Houston Music

UPDATED: Founders Hope New 1836 Fest Is a Texas-Size Hit

UPDATE UPDATE (Friday, 3 p.m.): Although dogs are normally allowed at the Cottonwood, 1836 is a no-dog festival.

This sounds like a joke, but we'll find out soon enough whether it is or not. Did you hear the one about the three lawyers who started a music festival?

Well, they did, and this Saturday Mikey Bernick, James Brown and Bryce Duke will find out just how smooth or bumpy the transition from music fan to promoter can be. According to Bernick, none of the three has any kind of experience producing live-music events.

"None," he laughs. "We just went and did it."

But the three law-school buddies were looking for something they could channel their energies into outside of litigation, and Bernick says that, since they'd always enjoyed going to concerts together, music was the first thing that came to mind.

"We wanted a creative outlet outside of work -- we're always looking for that," he says. "James called us up on night and said, 'Hey, what do you guys think about putting a music festival together in Houston?'"

That was last May or June, Bernick recalls, and the time from then to Saturday's 1836 Festival at Rice Military restaurant/bar Cottonwood has been filled with details. Lots of them, even for guys who sift through details for a living.

"Getting all the legal aspects was challenging, as far as all the permitting and insurance; navigating those areas was difficult," admits Bernick. "Thankfully the TABC was very helpful to us, and we found some great people to help us out with the insurance and stuff, but even as practicing attorneys it was very difficult for us to figure out what was going on sometimes, there are so many regulations and everything."

Luckily, after going to the Cottonwood several times, they started discussing their ideas with manager Charles Bishop, who told them he had already been thinking about doing such an event at his place, which opened in October 2012. Bernick describes Bishop as a live-music fan -- "one of those Widespread Panic guys" -- whose 25 years of hospitality experience has been invaluable in helping the partners negotiate the logistics of the festival.

"He's just a wealth of knowledge," Bernick says. "I'll come to a meeting sometimes and say, 'We should do it this way' and everybody else will say, 'We should do it this way' and Charles will say, 'You guys are way off.'"

Story continues on the next page.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray