For more than two decades, Matador Records has been a premier independent label, issuing landmark albums by everyone from Cat Power to Pavement to Sonic Youth. This October, Matador turns legal — and the folks at the label are throwing an epic 21st birthday bash featuring performances from their most well-known bands, including Guided By Voices (featuring the classic mid-'90s lineup), Sonic Youth, Belle and Sebastian, Pavement, the New Pornographers and more. Sources also reveal to Rolling Stone that Liz Phair, who released her classic LP Exile In Guyville on the label in 1993, is slated to be added to the bill. Tickets for the October 1st-3rd weekend shows will also be reasonably priced — around $200 for three days of music — and the label is keeping ticket counts small (around 2,000) to ensure an intimate vibe similar to festivals like All Tomorrow's Parties.
The label had originally planned to host the bash in its hometown of New York, but Matador founder and co-president Chris Lombardi says the label has "always had a familiar vibe, we've always been close to our artists" and that throwing such an "inclusive" party in New York wasn't possible. As for the reasoning for going to Vegas, he says, "With the label, we've always had our tongue planted firmly in cheek. The culture clash is going to be unbelievable. [Belle and Sebastian's] Stuart Murdoch sitting poolside? White pasty kids in thongs? That's going to make it all that much more weird and funny."
Most surprisingly, Matador has managed to include bands like Spoon and Superchunk, whose most recent albums have been released through competing indie label Merge. But Lombardi says they were eager to jump aboard: "They were the first ones to agree." As for the coup of getting Guided By Voices' lineup back together, Lombardi adds, "We reached out to them and encouraged a Matador-era reunion but they sort of came to that conclusion themselves."
With the rise of pirated music and the recent economic recession, indie labels have been especially hard hit. Matador, however, was able to strike deals with many of the bands to make the party financially feasible. "If we were paying the bands their normal fees, we couldn't have done this," he says. "We're doing it so we don't lose money but the bands get paid. They're doing a 'bro' rate."
For fans, Lombardi promises plenty of extracurricular activities to give them more bang for the buck. "There will definitely be late-night parties but we're still figuring them out," he says. "There very well could be impromptu stuff that happens, too. I hope we'll have betting on horses with [Pavement's] Bob Nastanovich."