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Published: 2009/04/26
by Jeff Garbaz

Why Bother?: Wakarusas Brett Mosiman

Editor’s note: The following is the first installment of a proposed collection of interviews conducted by Jeff Garbaz. As he explains, “I will talk to musicians, fans, managers, roadies, bus drivers, promoters, artists, vendors etc. for a series I call “Why Bother?” The beauty of the whole thing is that those two words describe perfectly what the interviews, and series will be about. “Why Bother?” is the main question. Why bother driving all over the ends of the earth to perform, or to experience this music?

_Jeff brings his own relevant perspective to bear through his efforts as a musician, photographer, promoter and perhaps most notably, via his steady gig providing concert visuals, as documented at his website, Garbaz.com

_First up is Brett Mosiman, creator of the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival

*To start off, briefly describe who you are *

Brett Mosiman, Lawrence, KS: Club Owner, Promoter, Festival Operator

Why bother doing what you do?

I think a lot of people would have the same initial answer- because it is what I do, it is what I know and what I have always done. But more precisely, I do it because I have a passion and reverence for music. There are certainly a lot better businesses or careers than promoting. Not many get to experience going to work and not getting paid.

Our line of work takes it a step farther – you can often go to work and lose money. Kind of crazy when you step back and consider that sometimes a good day is not getting paid anything. Knowing that you are at the mercy of the economy, the weather, finals, the van just isn't that bright when you think about it.

But because of the passion and love for the music, it never really feels like a "real job." And then there is the real payoff, kind of like the laughs for the comedian, when the fans and artist have a mutually rewarding experience and you feel like you played a part in that fantastic moment – that always brings you back for more – trying to recreate that perfect moment.

Let’s talk a little about what got you involved in the music business. What is your background?

I went to college to get into film. Graduated with a journalism degree. Spent a fair amount of time being a chef and catering. I quickly realized I was a poor employee and needed to be an entrepreneur type (i.e. no bosses).

Have you been involved with any other events other than Wakarusa?

Yes, we have done lots of festivals in various locations. Reggae on the Plains, Sunflower Music Fest, Jayhawk Music Fest, Get DownTown are a few.

Do you remember a particular show you attended that really got you hook, line and sinker? Did you have any idea you would end up doing what you do now, in 2009?

My first live show was Kansas at my HS auditorium and it was amazing. My first real concert was Aerosmith, Kansas and Head East in KC for $4. I had no idea I would end up in the business at the time but I have always loved concerts and live music. I certainly did a fair amount of traveling in the day to see shows. The hook may have been the first couple SXSW's. I had just bought a club and was going to check out some bands to book. I was in heaven seeing dozens of bands a day over the length of the event.

Describe the first Wakarusa compared to the one you are having this year.

Well we certainly have a lot better idea of what it takes to pull off. I do think it was a total leap of faith that first year. And even though the festival struggled financially there was obviously a spark that we couldn't walk away from. This year's event will mark a very exciting time for Wakarusa. We are very excited about the new venue.

In all your years, can you name a band or two that stands out in your memory as one of your favorites at your festival?

Really some of the most special moments for me are the smaller unknown artists that you stumble on to that are totally fucking amazing and the fans are just experiencing for the first time. The first Flaming Lips show was so epic for us. We felt like we had arrived.

Does your job require you to travel often?

Only occasionally.

How does the time away from home affect the human condition?

Wife (1) and kids (5) are probably glad to get rid of me on occasion.

Talk about the pros and cons of being on the road

My wife just rolls her eyes because my work travel is vacation for most. Partying, seeing bands and occasional round of golf – it's not the worst.

Are there 2 different "worlds" in your life? Do you separate "the real world" from the "music world?" or do you consider them one in the same for you and your family?

They certainly are very different worlds. But like most self employed folks – trying to find some balance between home and work is very important. It is very easy to let work eat up all your time.

Doing one show or one tour is one thing but doing it year after year can be grueling and it can get old. How do you sustain, both emotionally and financially, you know, making music a career, year after year?

I think I am really good at seeing the big picture. Planning, finances (living on Raman) etc are just part of the game. In this business your income stream can be very erratic. So you just have to deal with that all the time if you want to be around for any length of time.

How do you keep it fresh?

That is one of the very best parts of the business. There are always new musicians and artists to discover and promote. You are constantly trolling for talent. Of course the internet has made that so much easier for buyers as well as fans.

How do you overcome the "been-there, done-that" syndrome?

Every job gets old occasionally, the best defense to that is just doing something you love. You have to be mentally tough. Don't let the highs be too high or the lows be too low and you might need to be a little short term memory deficient.

What is your idea of "a nightmare gig”

Having the Butthole Surfers pull a gun on you because their moving lights (police lights) aren't working then nearly killing your friend trying to get them to work.

as opposed to "a perfect night"

The unexpected sellout or the perfect special guest.

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