LAUNCH: An Interview with Michael Hargis, June 2012 Vhcle Magazine Issue 9, Music, Design, Fashion
Issue 9: LAUNCH: An Interview with Michael Hargis
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V: Tell us a little about what Launch is for those who might be hearing about it for the first time.
M: It's a yearly music/art/design/fashion festival, a platform for artists to express themselves. But I think it's larger than that – it's a rallying point for the city of Sacramento. It's something for the young creative class, or the creative class in general, to rally behind. I remember my friend Ryder tell me several years ago, maybe five or six years ago, about the Tennessee music scene, that there was such a sense of community. At the point he was telling me that, I was thinking of Sacramento and how disjointed we were. I was thinking why can't we have something here that rallies everybody together, and I think that was the first thought process of bringing all my passions together. And now Launch is sort of a rallying point for us to come together to support something that's bigger than ourselves, to build something that's beyond ourselves. The more you do things beyond the norm, the more it gives other people the opportunity to dream.
It's weird when I think about Launch. Like I think about it as so much bigger than it really is. So it's almost odd to talk about it because where I see it, I see it 20 years from now. The fact that we only had 2500 people last year, and I'm kind of talking about it in these amazing terms, but I think it really is. I think something amazing can happen with 20 people, really. It's the thought and vision behind it. I might be off and I know sometimes I drink my own kool-aid, but it really feels like we're starting something special. I've lost a shitload of money. I lose money every year. You never make money. Maybe once you hit critical mass, then you start making real money. It's taken Coachella how long to make any sort of profit? You do it because you believe in something, and sometimes you just want people to understand and when people do get it, it makes it all worthwhile. I've been approached by people at numerous events I've attended who do get it, and they have thanked me for what we're doing.
V: So Launch doesn't exist just for itself but as a bigger picture for the city of Sacramento?
M: At first, I was pumped on my team. But I've realized this is about Sacramento, what we could do for this city. About branding Sacramento. The thing is, we're overshadowed by other cities, and we're amusingly sort of viewed as Stockton's older brother or something like that. It's like we don't have our own identity yet. I think what's challenging for me from a design perspective is, how do we create an identity for this city because, really, we do have a pool of creatives – we have designers and architects – but we're never really viewed as a design-centric city.
So, I don't know... it's just growing up in Texas and seeing with what happened with Austin and SXSW and how this sleepy little college town became known as the music capital of the world. I've just been asking myself over this last year: why not Sacramento? We're basically similar in size. We almost have the same topography. It's a college town. Why can't we do something like that? I think that's really been the push for me this year. First off, dream big. Don't limit yourself. I've been kind of joking around and saying the definition of mediocrity is biting off what you can chew. And every year we keep biting off more than we can chew. Why not dream big? Why are we playing to the demographic or playing to what we think is this dumbed-down society? Why aren't we doing something relevant in Sacramento that would be super exciting and relevant to New York? And I think that's what we've embraced this year is doing that.
Our goal, I think is: this year; Sacramento. Next year; it's Northern California. The year after that; all of West Coast. And then; national. That's what we're shooting for. And maybe it's not just a week, maybe it turns into a multiple of weeks. Again looking at SXSW's platform, we wanted to create something that... have you seen that Sigur Rós video, Glósóli, where the kids go and gather all the other kids, and they run and jump off the mountain and they start to fly? I watched that video again last night. It kind of reminds me of Launch. What we want Launch to be is a platform for, if you have a creative expression, here's a platform for you to express yourself, whether it's architecture, design, art, music, and let's all kind of jump off this thing together. So, I don't like to micromanage a lot of it. I mean I want the aesthetic to be right, of course.
V: There's always the good and the fun, but there's always the challenges, too. What are some of the challenges you've faced with Launch?
M: As is the case in any group effort, some have been too selfish with wanting to showcase their own brand. Their brand has superseded the thought of the event and it's become selfish and myopic. But genuineness always prevails. People's true colors eventually show up. Sooner or later people's true nature reveals itself and weed themselves out.  
V: How many people are you anticipating this year?
M: Anticipation or want? It's hard to know because we're making such a huge leap with the caliber of talent, with the marketing strategy and all those things. My gut feeling – 5000. But if we continue to push, maybe we can hit the 7500 to 8000 mark.
V: Would you like to mention the names of those who are helping make Launch happen?
M: Clay Nutting, Ian Ingalls, Lisa Kennedy, Jason Silva, Matthew Lechowick, ground(ctrl), Jen Wade, Sandra Yan, Chris Lange, Kelly McAllister, Angela McDonald, Brady Tuazon, and Jason Jong.
V: Any last words?
