by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman
This most recent spring break, I was blessed with the opportunity to caravan, along with hundreds of thousands of other people, down to the desert of Southern California for three blissful days of art, music, and food. Yes, I am talking about the holy week that is the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. During my pilgrimage, I encountered many “interesting” people, listened to some of the world’s best musicians and singers, and ate a corn dog which was sent directly from heaven (yes, it was that good). As a whole, I would describe my experience as “indescribable”. Seriously, there is no possible combination of words in the English language which can even begin to do Coachella justice. The whole atmosphere and energy of the festival created such a unique euphoric sensation, which is positively incapable of replication… except, of course, by attending Coachella 2015. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you have ever had even the slightest urge to attend this extravaganza, go! At least once in your life, it’s worth every penny, believe me.
Now, enough pandering. During the seemingly never end drive back to reality, I spent many hours reminiscing on everything I had seen and experienced that weekend. It was this that got me thinking--what does it take to put on something of this magnitude? I couldn’t even begin to imagine all the man hours it must have took to set up the festival itself; from lighting to water misters to festival services, like security and EMTs. Continuing this train of thought, I started wondering about all the time and energy the artists themselves had to put in, not to mention the sacrifices they must have made for one forty five minute opportunity to perform for their fans. So, I sat down with Kurt Travis, front man of A Lot Like Birds, and his wife, Lauren, to better understand the time, talent, and effort it takes for shows like these.
MKC: I know you were originally with the band Dance Gavin Dance, can you talk about performing with them?
KT: You know it was weird, I had a band that was almost there, like almost to that caliber, right out of high school. But DGD was obviously on a way bigger scale. I had to try out, and there were a couple other singers in line, so it was nerve wracking, but I got the part. I toured with them because I was filling in for the lead singer, Johnny. It was difficult, because he was a much liked singer and a lot of kids listened just because of him, and you know kids, they don’t like change. So, it was a lot of exposure and it was very exciting, but at the same time I didn’t know how to deal with it.
MKC: Can you describe how touring and prepping for tours worked?
KT: As soon as I got picked up by DGD it was practice every day, pretty much like a full time job. When I first went on the road with them, it was my first blown U.S tour, so I was kind of a newbie and didn’t really know what to do. It was especially intimidating since all the other guys had been touring forever. But it pretty much went like this: tour for eight months out of the year, then write for one month, then go to the studio to record for another month, and then hit the road.
MKC: I know you recently played the festival South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas, with your current band, A Lot Like Birds. How does the atmosphere of a festival that size influence your performance?
KT: Well, it was SXSW was originally a place for people in the music industry to check out new bands, literally thousands of them. Now, it’s almost blown out of proportion because so many non-industry people go there. I mean it’s cool, if that’s what you’re into and you know what to.
MKC: As far as setting up for the actual shows, can you walk us through what that normally looks like?
KT: Okay, so normal day you wake up about ten, and drive three to four hours to get to the venue; unless it’s more than five hour away, then you want to get their the night before or wake up earlier. You get to the venue, you want to load in first. Most of the time you have to do it yourself, which isn’t that bad cause it feels good to move after hours of sitting. Then we have to set up the stage--amps, drums--all in order of opener to headliner. Then the opening band gets a quick sound check, and the show starts. It’s a lot of work at times, but it’s what I love, and I’m lucky to make money doing it.
So, the next time you go see your favorite artist, stop and breathe. Take a moment to think about all the work they did to put on this performance for you, all the dedication from not only the artist themselves, but their crew as well. Just appreciate that for a minute and keep it in your mind. Then, have the best time of your life.
Special thanks to Kurt Travis, of A Lot Like Birds, and his wife Lauren Travis. Check on the band’s Facebook page here. - See more at: http://www.folsomlaketalon.com/coachella-2014.html#sthash.SKR0oxPD.dpuf
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