A little bit of everything in this week's episode. Brad and Barry talk the Moon River festival with the founder (and excellent singer-songwriter) Drew Holcomb and puts Bonnaroo in perspective from the vantage point of a boutique festival. Plus, Jake from Illiterate Light chats about their Roo show at the Who Stage and we give away a pair of tickets to ROO!!
Journey through the stories that define the artists playing Bonnaroo. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter. Oh, it gets closer and closer. The days getting longer and longer. Bonnaroo 2019. How many days away, Barry Courter? We are well under 60. 60 days? Under 60 days? Absolutely. Oh my goodness, it is getting closer and closer. That's Barry Courter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. I'm Brad Steiner from Hits 96 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Right down the road from Manchester. This year's Bonnaroo festivities, when we start looking around, we're going to be right up on it. I mean, you give me about an hour and I'm going to start panicking. Yeah, I'm already having the night sweats. Are you? I always do. Every year at this time. I'm having the Keith sweats. It's very strange. Nice. Nice. Yeah, I start thinking about the heat and just the excitement and everything and what to bring, what not to bring. Do you know, I had this moment every year before Bonnaroo, I say to myself, you know what? I'm actually excited for the heat. And then I realized what a stupid, foolish thing to say. That's just ignorant. You just say that was ignorant? Okay. Yeah, it is. It really is. It is the dumbest thing that I wish for. But like there's some days like yesterday, I was out in the yard and it was really cool. Yeah, it was cool. It was a beautiful day in Chattanooga. And I just said to myself, while wearing a hoodie doing yard work, I could do some heat right now. Yeah. Yeah, it's when it's 85 degrees at 2 a.m. That's the part that panics me. You know, it is really strange that the nights at Bonnaroo are so comfortable. They're so nice. They're so lovely. So long as it's not raining and so long as we don't have like a massive heat wave go through, the nights are unbelievable. And frankly, you can get a little chilly at night. Lately. Isn't that weird? Yeah. What the first 10 years there was no let up. There was no let up. I mean, it was brutal. And then what? Five, six years ago, I had to actually go scramble to find clothing, you know, get a sweatshirt or something. Yeah. You're notoriously under a blanket at camp most most every night. Yeah. I mean, it was a bit of a nightmare. Yeah. But I mean, it got cold. Well, that and you're an old lady. Maybe my shawl. I had to go find my shawl. So today's going to be a very odd episode and I don't really know how to package it. I don't really know how to explain it. We're going to sort of go in all different directions. It's sort of like a grab bag today. We got the chance to talk to a member from a literate light, literate light appearing at Bonnaroo. They were added to the festival when they did the cafe and who stage edition. So yeah, that's very exciting. We get to talk to another Bonnaroo first timer coming up. And I love his story because he talks about how he went to Bonnaroo and that sort of was an artistic moment for him and how he wanted to get back to Bonnaroo to play. And now he is so literate light coming up a little bit later on in the show. Plus we're talking to a listener today. Yeah, Celeste Celeste from just down the road in Columbus, Georgia. OK, we have a she's a group camper. Is she? In fact, I think it's kind of cool. She started going in group and because of the way they do it, if you don't meet the minimum 24 people, sometimes they will come combine, you know, maybe two groups of 12 or whatever the number. And she's become really good friends with the people that she met. Yeah, it's just that more and more. It's the perfect Bonnaroo story. It really is. And she even says a little bit later, you'll hear she says, you know, I go for the camping. I go for the group, which is essentially that was our headliners as well. That was interesting to hear. Now, we talked to her for a specific reason. First we like talking to fellow Bonaruvians, but we've got some news to share with her coming up a little bit later. You know, when we start talking about Bonaru, we talk a lot about the nuts and the bolts. We sort of lose ourselves in the the minutia of the whole thing, how it's put together, where it's come from, how it's grown and the behemoth that it is now to a place where, you know, running water and bathrooms and stuff like that. When we started talking about that and we got deep with Ashley Caps last year, we had a deep with Jeff Cuellar, it started turning our wheels about other festivals and their perceptive their perceptions and how they build their festival and how they operate almost in a completely in the same world, in the same universe, the same festival space, but