M: It's kind of cheesy, but dream beyond the impossible. There's no way in any stretch of the imagination that we should pull off what we're doing. We have no money. I haven't had a consistent income in a year. There's no way other than dream and passion that's fueling me. Somehow along the way we've raised $80,000 this year. We still have more to raise. If you always set your mark low for what you could achieve, that's what you're going to do. You have to stretch yourself. You have to believe beyond what's possible.
For more information and the latest updates  visit Launch's
website at:
They're ditching their usual one evening's festivities to expand this year's event to include eight events over six days in various venues throughout midtown and downtown. This will occur on July 23-28. If you live in town and are involved in the design or arts community, it's highly likely you've attended at least one or more years of this well-cultivated event. Or at least heard much buzz.
Michael Hargis is founder and curator of Launch, and was one of the key individuals during the developmental stages for Vhcle. While prepping for this year's event, he is also laboring to open his new restuarant business, LowBrau, which he describes as “a fun, festive spin in the traditional German Biergarten. We will have gourmet sausages, craft beers and one of the coolest bar programs in the state. We will be a design-centric business embracing the communal aspects of a beer hall but adding our own quirky touches, like rustic materials laid out in a modern context. The concept is lowbrow, but our execution is highbrow”.
Those who know Michael will all agree he has a sharp knack for bringing all the right people together to accomplish all that he dreams. And dreaming is definitely embedded into his personality. He's a visionary, and it's almost impossible to spend a day with him without feeling inspired to some degree (even for a stubborn realist like me). It's important that I add he's not a dreamer with his head continually in the clouds, but also has both feet grounded in reality. He won't hesitate to tell you when he thinks something is bullshit, or won't work. We met Michael at a park on a surprising non-body-melting day, then proceeded to walk around midtown, where he showed us the location for LowBrau, and spoke to us about this year's expansion and how this might affect Sacramento, a city he's lived in for many years and loves.
Vhcle: So, you and your team have gone all out and expanded this year's event to six days?
Michael: Yes, nine events over six days. This really gave us a way to showcase the different areas of design. It was cool having everything under one roof in one night, but I think breaking it into a week really gives us a chance to pay homage to the different respective design principles. I'll do a quick walk-through:
Monday is our kick-off party at Hot Italian. We're doing a pop-up shop for the week and potentially a month afterwards. Micah from Model Citizens NYC will be bringing her designers in and we'll be pairing them with sort of our dream team designers, which will consist of blankblank and Matthew Lechowick – those guys with that collective. Model Citizens NYC is an industrial independent design collective that shows at the Chelsea Museum every year, and they've expanded more into a city-wide event this year. This will be a private invite for the first night. I mean, it'll be open to the public during the week, but we're going to want it to be more like friends and family and buyers the first night. It's just going be a smaller and more intimate event, with cocktails and things like that.
Tuesday, we're working with Bows and Arrows and we're doing a film-centric event, a film night. We're working with three filmmakers that Capital Indie Collective is curating. They're going to do 30-minute short films, and then we have local musicians that are going to create the score. So, we'll have a silent film with the musicians creating the score. It's at another intimate venue.
Wednesday, we're working with MARRS Building, so we're blocking off 20th Street from J to K, and we're having different architect firms create architectural installations out of recycled cardboard. We're also doing Exquisite Corps' album release party that day. We'll have a craft beer garden, which hopefully by that time we'll be able to brand it as our LowBrau beer garden. Later on that night, King Tuff will be in town, and so we're hosting a show at Harlow's and he'll be playing there. He's kind of like this psychedelic rock guy. He had a really good write-up on Pitchfork recently.
Thursday – that's our Cut & Paste show, the live digital art battle. We're still trying to figure out what this will look like, because we can either get submissions and have people compete against each other, or we can bring in some heavy hitter designers and have them compete against each other. I think we're leaning more towards bringing in the heavy hitters. It's more just display, like live art in action, not like, “hey, eff you, we're gonna kick your ass”. It's friendly competition. It's more just bringing exposure to the digital art community. A band oOoOO from San Francisco, which is like dark indie pop, will play that night. And then we're having Dusty Brown do an all-star set – a power set with Little Foxes, Young Aundee and all of them together.
Friday will be our Project Runway fashion show that will include a designer from Alexander McQueen, a runway show featuring Michael Costello, and an amazing designer, Furne One.
Saturday is the big music festival at Cesar Chavez Park, that will go from 11am to 11pm. We have a building we're going to use that's not attached to the park. We're going to have a remote retail location that will be kind of a destination with all the clothing and art. And we're going to have a remote bar, and all the DJs in that. And the park will be retailers and cool food and badass music.
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An Interview with michael hargis
LAUNCH IS the annual music, art, design, fashion and architecture festival that takes place every summer in Sacramento, California.