Kennedy in Conversation with Beth Danziger of Groove Labs
Events are ephemeral things — here today, gone tomorrow — and the success or failure of any get-together is largely dependent upon what people remember about it. “What an amazing time that was,” guests might reminisce weeks, months, or years after the fact. “Remember that band? They were so good. We went home and downloaded all their songs.” That’s success. “What was that thing we went to that time with the weird punch? I think it was a holiday party?” That’s… not success. For an event to fire on all cylinders, it has to engage all the senses, enveloping every attendee in a virtual blanket of relaxation, fun, and even awe. To pull all the elements together, full-service event planners in Austin like Kennedy Creative Events and Kennedy DMC often call on trusted partners to bring their A-game, from esteemed caterers and luxe event rental brands to Austin-based musicians, performance artists and more.
One such event planning ally in the Austin market is Groove Labs, a creative company that delivers team building programs, entertainment attractions and production services for an array of events. So, for this month’s Q&A series, we sat down with its business development director to talk about trends, tunes and top-notch event ideas. Read on to eavesdrop on Kennedy in conversation with Beth Danziger, a former television news reporter turned event entertainment sales maven.
Rock star for a day
“Groove Labs was created almost 16 years ago with a musical team-building program, Corporate Rock Stars, which takes people through writing lyrics to a popular rock song and they perform it onstage with a live band,” Danziger says. “There’s this whole fusion between the groups, and they don’t just perform onstage — they can rock out with an instrument too, if they know the chords — our band teaches them.” Breaking the mold of traditional team-building activities (think trust falls, rope courses and icebreaker games reminiscent of summer camp and freshman orientation), founder Craig Nadel took an edgier approach in the early aughts, giving clients a break from the day-to-day expectations of office life and offering them a chance to find their inner Bono, at least for a day.
That certain something
Offbeat team-building consultations are just the tip of the iceberg for GrooveLabs. With a roster of professional DJs and a laundry list of local musicians, dancers and performance artists, the company dreams up inventive entertainment solutions to fit any client’s needs. That’s why Fortune 500 companies look to them to take their events to the next level, whether by choreographing a dance troupe to take over the treadmills, OKGo-style, in a hotel gym during its grand opening or offering up a DIY DJ booth to the masses to try out at a corporate party.
“That was so awesome,” Danziger says of the treadmill routine. “My dance teams are amazing. It’s fun, and I get to do something different every day.”
Giving guests an opportunity to try something new in a festive setting is a surefire way to get them to let their hair down. Fun creates memories, and memories are what every good event planner strives for.
Ones to watch
Danziger has a trio of recommendations for anyone curious about the kinds of Austin-based musicians who can be hired for a big event. Furthermore, she says, they’re more than worthy of a few spins on the record player, streams through a music service, or digital downloads for keeps:
From Rainey Street residencies to onstage jam sessions with Gary Clark Jr., these local teens about town have been making a name for themselves since middle school. Technically, though, they’re not both teens anymore: The Peterson Brothers, also known as Alex and Glenn Jr., are now 18 and 20, respectively, and their music is maturing right along with them. It’s never needed much guidance, though. The blues duo, who name-check funk legend Bootsy Collins as a mentor — have been a staple at iconic local live music venues like The Continental Club for years. “They’re really taking off,” Danziger says, evidenced by the fact that they’ve opened for BB King, Buddy Guy and Willie Nelson, and are spending August 2017 on a nationwide tour.
Austin-based rocker Emily Wolfe packs a punch with intense guitar licks and dulcet vocals, drawing together shades of Led Zeppelin, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Daughter all at once. Unleashing blues-tinged rock ‘n’ roll music that rumbles like a thunderstorm, the singer’s been called a “sparkling rocker with a propulsive groove and atmospheric guitars” by the Wall Street Journal and a “top 5 artist to watch” by NPR. From heartfelt acoustic singer-songwriter vibes to full-on electric jams, Danziger says Wolfe’s rock show is a must-see, and the music reviewers at Citygram Austin have been in agreement for years.
Dazzling Austinites with her preternatural skill since childhood, fiddle-playing prodigy Ruby Jane has long been a local favorite for many music lovers in the Lone Star State. Recently, Danziger says, “I needed a duo (for an event), and (local musician) Ben Cina showed up with her as his duo partner, and I was like, ‘That’s Ruby Jane!‘ Thanks to Cina’s recommendation, the young phenom and her band soon linked arms with Groove Labs, and now Ruby Jane and the Reckless are available for hire at corporate and social events around town. That’s kind of a big deal: she’s the youngest musician ever to take the stage at The Grand Ole Opry, and she’s toured with everyone from Sheryl Crow to Lady Gaga.
A few tidbits from Groove Labs’ business wrangler on how to have fun, what’s hot in the industry and where she’s headed next:
…on what’s up Beth’s sleeve:
“I feel like tattoos are really big in Austin, and often on people’s bucket lists — like, to get a tattoo in Austin, Texas. So, my airbrush tattoo artists have started doing sleeves at events, which is pretty cool. I came up with the idea of having a local tattoo artist come and talk to a group for 20-30 minutes, and then you could have Michelle, my airbrush tattoo artist, talk about… how you do art around the human body, and then having models there and people broken up into teams, and then they create art (via) an airbrushed tattoo, and then present it — why they did it, what stencils they used, and what they’re trying to convey with the piece of art.”
…on advice for local musicians wanting to break into Austin’s events scene:
“Know a lot of covers. Get a good promo video. When you’re making a promotional video, make it upbeat…. Don’t drink at events. Be professional. Be on time for load-in. It’s all about making life easier for the person who’s hiring you. ”
…on keeping it real, day to day:
“Every once in a while, (Groove Labs founder) Craig and I still look at each other and say, ‘Still having fun?’ I think the moment you stop having fun, it’s time to find something else to do. There’s nothing worse than being miserable.”
…on her favorite place to hear local music played live:
“The Continental Club Gallery. That’s one place, before I was married with a child, I would try to go every Sunday night and see John D. Graham and Friends. A lot of times, my friend Bonnie Whitmore would play there…. it’s a great singer-songwriter (thing), they go back and forth and it’s just this cool vibe, really what I think Austin is (all about).”
Ready to make your next event as amazing as possible? Link arms with Kennedy — and Groove Labs too — and we’ll give you access to everything you’ve ever dreamed of.