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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seaweed Sway's Jessie Woletz on Seven Years of Putting on S.F. Shows

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Promoter Jessie Woletz. Photo by Jes Taber.
  • Promoter Jessie Woletz. Photo by Jes Taber.

Local promoter and show booker Jessie Woletz is sort of an oxymoron. She's a powerhouse hippie. She's constantly in motion -- booking, presenting, and promoting two to eight eclectic new weird folk shows a month at various San Francisco venues. Yet she's also peacefully in touch with her chakras (she teaches gentle hatha yoga).

Woletz is celebrating seven years as a promoter under the name Seaweed Sway with a Blank Tapes show this Thursday at Amnesia, coinciding by chance with the date 7/7. The gathering, in typical Woletz fashion, has other purposes as along with her anniversary celebration: It's also a CD release show for Collin Ludlow-Mattson and the Folks (the record was produced by Matt Adams of Blank Tapes) and a showcase for the other band: The Beehavers.

Along with promoting shows all over town (at Amnesia and Cafe Du Nord, among other places) Woletz also hand-picks monthly Seaweed Sway showcases at the Make-Out Room. The members of these bands are often friends or friends of friends, and the shows occasionally become group sing-alongs. On the eve of her anniversary party, we talked with Woletz about her favorite bands to book, why San Francisco musicians are more laid-back than their New York counterparts, and why she chose the name Seaweed Sway for her projects.

How did the Seaweed Sway begin?

When I first moved to S.F. in 2004, I would send e-mails to friends whenever a good show was happening, just to spread the word. I also was trying to spread the word about food and farming events, mainly the Alemany Farm workdays, as well as dance classes or events for this style called Axis Syllabus. So I was forwarding all of these e-mails, then just decided to compile them all into one.

Eventually I made a blog, so that the lists of events could be more public, and I named it Seaweed Sway. The name came from a Noise Pop show I went to where Brightblack Morning Light played, and the vibe in the room was so soft and sway-ey. After the show, I talked to Karl Blau, who had also played. We discussed the feel of the room ... kind of in awe. He has a project called Kelp Monthly, so [he] naturally thought the movement was like a kelp dance. Then I suggested that it was a "seaweed sway," and he agreed.

When was the first Seaweed Sway showcase?
The first Seaweed Sway showcase was in October 2009, third Sunday of the month. That was the first official show I put together and promoted using that name. I helped book a lot of shows before then, but it was always sort of a side thing. Getting a monthly slot took it to the next level.

Collin Ludlow-Mattson & the Folks play the Seaweed Sway anniversary show this Thursday. Photo by Bianca Mondragon.
  • Collin Ludlow-Mattson & the Folks play the Seaweed Sway anniversary show this Thursday. Photo by Bianca Mondragon.

But for years before the actual showcases, you got your start just promoting other shows all over the city.
By e-mails to friends and handing out flyers. Seaweed Sway has always been a promo project for music as well as yoga and nature events. Music has taken precedence lately, but I still add in the others when I can. My favorite is when the events overlap, like the Chasing the Moon shows [that take place] during a full moon.

That's how Craigslist started too. This is from Wikipedia: "Craig Newmark began the service in 1995 as an e-mail distribution list of friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area."
Oh, is it? I didn't realize. I guess that makes sense! Just kind of sending stuff to friends, then letting it grow. I had no idea it was an events list too. It's amazing how things evolve.

Kind of gives you hope though, yeah? So many ideas are hatched in San Francisco.
Yeah, it totally does. S.F. is such a mecca for this sort of thing. Already if I just look back to a few years ago, I am amazed at how things are moving. I actually just started asking for a percentage from shows last July. Until then, except for the monthly Seaweed Sway showcase, I did everything for free. So I'm still trying to figure out that end of it, how to make it sustainable moneywise. I'm happy to be paid anything for this right now, but as I spend more and more time on it, it's helpful to have some compensation.
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