in a completely different way. And one of those festivals is one that's right here in town called Moon River. Absolutely. And it's interesting. It moved here. It was started in Memphis and we'll hear co-founder Drew Holcomb explain that basically he just wanted to have a big party for his friends, play some music and it outgrew that. And then it's grown into this giant thing. And he reached out to AC Entertainment, the same folks that co-produced Bonaru. What was interesting to me about that is it's a curated. I mean, this is how the industry has sort of grown. Bonaru, remember 2002 comes out. It's this giant 80,000 people sold out. It's supposedly this jam band festival. It's developed as we talk every single week here. And now you've got these smaller curated or boutique. You say curated. I say artisanal. Artisanal. I like that. A boutique. They're just smaller versions where the bands are a little bit more in the same lanes as we've learned to say it. A very limited number, 10,000 people in this one. That's what they want. And it still to me is fascinating to listen to Drew Holcomb. Our first guest is Drew Holcomb, who has put on this Moon River Festival. It's fascinating to me hearing him talk about how much work it still is. What a massive operation just a 10,000 person festival, a two day festival is as compared to Bonaru. It puts Bonaru in such a great perspective. When you have somebody who's started a festival and has grown it and it's really maxed out at 10,000 and it's all he does. And it was so much of his workload, he had to give it to somebody else who professionally runs these things. It just goes to show you how massive of an operation Bonaru is. I love his stories about the things that they forgot or didn't plan for the first year. You guys will hear that. I love it. That's pretty funny. I really like this conversation a lot. Drew Holcomb from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors on the What Podcast. We talk mostly about Bonaru, but we want to branch out and talk other festivals. And I thought, how about a guy who started his own festival? Wow. Let me guess. Let me guess. I'm going to try and guess who you're talking about. All right. You ready? Is it Gary Forkastle? No, that's not him. Is it Doug Firefly? No. No. Okay. I got it. I got it. Lenny Lollapalooza. You're getting close. Am I? Yeah, I guess. Moon River, you started five years ago now? Yeah, I guess it'll be six. This will be the fifth festival and we took a year off. Yeah, that makes this the sixth year. Wow. Right. And to me, it's interesting for several reasons. One, you started a festival. Pretty big deal. Pretty big deal. Yeah, sure. It grew so big that you had to move it from Memphis, where it started, and you've moved it to Chattanooga, so it's in our backyard. But also, it's a, what are we still calling them? Boutique festivals, Drew? I guess so. I mean, that seems appropriate. I mean, on the logistical side, getting 10,000 people together doesn't seem very boutique-y, but when you compare it to Bonnaroo, places like that, then yeah, it's definitely boutique relative to scale. I mean, you might say 10,000 people, but I mean, don't sneeze at it. It's a lot of work. I mean, that's still a lot of- It's a lot of work. Yeah. Yeah. Curated is maybe a better word than boutique. I've heard both of them related. And it's, correct me if I'm wrong, they are sort of a reaction or an offshoot, maybe is a better, of festivals like Bonnaroo and La La Palusa, where they are smaller and they're more site-specific and curative. Yeah, they're a little more sort of site-specific, a little more genre-type. And I think they, more than anything, I think they take the pros of the festival experience and try to trim away some of the cons. I mean, I meet people all the time who, when they were in their 20s, they are teens, 20s, they love going to Bonnaroo, La La Palusa. But as people get older and start to have kids and the idea of going camping for three days in the June heat, it doesn't appeal to everybody. Going to Chattanooga or Louisville or some of these other, Charleston, making a vacation out of it, going to a city that you're not just experiencing the festival on the grounds, you're also kind of experiencing the location. And you don't just sleep in a tent, you can sleep in a hotel or rent a house or whatever. So there are so many, the basics, the who, what, when, where and why. I want to start with, why did you do it in the first place? Because you seem to have a pretty good thing going with your music career. Why all of a sudden dip a toe into the festival world? Well, I think initially I didn't know that it was going to grow to what it has and it was actually just a way to throw a multi-band one day event in my hometown and to convince people to come check out my hometown of Memphis and also get these bands that I've met together for a day and not only play music and share the stage, but also share the backstage experience and get