Can you describe what your duties are with Bled Fest?
For Bled Fest, thereís a pretty dedicated team who shops and buys...we decide like, headliners later down the road, and then you kind of pick bands that you like, that you want to play the festival. And at this point with Bled Fest being 6, 7 years, thereís plenty of agents and bands and friends of ours on tour who have either played it before or heard about it from tour mates or friends. At this point, you get a lot of people who hit you up and are like, ďYo! We know Bled Fest is in late May, and we want to play.Ē With a couple years under our belts, it gets a little easier as far as rounding out the schedule with bands you want to see. Thatís the most important thing for us when booking a festival like this. I want to book bands that I want to see, you know? Otherwise it would just be another day at a show that I wasnít particularly fond of. Thatís the best part about Bled Fest; itís a complete labor of love as far as like-minded bands.
To give you a makeup of the whole fest, itís seven stages. Depending on the years, it has changed, but the cool part about it is itís indoors, and itís in the old high school. We took the cafeteria and [split it] into two stages. We build the two stages; we have full light rigs and everything. Those are our two main stages, thatís where Andrew W.K and Anti-Flag [will be]. And for merchandise, itís pretty cool, itís in the gymnasium, itís kind of like an expo, flea market feel, itís just like this huge...all our merchandise goes there. So itíll be a million tables, all of the vendors and sponsors, and local record labels. This year, our presenting sponsors are Run For Cover Records and Top Shelf. Itís all connected with high school hallways; Iím sure you remember navigating those as a kid, and the sea of people that creates. Thereís the entrance to the area, like the lobby, and we do a stage there thatís got a full set up and everything. And then we have between three and four school room stages. We spend all day, or a good part of our day, picking up school desks and moving them out of a room. [Laughs] We just set up the PA, a house show-sized PA, in the corner of the room, and kids just pack in until you canít fit any more people in a classroom. Then there are kids watching from the hallway. It is really cool, because itís on the floor, you know? And kids go back and forth between all of that.
I would comfortably say that itís probably the closest to Rock and Roll High School, the actual movie, that you can get without having to have Ramonesí acid-washed jeans and throwing fireworks at your teachers. There are no teachers there; weíve taken the school completely over. Itís a pretty rad feel, and of course itís Michigan in late May, so itís usually gorgeous outside and everyoneís just excited that winter is over kind of thing. [Laughs] Itís an official start of summer kind of thing.
Bled Fest is an acronym for Big Loveís Educational Fest after the founder. Is he still involved? Has it always been intentional to have it in a school?
He stepped aside and we kept it going. [In] itís early days, it was a really low-key event. The name is the only vestige of those first two years, or whatever. The high school, the hookup for that is, my boss Nate Dorough, he is well connected with the city of Howell, and that community. Theyíve allowed him to have access to it. Heís been pretty invested as far as local music goes, with the Howell Opera House and other things, so they trust and allow him to do [his] thing for one day and wreak havoc with super loud guitars.
How else does the community of Howell embrace it? Do a lot of locals come to Bled Fest?
Oh yeah. Now that itís grown to include really notable, national bands, and up-and-coming punk, metal, indie bands, we always maintain a plan to keep as many local bands and younger bands involved with Bled Fest. Itís Livingston County, and we want to make sure to have as many slots as we can for bands [in the area] that deserve that shot. Because the festival started for them, and we try to keep [it] going. A good third of the Bled Fest lineup is Michigan bands that kids care about, and bands that deserve that slot, and bands that care about the festival, as well, like return bands.
Itís a high school, itís all ages, itís drug and alcohol free. Itís not like your typical festival, where itís just a big beer drinking festival and stuff.
You mentioned sponsors earlier. Theyíre smaller sponsors as opposed to huge corporations. Is this intentional?
Yeah, itís a chicken and the egg thing. A good example is Capeside Records, who have been [supporting] us forever, and Run for Cover Records, who were also a sponsor last year. Was Bled Fest successful in the beginning because it was embraced by the local community, or is the local community involved because we built a cool festival? You really canít have one without the other. Thereís a place for everybody. Weíve talked to custom guitar makers in Michigan about demos and stuff. This year Iím especially excited about it, just because Run For Cover and Top Shelf are music sponsors. Their business is putting out records, and thatís just like, at the core, the most important part of this, you know? Itís definitely a reason to get excited when anyoneís involved in that that wants to be involved. Iím always flattered when record labels, companies, of any kind, are just like, ďHey, we wanna be involved in what you guys are doing.Ē Weíre still a very small, people-driven company. Our first love is music, especially live music, so when a business of any kind is just like, ďHey! We really want to be involved at some level,Ē whether itís like ďwe want to sponsor the back of these fliersĒ or whatever. We have a Michigan radio [station] sponsor on the back of one of our fliers, so thatís local too.
What are some of the last minute prep jobs for Bled Fest?
At this point, weíre just trying to be as vocal as possible about it. Youíre making sure all the bands know what time theyíre gonna show up. The bands start pretty early, so our day starts at like, 7:00 AM, weíre up at like 5 - 530. The day before is just a very long day of prepping the entire Howell high school. Flyers up for shows, building the stages, making sure all trash cans are where they need to be. [Laughs] Anybody whose first Bled Fest it is, making sure they know, ďThis is where this happens, this is where the bathrooms are.Ē Making sure weíre stocked up and ready, making sure the PAs are ready to go, so when all hell breaks loose the next day, weíre ready to deal with anything, you know? We always tell our interns or whoever, ďItís going to be the hardest, but also the most fun day youíll have all summer. Youíll be so exhausted, but itíll be the most rewarding day youíll have all summer, without a doubt.Ē