Bands and Booze: The Making of Swamp Stomp

Published on February 16th, 2013

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It turns out that describing Swamp Stomp is simple.

Good times and good music.

That’s what Swamp Stomp co-founder Ryan Gregg emphasized when we chatted about his festival, which is returning this year after a brief hiatus.  While one may have a more detailed yet verbose explanation for why they think an event is appealing, the UM alumnus keeps it simple.  People come for a great party.

“Any great event you’re gonna go to is just a  great party,” Gregg said. “A really great party with awesome bands and good booze. That’s what any event should be.”

So that’s exactly what Gregg did.  Along with fellow UM classmates Parker Smith and Ross Carlson, the Frost School of Music students sought to throw a party in 2006.  And so the first Swamp Stomp was held in a backyard.  For the next three years, as word about the festival spread, the festival moved on to established venues including Jimbo’s and Bayside Hut.

However, it’s important to not let the fun overshadow what may be the true point of Swamp Stomp.  It’s a tribute to good and (primarily) local and regional music.  To understand that, it helps to look deeply at what makes the festival unique.

“The festival started by musicians for musicians and people who love music. So the focus is really on the music and getting it really diverse and really eclectic.”

From Ska bands to Electronica acts, the festival is unique in that it doesn’t “typecast”, as Gregg says.  The only factor the festival cares about seems to be the quality of the music.  For Gregg, this is the brand of the festival:  the idea that when you think of Swamp Stomp there is the expectation that you will be exposed to new, diverse and overall “good” music.

“Our focus is on quality music, no matter what that genre is.  If you’re coming out to Swamp Stomp you know you’re seeing some of the best artists in the area.”

Gregg did a lot of repeating when we spoke.  There was an emphasis on diversity, quality and the importance of boiling that all down and just having a good time.

And one of the things that Gregg also repeated often was that Swamp Stomp is independent.  He repeats it because that means a lot to him, and it ties all those other elements already mentioned together.  That idea of being able to have complete creative control over what he feels is an important project and asset to the live music scene in Miami is closely guarded but also comes at a trade off:  the obvious difficulty of putting together an entire festival, with all those bands and booze.

“It’s a pain in the ass, but the truth is you do it because you love it. And if you don’t, you’re wasting your time.”

So where does that passion come from?

Gregg does give some credit to UM and specifically the Frost School of Music.  However, it was more than simply the classes and professors that made an impact on him. He says it was the fact that he was surrounded by people who thought as creatively as he did, and were as in tune with music as he was, that appealed to him.

“The people that I went to school with were just as important to me and my musical development as ultimately the professors were, which is the way it should be.”

When asked what he hoped attendees of the festival would get out of this year’s festival, his answer was just as simple as the premise of the festival:

“Have a good time, enjoy the music and come back next year.”

The festival can speak for itself.  If you’d like to test the claim that you’ll have a good time and want to become a “swamp stomper”, here’s the info you need:

What: Swamp Stomp 2013 Presented by the Miami New Times
When: Saturday,  February 16th from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Where: Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Avenue
Price: $20

words_hyan freitas. illustration_courtesy of swamp stomp.