Celebrating the power-pop guitar-rock genre, the first International Pop Overthrow festival was held in Los Angeles in 1998 and become an annual event. It quickly expanded into a year-round pop empire of additional "satellite" festivals in other cities. This weekend, IPO founder David Bash hosts his first Cleveland IPO festival with 14 regional acts from Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio — and a decided Cleveland focus. Bash says the identity of International Pop Overthrow is formed by "melodic rock and roll."
"Over the years, I've expanded the parameters of the kind of pop that we use, [but] no matter what subgenre a band might fall into, if they don't have melodic integrity, I wouldn't have them at the festival," he says.
In L.A. and elsewhere, Bash usually uses smaller venues and multiple clubs. Past IPO events have featured as many as 180 acts, so you'd assume there would be many concerts held simultaneously at different venues.
"No, no, I don't believe in that," says Bash. "It's always one show at a time. The first one in 1998 was 10 days, [and] the festival has since run as long as 23 days. But I wanted bands to have the opportunity to see all the other bands if they wanted to. Plus, I wanted to see every band, so there's a little selfish motivation. Since I book all of the bands for the festival, I know ahead of time that I'm going to like them. So, I certainly want to be there. And I want them to know I'm there watching, especially those bands who traveled a ways to get to L.A. or wherever we're doing it."
Bash is clearly an insatiable, infatuated music geek who loves discovering new bands and supporting them. Bash cites some MySpace discoveries for the Cleveland festival, like Celebrity Pilots.
"I really loved their harmonies," he says. "They had a very strong sense of classic pop melodies, like McCartney and the Byrds, with a bit of a modern spin and some fuzz in there too. Good Touch Bad Touch had a quirky vibe that I really liked."
Bash also drew from his extensive power-pop background to pick bands for the Cleveland show. " I'm a huge fan of [Bill Fox's band] the Mice," says Bash. "His solo albums on SpinArt had a totally different, folky sound, which I also dug quite a bit. To have him at the festival will be a really big thrill for me."
Also at the top of Bash's "big Cleveland thrill" list is a one-off performance reuniting Paranoid Lovesick, a fixture in Cleveland's 1990s music scene.
"Paranoid Lovesick actually played the very first year of IPO in Los Angeles," he says. "I was a fan of the band, and I had known [PL guitarist] Rick McBrien through e-mail and I think one of the AOL tape-trading trees, which shows how long ago that was. It was so great to meet him and the rest of the guys, and then he tragically passed away a few years later. And now, Paranoid Lovesick is doing a reunion show for IPO Cleveland. Even though Rick's not there, the rest of the band is certainly able to carry on. I think it's going to be wonderful. Plus, they're going to be releasing some CDs at the show of previously unreleased material, so that should be cool."
Having Paranoid Lovesick play brings the festival full circle, which Bash couldn't be happier about.
"It just kind of keeps everything connected," he says. "Throughout my life, I've always had this thing for connecting one world with another world. One of the things I love is to be able to come into a city — having never been there before, having no connection whatsoever to the local scene — and be able to galvanize that scene and bring them together under one roof."