It's just under two weeks until Harvest of Hope kicks off in St. Augustine Florida. While we have been (and will continue to) feature interviews with a number of the bands playing the festival, we thought it would be nice to chat with organizers Ryan Murphy and Tony Weinbender. This interview comes courtesy of Michael Dauphin.
How and when did the initial idea come up to put together this festival?
Ryan Murphy: Well, Iâve been working with the Harvest of Hope foundation for a few years and really respect all the amazing work that Phil Kellerman does with his foundation. I have been getting my Masters in Bilingual Education and work with Migrant families in the surrounding areas, so I began to become familiar with the work the foundation does for these families and decided the best thing I could do to help raise awareness and funds is through having benefit showsâ¦because of also working at No Idea, this seemed like an easy way to put these two worlds together. I put together a string of benefit shows with awesome local Gainesville bands like Young Livers, Holopaw, Against Me! and others.
Against Me! really liked the foundation and decided to do a few more benefit shows for HOH and raised over $18,000. During this time I got in touch with a friend named Ryan Dettra who was booking shows in St. Augustine. He had become general manager of the fairgrounds and amphitheater there and instantly tried to convince me to do a 3-day music festival. The more Tony and I talked about it, the more we got excited about the idea. We even found out that we were eligible for grant money from the countyâ¦and that really got things rollingâ¦next thing we know, here we are.
Explain the mission behind Harvest of Hope.
RM: Harvest of Hope is a non-profit organization that provides financial, educational, and service oriented aid to migrant farm workers all over the country. What is really impressive about the foundation is that is gives .80 of every dollar donated directly to those in need.
Do you guys have a specific goal in terms of how much you hope to raise for migrant farm workers?
RM: We really would love to raise as much as possibleâ¦no concrete goal. But this is something that will grow and the more that people hear about it, the more they hear about the foundation and are able to give support. Iâm really, really blown away by all the people that have come out to support this in every, and any, way they can.
While there are more punk bands than not, the lineup for this festival is pretty diverse (i.e. Kool Keith, Girl Talk, Devotchka, Broken Social Scene, GZA, The National, etc.). What was it like trying to rope in these acts as opposed to most of the punk bands you have dealt with in the past? [Ed. Due to the cancellation of the Langerado Festival, a few bands had to bail on Harvest of Hope.]
RM: Well Devotchka and BSS arenât playing any more, but we did get the Mountain Goats, Tilly and the Wall, and some others that appeal to more than just the punk audience. Most of this has been possible with the help of Ryan Dettra who is helping book and organize this fest. He has a lot of experience dealing with a wide spectrum of bands and was able to reach out to places that we wouldnât quite be able to.
While you have booked many high-profile acts, it looks like you were able to invite many up-and-coming artists that probably havenât been exposed to an event like this. Was this intentional, or was it a matter of finding an excuse to get your friends to come to Florida to see you guys?
RM: I just think we are lucky enough to be friends with people who are really talented musiciansâ¦and itâs always a great excuse to get all these people together for a great cause and a great party.
What have you learned in planning this event that youâve never approached in dealing with THE FEST?
Tony Weinbender: Organizing THE FEST is a totally different beast. I might have more bands, hotels, and clubs to deal with but it seems like less to organize because with Harvest of Hope while everything is more contained and one solid machine, it is a machine that we are responsible for maintaining. You have more things that you have to figure out like sound, stage, lights, security, fencing, cops, EMTs, camping. I personally was involved in the beginning stages more and kinda got overwhelmed. Luckily there is a team of fine people who run the fairgrounds that have taken the job of tackling those daunting tasks. I will be more involved with the weekend of and making sure the stages are running smooth, and there to help Ryan keep his cool with fine whiskey and pats on the back.
One of the unique aspects of Harvest of Hope is that guests are basically encouraged to set up shop and camp out on the concert grounds. Do you guys plan on pitching tents and camping out that weekend?
TW: I think that is one of the coolest new aspects for many of us that have attended THE FEST but not so much the other festivals that have camping. I totally plan on camping for about five days because we have to be there pre/post the festival. Iâm getting most of my crew to camp together so I know where they are in the mornings when I have to wake their hung over asses up! I am sure the camping will be a life of itâs own and lots of interesting and memorable things will happen in that world.
RM: Yeah, Iâm excited about thatâ¦I mean, I pretty much have to be on the grounds 24/7 for about 5 days straight, so it works out great to camp! Actually I will be renting an RV I think, so my wife and I actually can get away from the madness, at least for a couple hours. Weâll see if that actually happens.
Were there any artists that totally surprised you by committing to take part in this event?
TW: I was shocked at over half the bands playing. It is amazing to see that so many different bands are joining together to play this! It is such a wonderful cause and I think it took hold of many of the bands. It is the first time something of this scale has been done to raise awareness for the plight of migrant farm families and I am really in awe of the caliber of bands that are playing.
RM: Iâm really blown away too by a lot of the bands we actually got. So many awesome bands really got on board to support this. I personally thought it would be a long shot to have Propagandhi play, but I threw it out there anywaysâ¦explained what the foundation and the festival was all about. Sure enough they were in. Iâm so stoked to see so many of the bands playing and it makes me really happy.
In general, how receptive have the artists been to the mission behind the event?
RM: Everyone has been awesome about it and really done their best to check out what the foundation is all about and all the work it does. Because of that too, we have a lot of bands doing press about the foundation, which is amazing.
The Langerado Festival has been a popular event over the past few years and they just canceled the event due to poor ticket sales. Do you anticipate Harvest of Hope being effected one way or the other due to the cancellation?
TW: I expect more folks to come and enjoy what we are doing for sure. It sucks that they pulled the plug and I hope what we are trying to do did not hurt them in any way.
Is there a chance you guys will pick up some of those artists from Langerado (ahem, The Pogues)?
RM: Well, we got Gaslight Anthem which is awesomeâ¦and we ended up not losing many who were playing both, so that makes me happy. I would have loved to have the Pogues, but it just didnât work out.
Are there plans to make this an annual event or are you just taking things one step at a time for now?
TW: As long as this goes well I canât see why we would not want to keep this going and also maybe try to plan more benefits in other cities to raise awareness about Harvest of Hope.
RM: Right now that question seems too much to think about, but yeahâ¦I imagine we will. This has been an amazing opportunity to raise awareness for the foundation and if I can continue to make that grow I definitely will.
Can you share any outlandish rider requests?
RM: I wish I could say there was some, but there wasnât. I think everyone knows the score when they are coming to play a benefit eventâ¦but I imagine when Tony finally turns his in, there will be some crazy shi