Internal Affairs took a field trip to Chicago and has some advice
By Zoe Cordes Selbin, 12:15PM, Fri. Aug. 10, 2012
Well, I’ve finally returned and recovered from Lollapalooza. I had a great time working in Artist Relations, but it also made me realize how much bands still have to learn about playing festivals. So in my final installment of writing about Lollapalooza, I wanted to give a few tips to musicians and aspiring industry workers about playing festivals.
First off, it is a process. Festivals take a lot more work than just playing a regular gig, because you’re not coming to an established venue that deals with bands every night. There’s a lot more riding on a festival than a one-night show. That’s why advancing is even more important than normal. You need to have information about your crew and guest lists and stage setup in as soon as possible. You know those deadlines they sent you? Those are real. I ran into a couple issues with bands who hadn’t advanced properly; we’re just not as able to accommodate extra wristbands if you don’t tell us until day of show.
Once you’ve advanced everything, it’s really helpful to give festivals a heads up on arrival time. This is simple if you’re coming in via festival transport, but if you’re driving in your own van or bus, it’s great to let the fest know when you’ll be rolling in so they can plan things such as catering, soundchecks, and credentialing. Even with smaller bands, call and let the festival know when you’re about half an hour away, so they can make sure they have people to help you load in or crossload (the process of loading in when vans/trailers are unable to park directly behind the stage).
Once you’re at the festival, please load in immediately, and let your stage manager know that you’re there. We will all relax a little more knowing that you’re on site. Once you’ve checked in and fulfilled any sound obligations, investigate the catering situation and try to remember the times. I know all the times and days blur together, but catering doesn’t stay open for specific people, and it really sucks to miss meal times if you didn’t find out exactly when they’re serving. If you do have special culinary needs that you didn’t advance – well first off, shame on you lazy vegans – you need to go to catering now to talk to them about what you can eat.
A lot of major festivals have signings or band appearances with sponsors. It’s awesome to sign up for these in theory, but you need to make sure that you know exactly when, where, and how you’re going to these. Are they off-site or onsite? Do you need transportation or can you walk? Festivals like Lollapalooza are so big that we often need to provide artist transportation within the festival via golf cart. Walking from one end of the festival to the other can take a good half hour if you go around the backstage perimeter.
The most important thing is to communicate with your stage manager, be on time, and try not to ask for things that you didn’t advance. Remember that all the people working on the festival are probably underslept, and that we all just built out a giant event on a piece of grass. Everyone has a lot of bands to deal with all at once, so be patient when things get mixed up. But for every festival mistake, there are hundreds of adoring fans waiting to sing along, and backstage bars waiting to be wrecked, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself too.
This concludes my Lollapalooza pieces for now, but I’m sure I’ll be checking back in occasionally with more festival production insights.