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Published: 2010/09/10
by Sam Davis

Life Is Good This Weekend

Well I can imagine taking the charity angle could prove to be difficult considering how many of the for-profit festivals that were around are now defunct. Have Life is Good and Superfly worked out a long-term plan to overcome some of the obstacles and difficulties those festivals have experienced?

You know, our stage of development right now is sort of when I said “we need to try one and see what happens”, we really just need to get through the first one together and see what happens. How much did we raise for kids? Was the event profitable itself and if not what do we do to make it profitable? In terms of sustainability that would probably be getting out over our skis right now. I’m confident that we can do it, but we don’t have all the answers yet. I think we need one prototype under our belt. I could talk smoke about it right now, but it’s all speculation. Seven days after this event, we’ll have some real numbers, real feedback; social media is so important right now, through websites like yours that enable people to talk that stuff is really important we’ll have a lot of eyes and ears on it to try and dissect and cut up what happened and then figure out how to get faster, stronger and better. But we don’t have the answers to that.

It seems festival promotion has largely switched over to the digital world. Has that been a large focus of your promotional strategy and how the festival is being run?

I would say it’s been ninety percent. Ninety per-cent of all the action from communication, whether it’s buying or selling tickets, promoting the event. I would say it’s by far been the dominant factor.

So a bit about the music now. There is quite a buzz surrounding the news that following this weekend’s performance at Life is Good, Guster guitarist Joe Pisapia will be leaving the band to go write with K.D. Lang and replacement Luke Reynolds will be taking the stage for the first time in an official switch-off. This is a big moment for Guster fans. Do you count yourself among them?

I am a Guster fan, yah I like these guys.

Can you talk about some of the other bands that you’re excited to see this weekend?

One of my favorite bands in the whole thing is Galactic. I’m a huge Ben Harper fan. I think Jason Mraz is our biggest draw and I think he’s tremendously talented and I like his music too. But, Ben Harper has been more up my ally through the years. I’m a Guster fan as we mentioned. I think Ozomatli brings some kind of fun edge to our festival. Brett Dennen we’ve had a partnership [with] for a couple years and, you know, he’s a great guy and a great singer/songwriter. I mentioned Mavis Staples is a classic, I mean, she goes way back to playin’ with The Band, and walking for the rights with M.L.K. and, you know, she’s a legend.

Yeah, and she has a brand new album out with Jeff Tweedy from Wilco.

Yeah! How cool is that for someone at her stage of the game? She rips it and since I was a kid I’ve had a crush on her, you know, Staples sisters! Look, every one of these bands…Trombone Shorty, Toubab Krewe…every single one of these guys we hand-picked. I mean we suffered over it, we suffered over it and then we went after them really hard and I think we put together a killer line-up. I really do and I think word’s on the street and people are going to come together and we’re going to put together a real unique show. I think what I’m most proud of right now is that in talking to the ticket purchasers they’re well aware of the cause. And while raising the money is important, raising awareness is even more important. So, I’m pretty thrilled with the customer base right now and I’m not kidding myself, I know that they love the artists and, you know, we got their attention. The artists are the hook, but I think that music fans are really open and really authentic about the social causes that they believe in. And you know, you can tell when somebody’s blowing smoke and when they’re not and I think that people are going to listen and learn a lot about what we’re up to. And I think they’re happy that by buying a ticket, or a hamburger or a T-shirt they’re helping somebody who needs it. You know, it’s as simple as that.

I noticed you have a stage specifically for kids’ acts. Can you talk about some of the artists performing on that stage?

Yeah, we’ve got Dan Zanes and Friends, we’ve got the Laurie Berkner Band and we’ve got They Might Be Giants. We’ve also got a San Francisco band that’s like psychedelic rock for kids. They’re really great and we had them at our festival in San Fran last year, they’re called the Sippy Cups. And, one of the things that struck me last year with the Sippy Cups was that I’d say twenty percent of the people dancing when they were playing didn’t have kids and might not have known who they were. But they were digging the music and they went over that way, they probably came for a different band. Yeah and, the Laurie Berkner Band and Dan Zanes and are probably two of the hottest children’s acts in the country. We’re also bringing the Big Apple Circus for kids and so, there’s plenty of star power on that side.

We carefully selected music that wouldn’t only appeal to a six year old. You know, listen to any of these bands. Ok, you know on your own you might not go out and buy Dan Zanes and Friends. But if you were here to see an artist in an hour and he’s playing, it’s more than tolerable, it’s cool music. So, we’re trying to blend these two things and not offend each other. So if a Ben Harper and Relentless Seven fan comes and all they hear is music that sounds like Barney, I don’t know, that’s not going to click. But the Laurie Berkner Band, that’s not going to bum out the Ben Harper fans, it’s good music.

So it sounds like finally there’s a music festival that caters to the large number of kids that often seem out-of-place at other festivals.

BJ: Yeah and we’re getting great letters and mail about it. You know, like I said I think a lot of the music industry throws in the towel on people because they have kids and that’s not cool. These people still have great tastes, they’re still young and they still want to hang out and dance. It’s going to be fun.

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