Nelson music promoter Paul Hinrichs wears a number of different hats.
Having run the Royal on Baker for many years before moving to Spiritbar, he’s the manager of Kootenay stoke folk act Shred Kelly and the founder of On the Road Management. He books ambitious large scale events year-round and has been actively campaigning to bring a music festival to Nelson.
As if that wasn’t enough, this week the 34-year-old Hinrichs added another line to his CV: artistic director of this year’s 24th annual Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival.
The Star sat down with the multi-talented Selkirk alumnus this week to hear about his vision for the festival and his continued work in Nelson’s music community.
A NEW DIRECTION
Though the Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival is one year away from it’s quarter-century anniversary, attendance has dwindled slightly in past years and organizers were looking for new ways to capitalize on their world-class venue.
“Jazz music is currently at an all-time low, and it’s just not what most people want to see,” said Hinrichs.
He noted that jazz is currently the least popular genre of music in North America, which may have something to do with the festival’s dwindling revenues.
“That’s where I fit in,” said Hinrichs, who aggressively recruited acts like Dan Mangan + Blacksmith to spice up the lineup for the August long weekend event.
“It is the Kaslo Jazz Etc festival, and there is that et cetera in there. It’s often not given enough attention. My job is to bring more et cetera.”
Hinrichs emphasized that there will still be jazz, and purists will come away from the festival pleased, but there will also be some variety.
“There will be 26 acts over the weekend. I’m happy with where we’ve landed. We’ve got a lot of name recognition, lots of acts people know.”
These include Quebec’s The Lost Fingers, Toronto’s Elliott Brood, Seattle’s Polyrhythmics and Vancouver’s Kenny Blues Boss Wayne.
Hinrichs is also pleased to have a number of local acts.
The festival will be free on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while the evening programming will be a ticketed event.
Hinrichs is excited that new liquor laws allow festival-goers to drink outside fenced-in areas, a change that was implemented last year.
“It changes the whole feel when you can have a beer and sit with your family in front of the stage,” he said.
And the stage, which floats in Kaslo Bay, is a huge draw. Hinrichs said the breathtaking view alone is worth the ticket price.
“It’s a picturesque British Columbian festival. The natural lush amphitheatre wraps around Kaslo Bay, and gives the audience a beach to sit and dance on with the infamous floating stage. The mountainous backdrop behind the stage really creates this otherworldly experience. It’s a truly stunning festival venue.”
A PASSION FOR COLLABORATION
It was while working at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto that Hinrichs first started to learn about what it takes to throw successful concerts and to cultivate a thriving music scene.
Having studied music at Selkirk College, but not feeling especially proud of his own musicianship, he decided instead to throw himself into the management game.
“I’ve never been a great musician. I feel like more of an enabler,” he said.
Hinrichs said his gig at The Royal came about through synchronicity. He had been working sound at a variety of venues around town, and one night he discovered they were missing a talent buyer.
“I was there one night when they needed a replacement. I said I think I could get Cuff the Duke. Then we sold 150 tickets, a few months later we brought in Sarah Harmer and after that it opened all the doors.”
Hinrichs is still disappointed his time at the Royal had to come to an end in April 2013.
“The biggest lesson I learned is that you have to be really careful about the label you put on yourself. What we did essentially was a build up a brand that I lost control of.”
Hinrichs created On the Road Management out of necessity, because he had already booked Ziggy Marley to come to town when the Royal closed its doors.
“I started it with Ty West. We sat down and said ‘how are we going to carry on?’ I’m not going to go back to pumping gas.”
And he didn’t.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Hinrichs said he couldn’t be more thankful for having an appreciative music community to serve and a supportive family to help him build his business. He currently lives near Ainsworth with his wife Nancy and his son Elwood.
“I’ve always had partners. It’s never just one person. It’s always way bigger than just me,” he said, noting that local businessman Howie Ross was instrumental in getting his career off the ground.
And though he’s involved in a stunning number of local music initiatives, such as booking all the talent for MarketFests, he said the real credit for the thriving music scene goes to the fans who come out.
“There’s this role that needed to be filled in the community, there was nobody regularly booking live music headliners and when we started doing it we became a magnet for that,” he said.
He said Nelson is still primarily an electronic town, but it’s becoming better at supporting indie music acts.
At this point he’s walked away from his attempts to bring a music festival to Nelson, but he’s hoping the city of Nelson will use his submitted proposal to launch one at some point in the future. If that happens, he would be more than happy to be involved.
“I want to see people recognize the Kootenays and recognize the beautiful area we have here. If I’m making people happy through music, what more could I ask for?”
Advance tickets for the festival are $50 per day, or $140 for the weekend. Kids under 11 are free.
For more information visit kaslojazzfest.com.