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Published: 2011/10/04
by Justin Sachs

The Infamous Stringdusters Share The Festy Experience

In a mere four years The Infamous Stringdusters have accomplished what many bands have spent their lifetimes trying to do. They’ve played Red Rocks with Yonder Mountain String Band and Railroad Earth, earned a Grammy nomination in the “Best Country Instrumental” category for their song “Magic #9,” and even have their own festival called The Festy Experience which drew over 3,000 people in its inaugural year. Stringdusters bassist Travis Book postponed a morning bike ride to talk to about the upcoming festival, traveling the states with a bluegrass band and experiences with Jersey Shore cast members.

Justin: So while doing some research on you guys I came across the website for The Festy Experience. Can you tell me more about that, how did you guys decide to throw your own festival?

Travis: Well, you know, we’ve been going to festivals pretty much our whole lives. And festivals, I’m sure you know if you ever go to festivals, they’re the best thing ever. There’s only a few reasons why people get together these days, you know, major events, people go see music, religious events, sporting events, but music events are the only ones that there’s no question of what the motivation is, there’s no other side, there’s no other team, there’s no oppositional force, it’s nothing but positivity and people living in the present. We go to so many festivals, we’ve been going to festivals for so long, we ended up playing at this place called Devil’s Backbone Brewery and we loved it—the vibe was spot on, the location was gorgeous, and we played a show out there and we were all hanging out later that night, drinking the beer that they brew on site and pickin’ tunes, and we woke up the next day and we decided, we’ve been talking about throwing a festival since we started the band and the opportunity presented itself and we went for it.

People thought we were crazy, you know, everyone told us we were going to lose money and it was going to be a lot more work than we thought, and it ended up just being completely badass so we kind of upped the ante this year, we bought in some more bands, we’re doing an extra night of music, and we’re thrilled man, we’re trying to throw one of the best camping parties around and that’s sort of the goal, and I think we’re getting really close to getting it dialed into exactly what we want.

Justin: It seems most festivals just have music, maybe a late night DJ tent or a make your own hula hoop stand, but in reading about the Festy Experience you guys have a climbing wall, organized hikes, and cornhole tournaments, just to name a few activities. What made you guys decide to do that on top of the organized music?

Travis: Well part of it came from me being a competitive cyclist, and with events happening on the weekend it’s rare that I get to race or ride my bike and also do the music thing, and there’s amazing trails right where the festival is, and not everybody is interested in hanging out in the sun for 12 hours a day and listening to music. For example, some people have shorter attention spans, families have a bunch of different needs. Even within a couple, you may have one person who just wants to drink beer and listen to music, and someone else who may be good to do that for six hours, but we provide the opportunity to get out in the woods, hike, or even just engage in some non-music activities. There’s all kinds of workshops there, we’ve got sustainability workshops, we’ve got camping workshops, and I think as amazing as music festivals can be, a lot of times it feels really one dimensional.

Like I said originally, it was sort of born out of our own desire to have a more well rounded existence, so to have a weekend where you’ve got more than just the music going on, and granted if you’re into 12 hours of music a day I think we’ve got one of the best lineups going. We’ve got that going for us, but if you need something more or your spouse isn’t into it, there’s of different stuff to do, and furthermore the climbing wall and kids area, I know it can be tough keeping them occupied if you’re a festivalgoer and you’ve got little kids. If you want to talk about short attention spans, kids got the shortest. [laughter] And you know, having a place where they can wear themselves out and be safe and do their thing while parents can drink a few beers and listen to some music, it’s great. Basically we’re trying to create the ideal weekend based on what we’re into and what we want out of life, and Festy is totally becoming that.

Justin: And is that how you guys came up with the name The Festy Experience, making it more of an experience than a standard music festival?

Travis: Yeah definitely, that’s exactly where it came from. Knowing where the Relix roots are, there’s more to a music event than just the music, it’s about really creating a full complete experience. I never got to see the Dead but I used to go to Phish shows, when you go to Phish shows you go early and you hang out in the lot and that’s part of the experience. There’s the show and there’s the hang afterwards, and it’s more than just showing up, giving your money, sitting there watching the music and leaving.

The Festy Experience is also sort of an extension of our shows, when The Stringdusters play shows we really hope that people are going to show up and do their thing. Some people want to listen to music, some people want to socialize, some people want to throw down and dance, some people just want to hang out at the bar and get drunk, and it’s crucial for us that people are able to do what they want. All we ever want to do is whatever we want to do, that’s what life really should be all about, just following your folly, and so making it a situation where people can come to our show and they can feel comfortable to do what they want to do, The Festy is sort of like that concept taken to the 10th degree.

Justin: I saw there was a whole section on the festival website about the local sustenance. There was a lot of emphasis on supporting local restaurants, farms and businesses, such as The Devil’s Backbone Brewery which you mentioned before, The Rock Barn, Relay Foods, to name a few. I find that interesting compared to a lot of other festivals I’ve been to, where there’s 900 burrito stands, there’s Jerry roll stands, and all the standard fare. What was the reason for the emphasis on local sustenance?

Travis: Again, it’s all the same concept. We travel around, we spend so much time on the road, and even when we’re at home, food and drink is such a huge part of life, and it’s so important, you know? You want to talk about experience, going to have a beer in the afternoon at a beautiful beer garden, there’s nothing like it. And when that beer is really good and it’s brewed right there, it’s a lot better than if it’s a Bud Light. And also, there’s no question that local economies are stronger and people who have meaningful work and work that’s important to them are a lot happier, and so buying food, bringing in local food that’s grown by actual people nearby, it’s going to taste better. I feel like the whole experience is enhanced.

When the food is coming from real places and it’s grown by real people and when the beer is high quality, you know that someone put love into it and care into it, it’s not just a Budweiser, you know, one of ten trillion beers that Budweiser is going to brew this year. And you know, you’ll still be able to get real dirty on some carnival style food, that stuff is going on right there. The Rock Barn does cotton candy with bacon in it, I mean there’s some amazing old school kind of dirty food there, and again, if I’m hanging out for a weekend camping and listening to music, I would love to be able to eat some good food that’s going to make me feel good. And at the festival, shit man, festivals will wear your ass out if you’re doing it 100%, so you need to make sure that you’re drinking enough water and getting at least a few hours of sleep and eating some good food, cause that’s what’s going to keep you going, you know?

Justin: Yeah, you definitely have to keep yourself going, I normally start dragging by the last day of the festival. [laughter]

Travis: Oh yeah.

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