Gigs For Good: An interview with Max Blansjaar

After organising his first ever Oxjam gig last year at Tap Social in Oxford, 15 year old Max Blansjaar has gone on to form his own music promotions company, Pink Badger Music, and record a debut EP. He even performed at this year’s Oxjam Festival Manager Conference in Oxford and totally blew us away! We caught up with him to find out more about his experiences with Oxjam, and how with people like Max, music really can make a difference.

How did you first hear about and get involved with Oxjam?

Max: Well, in 2016 I went to the Oxjam festival in Oxford and really enjoyed it – I remember seeing some great bands there that I still try to go and see now. My involvement is probably largely down to a Facebook ad that I saw about six months later, encouraging people to put on Oxjam gigs in their area. I thought, why not me?

What motivated you to first get involved?

The idea of achieving something worthwhile, I think. You’re not just putting on a gig for yourself or for the people who are coming to watch, but for people in areas of poverty around the world – the whole thing has a much greater impact. I was also just starting to write music at the time, and saw a gig like this as a great way to get acquainted with the local music scene.

What are your memories of your first Oxjam gig at Tap Social?

I remember everyone being overwhelmingly supportive! It was quite a busy few months (I mean, it was nothing compared to the challenge of putting on an actual festival, but hey), but it was made so much easier by the fact that everyone I approached was really lovely and really appreciative of what I was trying to organise. The day itself went really smoothly…everyone seemed to really enjoy the gig and the bands and the venue were great.

You’ve since gone on to form your own promotions company and online music mag Pink Badger. Can you tell us a bit about this?

Well, there was something about putting on gigs that I really enjoyed, so I decided to commit to organizing more – hence Pink Badger’s creation. I enjoy writing too, so created a little website for Pink Badger to post reviews on every now and then. Artists put so much work into what they do and deserve good, honest music reviewing.

You’re also an active part of the Oxford music scene as a performer, and will be appearing at this year’s Oxjam Oxford Festival. What’s your musical style and which bands/artists have influenced you the most?

That’s right! I’m really excited for this year’s Oxjam, there’s some awesome bands there and the organisers are really lovely, professional people. Recently I’ve really got into the latest Parquet Courts, Let’s Eat Grandma and Sons Of Kemet albums, I think they’re really inventive and really cool – in terms of actual influences in my music, though, I would say Tune-yards, Courtney Barnett and Franz Ferdinand have all had a pretty big impact. I’ve got an EP coming out on 13th October via a label called Beanie Tapes, so look out for that, haha! (…Sorry about the shameless plug…)

What’s your favourite live music experience?

Ooh, tough one! Pretty much the first gig I ever went to was a Darwin Deez gig in the O2 Academy on Cowley Road a few years back – he completely raised the roof off, it was amazing. Plus I got to take the set-list home. I think that’s still hanging on my wall, actually.

What is your top tip for aspiring Oxjam event organisers?

Do it! Just do it, seriously. If you’re not up to being a festival manager, then just put on a small gig or volunteer to help out – there’s many, many levels of involvement and not all of them require a great deal of stress. Putting on a gig was time-consuming, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly difficult – it’s a hugely rewarding experience, too.

People see the Oxjam poster, or they see it on social media, then they come out and watch the music; the bands are enjoying themselves, the audience are enjoying themselves, and every attendee and every volunteer is, in that moment, having a global impact. Everyone in that venue has a role in helping beat poverty sooner. It’s pretty magical, actually. And it could all happen because of you!

Oxjam is now recruiting event organisers to run Oxjam gigs throughout the winter. Find out more about Gigs For Good below.

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