Interview: Rynne Stump (Stumpfest)
As we’ve covered before on this site: there is a surplus of small weekender extreme music festivals in the Pacific Northwest and particularly in Portland, such as Hoverfest and Famine Fest, which we have covered.
Stumpfest is a little different. With no allegiance to sound or genre, Stumpfest is more about an atmosphere of familiarity. Think of it more as a family barbecue, just with fewer short ribs and more ear-fucking distortion.
Festival founder and namesake Rynne Stump emailed with us about her history as a fest organizer, the value of annual headlining act Yob, and the importance of good vintage porn.
So, a good place to start would probably be the origin of Stumpfest. How did you get the idea of starting the event?
Yob was touring with Tool the first time in 2011 and it came to me while I was watching one of their sets.
I used to book and work production at the old Berbati’s Pan venue with my dear friend Chantelle Hylton early 2000s. So I reached out to her to see if I could get a night somewhere in town and have Stumpfest. If all went well & we were well received I would continue… now we are on our 5th year.
I used to book my birthday parties too & Yob played my 23rd birthday with their “new” drummer [at the time] Travis Foster.
And how did you get into heavy music?
My father was a musician so I grew up with just about everything in arm's reach. mainly outlaw country stuff, bluegrass, which I started performing at around 3 years old singing with my sister Sara who helps me run Stumpfest, and my father playing guitar). Zeppelin was introduced to us at a young age. “No Quarter” was the tune that hooked me deep, far beyond anything I’d ever heard in my entire life. That song seemed to expand the cosmos of my mind with every listen and I rewound that sucker 1 million times. Queen too & Steve Miller Band. I would listen to News of the World over and over and over.
At around 11 years old it was Motley Crue, Steve Vai , Alice Cooper and Guns and Roses that hooked me and ruled my bedroom walls. Headbanger’s fucking Ball, dude. For one, I was a giant Mick Mars fan. His Kramer guitar solos with the voice box had me obsessed, in fact I vowed to my mother I would marry him and get a Motley Crue tattoo at the fairgrounds. Neither happened thankfully. Although I will hug him tight & tell him how much I love him if I ever meet him one day.
Then by 7th grade,1990 the crossover started. Use Your Illusion I was closely followed by Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana's Bleach. luckily my older sister Sara, who runs Stumpfest with me, would play White Zombie, Sonic Youth and Zeppelin. I would go up to her room and we would make bead necklaces. She was always cool sharing her music with me but not her clothes.
I could go on forever about this subject but I think you get the gist. The evolution was there early on and I continued on my merry way skipping school, smoking doobies and listening to Tool, Deicide, Slayer, Pantera…
What's the hardest thing about putting Stumpfest together?
The toughest part is organizing and booking the shows. This is also the most exciting part. I like to get a good dreamy list together to get a framework built then start reaching out and see who can actually do it. Our budget is tight because we elect to have the intimate environment and reasonable ticket prices. The primary challenges are the parameters that keep us within certain boundaries. Of course the inevitable scheduling issues and an occasional canceling of bands can interrupt the flow but we’ve been so lucky each year with minimal issues. It's like landing a giant bass when you get your nights lined up.
When you're booking a fest, how do you balance looking for bands you want to hear vs. what you think an audience will like?
I book bands I really want to hear. Usually bands that I love, with humans I love in them, bands I don’t get to see very often or bands that I am curious to hear and I go from there. I’ve found our festival has had good diversity with great continuity. we all know a good show is one where everyone is vibing on badass energy and I think we do that consistently by providing loving supportive awesome terrain for that to be cultivated.
Is there any kind of sound that you think unites Stumpfest?
Definitely heavy, unique and estranged from the mainstream. Children of a different path, connected by a universal vision.
To you, what are the factors that make a great live
it is so difficult to pinpoint. There is no formula because the vibe has to be right. The gods have to be smiling on everyone, everyone has to be open to create the space to leave their bodies and fill their spirits with the magic of the moment, something new. Vulnerability must prevail on both sides, raw energy and bands giving their all.
Are there any performances from past Stumpfests that stand out to you?
Yob. every time. The world stops turning when they play and for those moments we all rock together in unison like babies. I’ve never felt anything so hypnotizing, so seductive and enlightening in the collective conscience experience than seeing them live. They are my absolute favorites. They make me levitate.
There's a surplus of great mini festivals in the upper west coast of the US: Black Twilight Circle, now Migration Fest as well, and Stumpfest being among them. Why do you think fests like these are held here?
I’m no festival guru, in fact I think Stumpfest may be the only festival I go to unless my man is playing one and we’re on tour. I would imagine though the concentrated talent in the pacific northwest would be reason they are so prevalent.
What do you think makes Stumpfest unique among all those fests?
I know my fest is unique in spirit. Stumpfest isn’t about branding or money. It's the antithesis of those things. Stumpfest is friends coming together to connect on the same plane, to share, to laugh and hug. Mainly it's a lovefest.
Can you tell me about the custom lanyards that you make for Stumpfest?
This was all my sister Sara’s idea.
Sara started contributing her talents to Stumpfest the second year, helping out where I needed her to. The festival evolved with the addition of multiple nights and lots of bands. We had upwards of 50 band members to keep track of. So, she thought it would be great to give them personalized lammies, maybe collage a bit of porn on the backside and then it just got crazy out of control from there. It helps of course that we have a solid crafting background. We make about 75 + hand collaged laminates a year.
I know you use a lot of vintage porn to make the lanyards. There's no more nude Playboy centerfolds. How has that affected your ability to make lanyards this year?
Well i’m a sensitive new mom right? And the playboys are a perfect balance of classy cute gals with great lighting, great asses and awesome photography. I just can’t stomach the Hustler/Penthouse vibe. It’s like looking at road kill raw hamburger. who wants to eat that?
Stumpfest starts today, April 21, and runs through Saturday, April 23 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, OR. Tickets are $20/day or $45 for the whole weekend.