The Conmoto Music & Arts Festival

by brenton crozier
EU: How has the Conmoto changed this year?
Jon: The biggest change is the absence of Brian Hicks. I started this festival in 1994 with five bands and a night at a Lions Club in Orange Park. It was at that show where I met Brian when he was performing with Gizzard. Every year he and Chris Strawn would help me promote the festival. In 2000 he suggested we make it bigger. Through Brian’s vision and awareness of the talent in this city, we were able to stage almost 200 bands in a single day that year and the following year. Brian really brought this festival to its potential, a potential I could never have even imagined without him. After a long and painful struggle with cancer, Brian passed away this summer. It will never be the same, but this event will always be dedicated to him.

EU: Why did you make the change to Harvest of Hope and what differences will that make for the festival?
Jon: This year, in lieu of St. Augustine’s Harvest of Hope Festival getting canceled, the Harvest of Hope Foundation came to us and asked if they could be the charity select. They have been immensely helpful in organization, leadership, connections and logistics. These guys are pros at fundraising through music events, so they are taking an incredible burden off of me and helping me bring the festival to another level. Everyone should know too, this festival has always been about our community and that has not changed. The Harvest of Hope Foundation is giving most of the money from Conmoto to the Willie Harvey Fund, so that it benefits migrant workers in Northeast Florida.

EU: What would people be surprised to learn about Conmoto this year?
Jon: The Jax Band Project art show at Null Space is going to be really surprising and cool. It will feature local band posters and flyers from the last twenty years, a band “family tree” by Tommy Armageddon and listening stations where people can peruse Jacksonville’s musical history. We also will have some of Jacksonville’s favorite local DJs spinning all local music. If anyone has old local band tapes or CDs or flyers, they are invited to bring them and contribute to this cool retrospective.
EU: What are your favorite moments of the festival you started, organize and oversee?
Jon: Always the bands. Saturday night, when all the venues downtown are rocking with bands and music lovers are walking all over the city, that is the most magical experience. That is when you realize Jacksonville’s potential as a city. We have great musicians here and we have a kickass downtown. My only wish is that I could attend the Conmoto without having to oversee anything. I’d love to just enjoy it and not have to worry.

EU: Besides raising the money for Harvest of Hope, why is this festival important?
Jon: Rather than complaining about how our city could be better and hoping someone somewhere will make it happen for us, we are taking the reins and making our city better. We are showing everyone that it can be done, we just need good ideas and people that will carry them out. Conmoto is an example of that, as is the film festival, the animation festival, Art Walk and Summertime in the City.