to know each other. That's one of my favorite things about festivals. You're an artist and you're out there touring all the time. You're not necessarily meeting a lot of other artists because you're doing your thing. And so at festival, that's where you can really meet a bunch of people and watch your heroes play and hear up and coming bands. So I just thought I want to do that on a very small scale to my fans and our people. And it went really well and it sort of grew organically out of that. That's awesome. And that's where you hope all great ideas you started really are birthed from is from, yeah, let's just do this with our friends. You know, it's really, we're all probably every bar you go to, it started with, oh yeah, just me and my buddies might open a bar. Let's get a barn and some costumes and throw a party. Yeah. So how many people were there? What were the artists that you supplemented the lineup with? How did it go that first year? First year? Yeah, we probably had 2000 people there. It was us, it was Judinal and before they were, they were very much like a very new baby band. We had Will Hoag, one of my favorite national songwriters. We had Holly Williams, another great songwriter. We had the Dirty Governors, which is sort of a- That's a party. Tones-esque Tennessee party band. Yeah, that was sort of the crux of the lineup that first year. That's pretty good. That's pretty good for your first try at it. They're all friends, you know, they're all people that I knew and toured before. So it was kind of an easy ask. That's one of the things that I've noticed in my job at the paper is talking to not just festivals but some of these bigger tours like Winter Jam and whatnot. It's an intentional thing by the organizers to put people together that they like. Yeah, right. Because they say, we're going to be on the road together for X number of days. We might as well hang out together. We want our kids to hang out together, the roadie, you know, everybody and then have a good time on stage as well. So that makes sense. The other connection to Moon River and Bon Roos is once the event in Memphis got big, you decided you needed help, right? So you reached out to AC Entertainment. Yeah, that's right. So AC have been friends of ours for a long time. They've always promoted a lot of different shows for us. Knoxville, you know, the Beige Theater and Orange Peel in Asheville and Track 29 in Chattanooga. So I have a lot of friends in that company and I love the way they do business. And so we started talking about what we were doing and how it was going. But some of the obstacles we were facing and they seemed very interested in potentially partnering together, but it seemed like a potential move was on the table in that conversation. And so we started conversations with various people in different cities and Chattanooga seemed the most receptive to the vision and really more than anything had a location that seemed like a perfect match with Coolidge Park. Yeah, the park is unbelievable and you guys did a great job curating it. But back to a word that you just said, you come up with this idea, it probably gets a little bit out of your control because it gets bigger and bigger and bigger, budgets get bigger. You said the word obstacles. What were some of the obstacles that you needed their help with? Well, the biggest one is that my manager and I were completely the only sort of money risk takers involved. Neither he nor I are in a sort of position to be taking that sort of risk. And so, you know, as we get close to the event and look at the weather forecast and our, you know, sweating bullets hoping that event happens and that we're not, you know, taking our cars to auction after the festival, you know. But there's certainly that sort of that sort of risk. What will you give me for a rotary girder? Can I book for that? So, you know, the financial risk was getting beyond what we were comfortable with. And then, you know, as it grew in size, we were spending a lot more time on it than we're sort of suited for. I mean, you know, when you look at a festival, you see the music and you see the food and see people having fun. What you see is the security. You don't see the conversations with the companies that bring in porta potties, you know. Right. You know, water. Insurance companies. Insurance. Right. Yeah. The weather service. Fencing. You've got to pay for. I mean, it's like literally just hundreds of things you don't think about. And we were just, we were doing it and it was going well. But we were, you know, you talked about earlier, you know, your career was going well while you're in the festival business. We started asking ourselves that same question. Like, we still got a regular, I got records and record songs and go on tours. And I need Paul, my manager, to be managing that. And so. Yeah. It's sort of like the day that you decide, yeah, I can build this garage in the back of the yard. And then you decide, I can build a