Bachelor Party: With Doomin’ Sun Fest, Jay Som and Palehound’s New Superduo Convenes Indie-Rock Royalty For Benefit Telethon

Courtesy Doomin’ Sun Fest
– All Right Now
Bachelor, comprised of Palehound’s Ellen Kempner (left) and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte (right), records its Doomin’ Sun Fest set at Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right.

Physical festivals may be returning, but virtual concert events continue to evolve – and Doomin’ Sun Fest, the June 10 event orchestrated by Bachelor, the new superduo comprised of Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner, is among the most high-concept yet.

The streaming bonanza will unite a cast of more than 50 indie-rock all-stars, including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Courtney Barnett and Soccer Mommy, for several hours of programming adhering to Doomin’ Sun’s core tenets – climate, community, compassion and celebration – and in service of Seeding Sovereignty, an indigenous-led collective that works to disrupt colonized spaces and is keenly attuned to the climate crisis.

Duterte and Kempner, who through their respective projects have garnered extensive praise in recent years, began their journey together in October 2017. Jay Som, a Bay Area native, had requested Palehound open her show at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, and the two immediately bonded.

“From the moment they met, they were laughing and giggling and were really just in awe of each other,” says Salty Artist Management’s Chad Heimann, who represents Jay Som and has worked as a talent buyer for Noise Pop and Live Nation.

The pair kept in touch, finding “a sisterhood in indie-rock, being these two women doing indie-rock in a world that kind of feels like a boys’ club sometimes,” Heimann says. They soon elevated their kinship to a creative partnership, embarking on a writing retreat and subsequently recording several songs that became Doomin’ Sun, the album Bachelor completed in early 2020 and released late last month.

Courtesy Doomin’ Sun Fest
– (Not) Doomin’ Gloom
Doomin’ Sun Fest will feature more than 50 musicians coming together for a telethon in benefit of Seeding Sovereignty.

As Bachelor’s team, which consists of Jay Som’s camp (Heimann and TBA Agency’s Marshall Betts) and Palehound’s (Girlie Action Management owner Vickie Starr and Arrival Artists’ Ethan Berlin), planned Doomin’ Sun‘s promotional strategy in fall 2020, it ran into the pandemic-era quandary of how to support a new release with physical touring off the table.

Katie Nowak and Samantha Tacón, who serve as head of marketing and head of artist development, respectively, at TBA, which represents Bachelor, had an idea.

“Not only were [Duterte and Kempner] coming together to create a new band, but they created an incredible piece of art that is a reflection on climate change,” Tacón says. “Especially in this time when there’s riots in the streets, it’s really important to rally behind voices who are using their platform for a greater good.”

“Both of us were like, ‘What if we did a telethon?’,” Nowak says. “Whenever there’s a tragedy, PBS always comes through with a telethon, where there’s all these amazing musical artists and people speaking and talking about what’s going on and trying to raise awareness. That format hasn’t really been done in this virtual space yet. So, why don’t we try to do it?”

Like any out-of-the-box idea, the concept took some convincing, but Bachelor and their management were soon on board.

“TBA really championed that idea for us,” Heimann says. “They were like, ‘In a world where anyone can go onto their iPhone and do a video stream, you have to do something impactful.’ They really encouraged us to go big – and that’s what we did.”

The parties involved quickly set to work. To help shape the telethon’s aesthetic and format, the Bachelor camp brought in Haoyan of America and Richie Brown as co-creative directors, who conceptualized aspects from set design to the event’s interactive dimension. The team enlisted HIFI Labs as back-end partner – the free event will stream via the company’s Twitch page – and Nowak and Tacón secured underwriting support from Levi’s and Azerion, the company behind 3D social game Hotel Hideaway, which will host a virtual afterparty.  Bachelor suggested Seeding Sovereignty, already active in the music industry, as the event’s mutual aid partner.

And, crucially, Duterte, Kempner, Heimann and Starr leveraged their rolodexes to recruit leading indie-rock talent. The robust and immediate response from artists was “a testament to the admiration that people have for Palehound and Jay Som,” Starr says.

