paul and the Broken Bones have experienced an atmospheric rise in popularity over the last few years. One minute I’m watching them play at our festival; seemingly the next minute they’re opening for The Rolling Stones and hanging out with Elton John on Instagram. But they’re extremely talented and have a special chemistry, so it’s no surprise they’re blowing up.

Eric: I think St. Paul’s rise is pretty hard to imagine looking back. Not even two years ago they were relative unknowns, and playing in a middle billing at our third festival. And like Dave said, now to see them opening for the Stones, and getting love from Elton John, is wild. It’s pretty crazy to think that kind of rise happened in less than a two-year span. Having worked with a lot of different bands, unfortunately not everyone has things happen that way– but when they do align that way, you get stoked for the bands! Diarrhea Planet is a band to mention as well. We’ve worked with them a handful of times over the past three years, and now they are blowing minds at major festivals and getting rave reviews everywhere they play. Even with their name…haha. But to be named Paste Magazine’s best live band of 2014 speaks volume to the craft they put into their live show. It’s just wild ride from start to finish and not to be missed. Lots of others have gone on to successes, too. Clearly our goal as hosts is to try and find stuff that will be the next big thing. I’m stoked on every band that plays. We want those rises to happen to all of them.

Paul Janeway of St. Paul and The Broken Bones. Photo by Daniel Coston.

CLTure: Having grown from an event that first hosted hundreds to now claiming multiple nights and venues and drawing thousands, what new experiences should concert goers look forward to this year?

Dave: The model is about the same as it’s always been, but the new experience is the culmination of the bands playing each night. Each night of the three nights has it’s own vibe and will grow as it progresses. August 27 at The Evening Muse is a small room with more “intimate” vibes where you might want to take a date out. August 28 at The Chop Shop [will be] way more up-tempo rock and roll vibes where you bring your friends who like to party and get that body-high from loud but well engineered heavier jams. And August 29 is the The Fillmore where all the heavy-hitters show up and you bring the friends who you want to impress and make crazy memories with.

Eric: So, were not quite drawing thousands. Haha. Maybe over the course of the previous four years, haha, but we are still growing this thing. We have experimented with different formats a couple of times and are just trying to find works best for Charlotte, and what is best for the festival. Being that we focus on the local music scene first and foremost, we want to make sure Charlotte is up to speed on what’s going on here, and also supporting in a way that works for everyone. Ideally we want Charlotte to celebrate being Charlotte, and we hope that the city can help us sustain the growth of God Save The Queen City. This year by making it multiple evenings and cutting away from the really long day format we used in previous years, our hopes were to make things more manageable. More a la carte for the fans. At the same time we still have a long day in Saturday where there will be a free element to extend things out a bit. So I think we’re still testing the waters to find what is going to work best moving forward. We may change it up again next year. Who knows? I think Dave’s comments on what to expect venue to venue and day to day are pretty accurate.


CLTure: Charlotte has an incredible music scene with many great acts performing all over the city. In your opinion, who’s the band to keep an eye on? Which band(s) do you feel are going to break into the national scene?

Dave: I wouldn’t want to isolate it into one answer. I know how hard each of these bands work and it’s really just a matter of who can write and create music that stands out. I’m fascinated by the alchemy and the evolution of bands. Sometimes it’s just a minor tweak or pivot and they start to develop seriously large followers.

Eric: Charlotte tends to get overlooked a lot as a music scene. For us, though, the scene is something to celebrate. I think we’re lucky to have a lot of these bands in our backyard. We have hosted over 60 different Charlotte bands in five years, which is pretty fun. And there are still many we haven’t worked with that we hope to in coming years. We all have our favorites, but because a lot of these guys are friends, I’ll refrain on singling out anyone. Ultimately I’d love to see more record deals, bigger opportunities, and more attention for all of Charlotte’s bands. I think we are starting to see the tides turn, so hopefully that continues more and more.

Eric Leaf (Left) and Dave Collier (Right)

CLTure: How would you like to see the event grow in the future? What elements or bands would you love to include in years to come?

Dave: I would like to see more people come out to discover new bands. There are many we’ve brought to Charlotte who are way underrated. That will keep the numbers up and maintain our ability to keep them coming back. There are so many bands that I would love to include in years to come, but it’s a matter of continuing to build our festival fan base, trust for the GSTQC brand and thus building the budget to attract more national acts.

Eric: Like Dave said. I think increasing attendance and awareness is our top goal. Building our brand. Continuing to bring fresh talent is a top priority, so musically we would love to continue to bring some solid up-and-coming bands to play. I think as we get bigger we’d love to continue to boost our headliners, too. That’s more of a natural progression though.

CLTure: What else besides the multiple venues are you guys doing differently this year?

Dave: From my perspective, not much inherently different from a production perspective. From a promotional perspective we’re starting much earlier this year which affords us more time to promote in more various ways. Plus, we have a ton of great sponsors this year and that’s allowed us more time and resources to promote them along with the festival.

Eric: I think for anyone who has come out before, they probably won’t see much different from previous years. Naturally opening it up to new venues will create some new experiences. Obviously the lineup is a bit bigger this year. We do have more folks behind us this year, from our own team to the sponsors– it certainly feels a bit bigger. We should have a few new engagements this year. Culture Initiative has some cool surprises in the works for a really rad live art piece, and a couple of our other sponsors will be getting involved in some fun fan engagements. Jeff Howlett, tintype master, will be out doing his thing for the first time and we are big fans of his. I think those things add to the festival experience without distracting too much.


CLTure: What are your general thoughts on the the music scene in the last three years or so, and what would you like to see more of to help it grow?

Dave: I’ve lived in Charlotte since the late ‘90s and it’s been exponentially better every year. What I would like to see more of is people coming out more for local and regional shows and being open to discovering more local music– not just the big headliner shows.

Eric: I was born and raised here, and have watched things grow from a local heavy scene in the ‘90s/2000s, to the big venues coming in and shaking things up a bit. I think we’re starting to see that balance out some, but with so many new folks moving to Charlotte, I think often the local side gets lost on folks. So for the young transplant, it may be riskier to head out to a local show versus catching a buzzing band on a national level. What we are putting together hopefully makes things easier for folks who haven’t grown up with our scene to figure out something they like that is born here. I think the creative talent in Charlotte is growing with the city, and lots of local bands are hitting their stride right now. It does seem to keep getting better, and what we hope is that folks will come and celebrate that. From our sponsors to the bands, we just want everybody to feel it’s the place to be for a night (or three) right here in your backyard.

More info on God Save The Queen City 2015.


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