Matt Wilson doesn't fancy himself a music promoter, exactly — but in the course of working at the family business, beer distributor Wilson-McGinley, he ended up starting a summer-long singer-songwriter competition that wraps up this week at the Lawrenceville Moose.
"Our Heineken rep was in, and showed me a brewery in Holland where they had a big music competition," he recalls. "They just mentioned it in passing. But I kept thinking about it, and I started to think this would really work here."
"Here" is Lawrenceville, specifically: The distributor is on the border of Lawrenceville and the Strip, and Wilson chose nearby bars that already present live music to host the series. Preliminary contests were held at Hambone's, Thunderbird Café, New Amsterdam and Belvedere's.
Each competition drew 15 to 17 performers; from each round, two competitors won via judges' choice — judges included personalities from WYEP — while a third was a people's-choice winner. The musicians each took one original song that they wrote or co-wrote and performed it, either solo or with minimal accompaniment.
A total of 12 performers moved on to the final round, including Butler County chamber-pop songwriter Karter Schachner (a.k.a. Sol Persona) and Cranberry-based acoustic songwriter Ronnie Gunn. The finals take place Mon., Aug. 26, at the Lawrenceville Moose. Winners receive cash prizes, gift cards for Lawrenceville-based outfitter Backstage Guitars and studio time at local Parker Street Studio.
So far, the whole thing has met with success; Wilson says he's hoping to make it an annual event, even though it's his first time promoting music events. "It's been a great learning experience," he notes.
"The whole idea is promoting local business and local art," Wilson adds, "and showing how they can really benefit each other when we all work together."