house. And then you. It's more like a kitchen or bathroom. Now you've ripped the plumbing out. Maybe I should hire a general contractor just in case I need somebody to take control of this thing. That's exactly right. You know, your, our ambition sort of got the best of it. It's funny cause you have a dream and it comes true. And then you're like, you actually have to sort of execute and manage the dream and that can become a nightmare. Well, that's, but see, that was the choice that you had to make. You had to go from maybe 2003, four, 5,000 people to an actual big time thing. Which is going to cost you more money. It's going to cost you more time. It's going to cost you more risk. But was there a conversation that you had with maybe whoever else that was operating with you to just keep it where it was? Just like, okay, let's just keep it at 2,500. Let's just keep it at 5,000 people. Let's not take any more risk and keep it teeny tiny and not try to make it a bigger event. Oh yeah. We certainly had that conversation and you know, that was sort of the other option. And we took a year off to kind of even have that conversation over a long period of time because we were kind of exhausted. And I also went through some health stuff right after the third year where I was in the hospital for two weeks in December with meningitis. So I just couldn't physically get it done the next year. And so that gave us a chance to kind of ask those big philosophical questions. But we were really proud of what we built. We really didn't want to see it, you know, go away or just become like kind of revert back to the year one model. But we just, the middle ground was almost just as much work as the small version. We kind of really wanted to find somebody to grab ahold of it and run with it and let us just be kind of a part of the team and not be directing the team. Yeah. That was the other thing I wanted to ask because you and I have talked a couple of times and I remember standing with you, I think this Saturday night when it was here and then we talked again. You had to also consciously give up control, right? I mean, we talk, we laugh because Ellie, your wife had a baby that same weekend. So we made the, or I did, I guess, made the analogy of you birth the festival and a child. So I mean, you basically had to give up this event, give over control, right? What was that like? Yeah. Well, on the one hand it was frightening, you know, because you've got this creative vision that you want to make sure is well cared for. But then at the same time, all the other like obstacles that we've discussed, it was incredibly like tons of relief to hand those over to AC. You know, they're professionals at managing all of these kinds of things. So thankfully, I think sort of my role now is really curating with, you know, the lineup and then really being sort of a host on the ground and the fun stuff. Yeah. All the stuff that I really wanted to do in the first place. Right. Right. So it's been awesome. Let me, and this is also important. It goes back to the whole curating thing and why you are here and why you chose Chattanooga from what you and the guys at AC told me. As you said, and forgive the long question, but Brad had said earlier in another podcast that some festivals just kind of get the equipment, get the band, show up in the field, take your money and go home. Right. Hey, we built the stage. We got some equipment. We got some bands. Welcome to our festival. Welcome to our festival. And Drew, you specifically told me that was not what you wanted. You wanted people to come in a unique place, which ours is, it's right on the river, surrounded by businesses. You wanted those businesses to feel they were part of it. You wanted people coming from out of town to see this city. And I'm putting a lot of words in your mouth, but talk about that. That to me is as much the curated part of it as, you know, the eight or 10 acts on the lineup. Yeah. I think our hope and vision is that it doesn't feel just like a transaction. You know, we provide music and people give us money to come and listen to that music. You know, we really wanted to feel like there's a community. And so my favorite example from this year in Chattanooga was we found out after the festival that there was this Facebook group that had been put together by fans of the people who had come solo from all over the country, people that came alone and wanted to find other people that came along to the festival. And they all rented out, there were like 15 or 20 of them, and they rented out two or three houses in the same neighborhood for, you know, Thursday to Monday. And basically all came in, you know, cold in terms of not knowing each other and left with this incredible, you know, new group of friends. And that's what music has the capacity to do, the capacity to sort of create community where there is none. Because if you like the kind of music that is at Moon River Festival, the chances are when you spend