Performer-promoter Nick Cain has played many roles during his 20 years in the music business. This week he sat down with Patch to talk about why he loves South Jersey and its burgeoning music scene, and how the Before the Bridge music festival supports both.
Collingswood Patch: You've been involved in music for the past 20 years. Tell me about some of the different roles you've played in the business.
Nick Cain: I was about 16 years old and I started as a roadie for a band. I just had a knack for playing bass and so eventually I started my own band called Rain Still Falls. We toured America a couple of times. We did a big tour in Europe and opened for a lot great bands like the Refused and Ignite and a bunch of other hardcore bands.
My friend Joel, the singer in Rain Still Falls, had a record company called Watermark Records, and I started working with him running the label. It really took off from there. We started selling a lot of records, and we moved from Philadelphia to New York City; this was in 1996.
Fast forward a few years, I worked at Sony Music for a while in their A&R department. Then eventually, I started my own company, Punk Slope. We started doing events in Brooklyn and New York. We had hardcore luminaries; for example, Walter Schreifels, who was in a band called Quicksand. A lot of these—what I consider—hardcore gods from New York City graced me with their presence and played at my events.
Fast forward again, when I moved to Collingswood. I met Rich DiGregorio, Colin Moran and Brian Ross, and we started Plantlife Music. John Falco helps out sometimes, too.
Patch: What kind of things do you want to accomplish with Plantlife?
Cain: I want to create as many things as I can and do as many events as I can, from little coffee houses to big arenas. I'm also managing bands. Our main clients are Goodnight Lights, who are also from Collingswood. I have a music publishing company through EarthProgram, a company in New York that I've been involved with for a long time.
We're also doing Before the Bridge, our music festival, which is in full swing right now (Editor's note: Patch is a sponsor of Before the Bridge). It's growing every year. We're really excited about this year. I really hope a lot of people come out. It's going to be a good time.
Patch: You're in New York so often, why not move there? What keeps you in Collingswood?
Cain: I lived in New York City and Brooklyn for 12 years, and then I moved back down here. I'm from this area and I love it here! I'm not a person who's in South Jersey and wants to get out so that I can make something. No, I love this place, I love where I am and I want to do it right here!
Patch: What can we expect from Before the Bridge? Why should people go?
Cain: The music is going to be insane. There are 10 bands playing and every single band is amazing in its own right. That's one.
Two, this is your community and this is where we are, and this is what we're doing. You should a part of a cool thing. This year there are going to be a lot of good things to see and do. And it's free!
Patch: What's your concept behind the name of the festival?
Cain: Basically it means that before you go over the Ben Franklin Bridge or the Walt Whitman Bridge that you can walk out onto your front doorstep, or maybe just go over to the next town, and see some fantastic music.
Oh, and Carolyn Busa's the one who came up with the name, “Before the Bridge.” She's a local girl, a comedian and she's quite cute.
(Editor's note: Cain and Busa are in a romantic relationship.)
Patch: The music business has changed so much in the past 10 years. How can artists stay relevant?
Cain: Be sincere. If you're making music, it's all about sincerity. I mean, people can smell B.S. a mile away. I know I can! If your music or your art is sincere for you, it's already relevant. You have to put yourself out there. You go to shows, you meet people. You support people, they'll support you. That's how you build a community of colleagues.
Patch: Tell me three of your favorite local bands.
Cain: Goodnight Lights. I started working with them after I literally fell in love with their music. I also had the honor and the privilege to play with Chuck Treece, who's one of my mentors. So I'd say Good Night Lights, Chuck Treece, and JJL, who's playing the festival. He just blows me away.
Patch: How do you find the motivation to keep being creative when you're investing much of yourself working to promote musicians?
Cain: You have to be a little bit crazy. You hear that in a lot of different capacities, but it's true with me, it's true of music, it's true of doing anything you love. I don't make a lot of money doing things like this, but this isn't fueled by money. It's fueled by just wanting to do it, to be a part of the musical experience and share that with other people.
The Before the Bridge Music Festival will be held Sat., Oct. 13, from 1 to 10 p.m. at the corner of Haddon and Woodlawn avenues in Collingswood (near Warner Landscape and Patio). To learn more about the participating bands and vendors, or to donate to the festival, visit BeforetheBridge.com.
Busa is hosting a comedy showcase Friday night at the Collingswood Community Center to benefit the festival. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $20 and includes beer, wine and light snacks. Call 609-230-6882 for tickets.