Long before New Noise was even a pipedream, festival president and founder Jeff Theimer was just another Santa Barbara youngster with dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom. “I played in a band around town, back when all-ages venues like the Coach House and the Living Room were still around,” Theimer recalled recently over lunch. “Then, I realized I was a horrible musician, and I decided I needed to find another way to be involved with music.”
Years later, Theimer, now 30, found himself playing marketing director for KJEE, and later at Los Angeles modern rock monolith KROQ, where he honed his skills before returning home to launch New Noise. “I realized that Santa Barbara is the perfect place to host an event like this,” he explained. “We’re 90 minutes from L.A., which is arguably the music-business capital of the world. And we’re an hour plane ride from the tech industry in the Bay Area. It makes sense to meet in the middle.”
For Theimer, “meeting in the middle” is as much about concept as it is about location. The inaugural New Noise fest aims to focus itself, unlike many of its music conference contemporaries, with an emphasis placed on technology and environmental consciousness as it relates to the future of the music industry. And with eco-friendly Santa Barbara as a home base, Theimer posited that the festival’s efforts to “green the music biz” will likely be embraced with open arms.
Also unlike grander music conferences, New Noise is aiming to keep things on the smaller scale. “To be honest, I would have liked it to be smaller,” Theimer confided. “We have 50 speakers and 50 bands, and that’s great, but I originally wanted the conference to be only one day.”
Geographically speaking, Santa Barbara’s downtown provides an ideal hub for such an endeavor, with nighttime live music showcases taking place at venues up and down State Street and walking distances of no more than 15 minutes from farthest point to farthest point-an impossible feat for most other cities.
Theimer’s desire to keep things small also stems from his experiences with other, likeminded fests, including the mother of all music conferences, Austin’s annual South by Southwest. “I’ve been to South by Southwest, and what they do is astonishing,” he said. “But the festival has grown so big and so commercialized and corporate. That’s not what we’re aiming to do.”
What they are trying to do is lay the groundwork for an accessible and focused platform where industry bigwigs, startup gurus, and young musicians can not only meet, but coexist in a music-filled environment. And for a longtime music fan like Theimer, that’s the New Noise dream come true.