Uptown unplugs from Hyack

Uptown Live! brought big crowds to the area around Sixth and Sixth following the Hyack International Parade. - Contributed photo
Uptown Live! brought big crowds to the area around Sixth and Sixth following the Hyack International Parade.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Uptown Live is unplugging its partnership with the Hyack Festival Association.

But Bart Slotman, the vice president of Uptown Property Group (UPG), the major commercial sponsor of the two-year-old live music event that showcases local independent and up-and-coming bands, is determined to keep it going.

Slotman said the ongoing squabble between some members of Hyack's board of directors and its executive director, Douglas Smith—who was fired, reinstated and has now left again and is pursuing legal action for wrongful dismissal—made it impossible to move forward with planning for next year's event.

"I have no choice but to react," said Slotman, who advised Hyack of his decision in a letter earlier this week. "We're going to look for a Plan B."

That plan will include writing a business proposal for an independently organized music festival and possibly hiring an event planner to put it together. Slotman couldn't say whether Uptown Live would continue to run in conjunction with the Hyack parade.

"The parade is an insurance policy, you have that built-in audience already there," said Slotman. "The event has to have enough name recognition to be able to stand on its own."

He's confident he's got that.

"People loved Uptown Live," said Slotman. "It's got great music, great stages, fantastic talent."

In response to UPG's decision, Hyack president Gavin Palmer said his organization is looking "at the legalities" of Uptown's withdrawal.

"This is something he (Slotman) has done unilaterally," said Palmer.

In his letter to Hyack, Slotman advised the association to remove all references to Uptown Live and the new Uptown Unplugged weekly showcase of local musicians that was introduced this past summer from its website and promotional materials. As of Tuesday, the Uptown Live logo and links to the event's website were still featured on Hyack's website.

Slotman said his company owns "all the intellectual property associated with the Uptown Live and Uptown Unplugged events. We own the websites and have developed and paid for all graphic design and materials."

Palmer said Uptown's decision is as much about business as it is about Hyack's own internal politics.

"Uptown do it as a commercial entity, we do things not as a commercial entity," said Palmer. "Hyack has a stellar reputation in the community for well over 40 years. We've been doing things for the betterment of the community and we've accomplished our tasks quite proficiently."

Slotman said that commercial component is vital to securing the resources needed to stage exciting events that engage the community.

"If you want to cut reliance on public funding, you've got to get companies to buy in," said Slotman. "You've got to provide a roster of events that the corporate community sees a benefit in participating in."

Slotman said last year's event cost $70,000 to produce and attracted 25-30,000 people who listened to bands like Good for Grapes and The Boom Booms on three stages scattered throughout Uptown. Other components included a bicycle skills show and a family fun zone where the City of New West was able to show off some of its equipment like fire and recycling trucks in interactive displays.

Palmer said he's hopeful Hyack will be able to maintain a presence in the city's Uptown, with or without the help of Slotman's company.

"For years Hyack has put on an Uptown street fair," said Palmer. "We changed the name to refresh the event."

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