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Bonnaroo Beat

Published: 2002/04/05
by Dean Budnick

A Conversation with Superfly Productions’ Rick Farman

Here is the first of many interviews and essays with Bonnaroo artists and principals that we will run in the weeks and months leading up to the event [June 21-23 in Manchester, TN]. For our inaugural installment, we solicited questions from our readers, which we then presented to Rick Farman, one of the founders and partners of Superfly Productions, which is producing the event along with AC Entertainment. We ended up with a few hundred queries (many on the same topics) and we have done what we can to present them here in some form. In addition, Rick wished to emphasize that there will be a more formal FAQ section to appear on the Bonnaroo Festival site in the days to come dealing with logistical matters, some of which we do touch on here (and one can always get updated info by subscribing to the festival mailing list over at that site). *‘First off, what about the name itself, how did you come up with that?’- Stephanie L. *
We wanted to pick something that was tied into music in some way. We also were looking for a name that was not in the lexicon. We really wanted a name that was distinct, one where people would hear it years from now and know exactly what it was about. We thought we could introduce that word into the language, sort of like Lollapalooza, a word that no one knew before and now everybody identifies with that event.
So we wanted something with a musical tie-in and being from New Orleans, we also thought it would be cool to have something from our roots. So we were on-line, thinking about music and New Orleans and up popped the Dr. John album Desitively Bonnaroo. It was my partner Jonathan who really made that connection. Bonnaroo sounded like a cool name and its a great album too, the Meters backing Dr. John with Allen Toussaint producing. Its really a killer album.
The term itself is a slang term in Creole. It means really, really good stuff. *So is Dr. John going to come out and play? *
Were talking to him, its possible.

  • As far as I know youve never hosted an event like this before. Are you ready for all these people and what they will bring to bear?- David P. *

Well the first thing that I think is important to let everybody know is that we have an extremely experienced and professional crew behind this event. I know many people know Superfly from the events weve done at Jazz Fest and other things. And I know people know AC for the events hes done. But what I really wish to emphasize is that we have hired the best people in the camping festival business to help us put on this event. We have a lot of experience between AC and us in putting on concerts and concert promotion but we certainly understand that our experience is limited in putting on an event of this size.
Our basic plan has been to make the learning curve zero. Most of the people that weve hired were also key players in putting on the big Phish events- everything from our project manager, site coordinator, vending consultant, production manager, parking company, business manager, the head of security and the different security companies that were hiring. Were going to have Clean Vibes out there, which I think people know through many events, including the big Phish events. So in terms of the quality of the people putting on the event and the quality of the facilities, its really going to be top notch.
  • What will prevent it from being an overpriced, uncomfortable experience like the last two Woodstocks?- Steve C. *

I understand why people bring up the comparison. In reality this is a very different event. The bands are very different as are the fans. Our team knows how to do this successfully and we are committed in everyway to making this a safe and enjoyable event.
We really want everybody walking away feeling like they got a great deal. And I think the evidence for that is in the pricing of the tickets. I think anybody who has a real concern about the price of concessions or other services at the event should take a look at the ticket prices because I think theyre extremely fair. We easily could have charged significantly more money than we did but one of the big concepts of this thing was to give everybody a bargain, a great deal, and sort of buck the trend of the industry by having low ticket prices and fair concession prices.
  • What happened to the $100 dollar tickets? I never saw any reference on your web site to limited quantities until it was too late to purchase them. I thought I would have until March 31 but by Friday tickets already cost $125- Rachel L. *

  • The basic situation was that the tickets were always set up to be in limited quantities. What happened though was that tickets sold much quicker than we expected, than anybody really expected. What we thought we would sell in a few weeks sold in a few days so we had a situation that we werent anticipating, which is why the information wasnt out there as clearly as it should have been. We did our best to inform people when we knew this situation was coming. We sent out emails to everyone on the Superfly list, the AC list, and the Bonnaroo list. We also posted on a bunch of list serves that there was a limit on the 100 dollar tickets and they were in danger of selling out. It just all happened pretty quickly.
  • How many people do you expect to attend? Justin N. *

  • Were permitted for 60,000. We probably have more room than that and we may seek to get that permit extended but we have not made a decision on that yet.
  • Your web site mentions additional artists, when will they be announced?- Kevin B. *

I wish I knew the answer to that question. There are a couple major artists that were still waiting to announce. Once those get announced I think some other artists will happen quickly after that because well know what other space and resources we have.
The other thing were trying to do and well know on our end in a few weeks is we may add a few more stages or possibly use the tents not just for late night activities but for day time activities and put some developing artists in there. Currently were looking at that from a logistical and budgetary standpoint.
  • What if it rains, will you be forced to shut down the music? Dawn H. *

  • Its a rain or shine event. Just like all rain or shine events if theres a complete downpour Im sure there will be times when certain bands couldnt go on but its just the same as any rain or shine festival, no different
  • When will the music start and how late will it go? David G. *

  • Still being determined. The music will probably start in the late morning and go until midnight and the late night tents will start after that.
  • Will the late night tent costs extra? Michael P. *

  • No. We wanted the ticket price to be an all-inclusive thing,. There are no fees for parking either, just come and enjoy everything.
  • Will shuttle buses run from the site into the town and to nearby hotels? Gregg B. *

  • No. Logistically with drop off and pick up times and the possible different locations its just not logistically feasible.
  • How do you plan on handling all that traffic. I know that some people are fearful about sitting in traffic for twelve, thirteen hours outside the venue. Jay G. *

Right now a plan is being worked on in conjunction with local authorities to maximize the existing roadways that we have coming into the venue. When there are particular traffic surges there may be back ups. However, because the property is very close to the highway, we feel that were going to be able to create a pretty constant flow of vehicles into the venue.
Were also putting a lot of resources into processing people effectively. Well have the maximum amount of toll booth stations that the property will allow which is a pretty healthy amount. Were also putting a lot of resources into having really experienced and well-staffed parking crews. The fortunate thing is that the local officials have been very cooperative so far. They really want to make this run as smoothly as possible which is a big plus. We certainly are aware of people’s concerns and we share those concerns because we want people to get into the venue and start having a good time as soon as possible. We encourage people to get there early though. Theres no doubt about it, theres a lot of people going to one place and we hope people get there early so they can go in and get situated.
  • Are RVs welcome? Is there a separate area for them? Will there be hook-ups? Bob C. *

  • Yes, theyre welcome. No separate area and no hook-ups. Were going to have a roving gray water truck for pumping but we really suggest that people dump before they show up.
  • Are Coleman camp stoves permitted? Kristin O. *

  • Stoves, propane and charcoal are permitted but no open fires.
  • What about showers, toilets and water? Kris K. *

  • Water will be there in abundance, toilets will be there in abundance. At this time we are not planning on have showers.
  • Will there be any special design aspects to the event like there were at say Big Cyprus Meg H. *

  • We are going to be working with a gentleman named Russ Bennett. He was the visual design coordinator for a lot of the big Phish events as well as a lot of Ben & Jerry stuff. He is absolutely going to be putting together a great look and feel for the festival. The interesting thing about Russ is that while he is an artist who comes at it from the fan perspective, hes also very in tune with the production guys and the security guys and understands what it is they have to do. Were definitely looking for Bonnaroo to have a complete vibe to it [Note: we hope to interview Russ for a future Bonnaroo Beat feature]
  • How is the town reacting to Bonnaroo? Joe F. *

By all indications the town has been extremely cooperative and excited about having the event there. In fact, many of our consultants feel the town has been more accepting of this event than any one theyve worked on before. All the political officials and law enforcement officials have really embraced the concept of having an event there.

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