“Everyone has a connection in some way to the band,” says Heimann, from Barnett, a fellow TBA client whose label Milk! Records released Doomin’ Sun in Australia, to Japanese Breakfast and Gibbard, who have shared bills with Jay Som, to Fime, a smaller band on the bill that’s Duterte’s backing ensemble in Jay Som.

For the stream, Doomin’ Sun Fest encouraged artists to go beyond the straightforward, 10-minute sets that have become standard for similar, multi-artist virtual events.

“The truth of the matter is, this is going to be a four- or five-hour-long program,” Starr says. “That’s a lot to ask someone to sit through, especially when we’ve been living through a year of self-taped home performances, me and my guitar on the couch.”

While many participants submitted conventional performances, others took advantage of the prompt, whether discussing sustainable home gardening (Julien Baker), playing piano while giving tips for water conservation (Thao Nguyen) or taking a nature walk set to ambient beats recorded for the event (Sylvan Esso).

Minutes after Adrianne Lenker’s management responded to Doomin’ Sun Fest’s inquiry passing on the opportunity – the Big Thief member was dealing with flooding at home – it followed up with a video Lenker had just submitted featuring her playing songs in a bathtub.

“These are unreleased songs, I believe,” Heimann says. “Just really special, intimate content.”

Any telethon worth its salt needs good hosts, and Duterte and Kempner will handle that role themselves.

“When we talked to them about how they wanted this telethon to work, they were like, ‘Our favorite thing is literally just sitting on the couch and talking shit and cracking jokes,'” Heimann recalls. “We were like, ‘Then that’s what this telethon should be.'”

“The girls will be live in between with this ‘Beavis and Butt-Head’-style set and cracking jokes,” says Starr, adding that the banter will be “lightly scripted.”

Throughout the event, Duterte and Kempner, broadcasting from L.A., will field calls from advocacy groups raising awareness for various causes. Bachelor, which pre-recorded its Doomin’ Sun Fest set at Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right, will also use the opportunity to continue the push for independent venue relief. Says Heimann: “The girls met in an independent venue, and they came up together playing in indie-rock rooms, so we were really excited NIVA was eager to get involved.”

Courtesy Doomin’ Sun Fest
– Doomin’ Squad
Salty Artist Management’s Chad Heimann, TBA Agency’s Katie Nowak, Girlie Action’s Vickie Starr and TBA Agency’s Samantha Tacón (from left) helped Bachelor’s Duterte and Kempner realize their telethon vision with Doomin’ Sun Fest.

As Doomin’ Sun Fest draws closer, its architects tout it as proof positive of teamwork’s benefits.

“It was a community approach,” Tacón says. “This is a shining example of the need of not working in silos.”

“Having all these incredible artists and friends give their time and energy in partnership with Seeding Sovereignty is a true blessing, and the format will be really unique,” Duterte tells Pollstar via email. “It feels so special to cap off virtual live shows this summer with our stream, since tours are quickly being announced for this year.”

Indeed, while Bachelor wasn’t sure if it’d tour when Doomin’ Sun Fest planning began, the picture has now clarified: The band will support several Lucy Dacus shows in September, when it will also play New York City’s Governors Ball. For the time being, that’ll likely be it for seeing Bachelor live – Duterte and Kempner will both return to their primary projects soon – but Starr teases a potential 2022 tour featuring both Jay Som and Palehound, and Heimann agrees such a trek will “probably happen sooner than later.”

For now, the Bachelor team is just excited for viewers to finally see the content it assembled for Doomin’ Sun Fest.

“I actually am shocked it’s happening the way it is, seems too good to be true,” Kempner tells Pollstar via email. “After a year and a half of no shows, to see the music community come together to support us and Seeding Sovereignty is the ultimate gift.”

“It was a huge team effort of using our resources to make this the coolest thing it could possibly be,” Nowak says. “All we want to do is just make cool shit, and so here we are, making cool shit.”