time with someone else who's also at the festival, you're probably going to have some pretty similar tastes and philosophies about life in general. So it's an opportunity to make new friends. And we've heard from that group that they're all coming back for year two and expanding their thing. And that's just like one little piece of the things that can happen when you try to curate, you know, a festival in a sort of certain direction towards a certain town, a certain genre of music, while also sort of recognizing that there's a massive amount of diversity within that genre, you know, within the city of Chattanooga, there's a ton of diversity in terms of what kind of food people want to eat and what kind of neighborhood they want to stay in, where they want to stay in a hotel. And yet you so you're kind of like directing and curating an experience, but you're not dictating it. And I think that when it comes down to something that we talk about a lot on this show is what are your values? What are what is your brand value? And a lot of times where I feel as though festivals get off track is that they they lose sight on what their brand was supposed to be about to begin with. Right. So at some point you had to go from here are some bands and here are some friends of ours that we want to just get together and, you know, have a show. And you actually had to turn it into a brand and you had to turn it into something that people attach themselves to that had all the same like minded feelings that you did. Did you ever come up with maybe what Moon River stood for, what you wanted it to to portray to the public, what you wanted them to get out of it, aside from just a music experience? Yeah, I mean, for me, music in general is much more about like it's about sort of curating or not curating, sort of narrating your your life. And so when I when I think of when I think of Moon River, I think this is a weekend where people are coming to make pretty significant memories for themselves as individuals, but also for their friends and the people that they, you know, meet at the festival that they came to the festival with. I know we have about 20 or 30 friends that come every year and they set up a big area out in the field and they drink together all day and have pizza and talk about life. Sure. And I think, you know, music is about people sort of, you know, fighting the loneliness of life, sort of throw at you. And I think, you know, this music festival is about like community and hope and, you know, the common joy that we find in music. And it's a weekend of sort of that experience that hopefully carries with people, not just all year, but, you know, their whole life. I can name 20 or 30 musical experiences I've had, whether they're festivals or certain shows or tours, and I can sort of tell you exactly what I felt in that moment. And talk to you on the phone and walking past this poster, I saw Tom Petty at Red Rocks six months before he died. Whoa. And I took nine friends for my 35th birthday. And we sat on the 50th row of Red Rocks, listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play for two and a half hours. And almost every time I see those guys, we talk about that experience. That's awesome. And it's what brings friendship together, you know. We have many of those moments for us. It was the Paul McCartney show at Bonnaroo. Oh, man, I was there. That was awesome. Incredible. I had my nine month old baby with us. That was her first big concert. Nice. Man, you didn't have that. You didn't feel that moment with me, Barry, at T-Pain last year? No, I didn't feel that moment. I felt something, but it wasn't that. It's funny. We're probably, what, 15, 20 minutes in. And what haven't we talked about? Well, I'll tell you, you just espoused a whole bunch of things about the festival making experience when you're coming to a brand. But what about, I would imagine those same values are instilled you as a singer-songwriter. You probably come at making albums and music almost the same way. Oh, yeah. I mean, 100%. Yeah. It's about the collaborative experience of expressing your experience in life and hoping that that sort of pronunciation of that as a song will get somebody else through another day. Yeah, I mean, literally, it says it in the name of your band and the neighbors. Yeah, we're the neighbors. Yeah. I didn't ask my question right. We're 20 minutes in and there's a topic we haven't brought up. Oh, what is it? The lineup. Oh, yeah. We're going to point the lineup. Which I think is important because... Well, I'm not there yet, Dan. Well, Drew, but that's what... No, we didn't lead with that. We've gone to who, what, where, and why, and I've got so many other questions before we get to the who. Drew, I'm joking about this because what we've learned in doing this podcast now for a year and a half is the lineup is not nearly as important as people think. It's these experiences that we're talking about. Oh, for sure. But you do have a pretty strong lineup. We do. We do. Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlisle, St. Paul. You guys are playing. You're being joined with Johnny Swim, right? Yep. Wood Brothers, Moon Taxi, Monbello. Yeah, it's really good. We kind of joked, you and I did a while ago, that first one here in Chattanooga sold out in eight hours and the second one had to go overnight. Were you worried? No, I wasn't worried. I was told, it's funny though, Paul, my manager and partner from the beginning, he's funny. He's like, man, we didn't do it as fast. We're like, Paul, we just sold out a festival in 19 hours. Yeah. You need to relax. Yeah. Tough living. Boy, you guys really have it hard. I sold out a festival in two days. It took two days. I was worried. Yeah, I'm kidding. We laughed that next week. You sold out and when it came to Chattanooga, sold out, I think the backstory if you don't know, but the backstory is when you came to Chattanooga, sold out in about 25 minutes and then this second year in Chattanooga, sold out in two days, whatever, something like that. Any ideas that you guys have for the future to make it even bigger, to increase the footprint or do you feel really comfortable in the lane that you're in? Yeah, I don't want to speak for the whole team, but my perception is that we really like what we've got going on. The other thing to add. The park is the park. You can't really build a bigger park in that spot. And so that's part of what makes it so magical. I've got a very good idea about a stage on the water. Let me tell you about this idea. The other thing that's notable about it is it's what, 60% of the fans last year and this year are out of towners, right? That's right. That whole curated thing and bringing people to town and all that's just really interesting. For people who don't know, what you guys did is it's an open park. It's a public park. It had never had a gated ticketed event in there before. There is a walking bridge above it. You literally can just walk over the event. Right. Which I'm sure causes you guys a lot of headaches, by the way. I can't imagine. But you guys with AC and our city and our public works all came together and figured out not only how to gate it, but you built a waterfall that became the entrance. You put just two stages up. You built a swing that hangs under that bridge. You took advantage of what was there and changed what you needed. Again, we're going to keep saying that curated thing. So let me, Drew, and I hate to make this about me, but it's my favorite topic. So I've got this dumb little event that I do with my radio station called the running of the Chihuahuas. We essentially have created Disney World for 200 racing Chihuahuas every year. So I get 200. I know. So over 12 years, it's grown from 12 dogs in my parking lot to 200 Chihuahuas racing at the first Tennessee Pavilion. Along the way, we decided to add music and start curating some sort of music festival atmosphere even though it's just a day and the artists are usually top 40 artists. But just the fact that those five hours of my day, my year, take up five months of my year, five hours equate to five months. And I don't have to deal with a thing that you guys deal with. I tell you, the thing that I would love if I was you would be exactly what you do. You play a little bit, you host a little bit, you get to make a lineup. And then when you get on site, you get to create something. You get to be creative and almost budgets can just be whatever you want them to be if the idea is good enough. That to me sounds like the dream job. That sounds like exactly what I've ever wanted to do. The most that we talk about, me and Barry, about Bonnaroo, it's usually about things like plumbing. You know, just how water lines get from. How does this work? Yes, it is fascinating to me. So when you had to start putting all this stuff together and you were taking month after month after month of your of your year, what was the one thing that you didn't think of that hits you is like, oh, my God, I never knew that I needed blank. Yeah, well, most of those those things were in the Memphis years. And to be honest, it was more about what we got to Chattanooga and I learned that what AC does and I went to myself. I can't believe we didn't do blank. Oh, yeah, that makes sense. That's how the big boys do. Right. That's right. It was like, oh, wow, that's how you deal with like the threat of weather. Like they have these, you know, contracts with, you know, the National Weather Service, you know, track lightning and all it's going to be. Paul and I, Memphis are like looking at AccuWeather on our phones. Yeah, I start looking at the 30 day forecast. I'll be OK here. I'll be fine. Yeah, right. You know, or. Yeah, like I remember year one in Memphis, it was it was in the heat of the summer. It was in August. And, you know, we knew we had like 2000 people coming. So we bought like 4000 bottles of water. You know, oh, no, no, no, we're going back. