By Grant Golden
June 14, 2022
The past decade has seen a dramatic shift in the music industry. With viral TikTok sensations and streaming platforms, consumers have begun to rely heavily on algorithmic means of musical curation. That’s what makes the 2018 creation of Raleigh’s That Station so special.
That Station is a bit of an anomaly, as a commercial radio station operating outside of the traditional Top 40s format. Rather, That Station focuses on alternative acts, deeper cuts from old favorites and, most importantly, local music. While That Station has utilized their airwaves to highlight music from the coast to the mountains for the past four years, the weekend of June 24 finds the station hosting its first That Music Festival, a two-day celebration of North Carolina music at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
That Music Fest boasts beloved indie rock stalwarts The Mountain Goats and the Grammy-winning bluegrass crew Steep Canyon Rangers as their headliners, but the lineup is filled with a wide array of excellent local talent. The alt-country of American Aquarium blends with the funk of Boulevards, the R&B of XOXOK, and the dreamy folk tunes of Kate Rhudy. With 25 acts spread across three stages, That Music Festival gives folks of all musical persuasion something to enjoy.
“We originally wanted to do something on a smaller scale last summer, but decided things were a little too touch and go with the pandemic,” Program Director Chris Edge said. “But when the Bulls got their schedule for 2022, we knew what weekends were open and decided to really take a run at this.”
With That Station and the Durham Bulls both being owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company, hosting at the iconic Triangle baseball stadium was a no brainer. Ballpark concerts have a storied history, and they offer a way to give an event a big stadium-show feel in a more intimate setting. Acts like The Beatles, Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam and more have built captivating concert experiences around baseball stadiums, although rarely do you see shows of this scope with solely local acts. To that end, using this large platform to champion local music is something built into the ethos of That Station.
“Our purpose is to elevate the sound of our state, and particularly the Triangle,” Edge said. “[So] let’s do something meaningful. It’s not enough that we play this music, what can we do to help them grow and get exposure? Let’s show people what North Carolina sounds like.”
Eager to get the show going, music will be starting right as the gates open each day at 1 p.m. The Landing Stage and Concourse Stage are positioned within the stadium’s covered and seated infrastructure, while the main stage will be placed right in the middle of the field facing home plate. When your goal is to give local artists a platform for exposure, it’s hard to think of a better arena than the center field of your area’s largest ballpark.
But the folks of That Station aren’t just throwing a cavalcade of acts at the wall and hoping something sticks for a quick buck– they’re building a festival with intent. “It’s not just about seeing Mipso or American Aquarium…it’s about seeing them all together,” Edge said. “It’s this community, this family of artists and musicians, all 25 of them, on all of these stages. Lots of them know each other or are on each other’s labels. Kate Rhudy sang backup vocals on American Aquarium’s album. Jason Adamo plays a Delta Rae song that the band wrote but never recorded. All of these folks are a part of this community, That Station is a part of this community, and [our attendees] are a part of it too.”
This community building is what keeps folks tuned in to That Station, an outlet that’s striving to keep high quality music on the airwaves and propping up local artists in the process. This tactic not only fosters stronger ties between the artists and their listeners, but it also helps to inspire new artists. When there’s proof someone in the community cares enough to share their work, when there’s proof people are listening who are eager for new music, that’s how a scene can flourish for years to come.
While there’s an abundance of music festivals or multi-day events that can tout hot new touring acts, there’s something admirable about building your event with a completely local lineup. It displays a dedication to your community that’s seldom seen.
“I want people to walk out of that festival proud,” Edge said. “These artists, that singer, this drummer, that guitarist. They LIVE here. I want them to feel connected to the music community and feel proud of where they’re from.”
And, when events like That Music Fest happen, it’s hard not to.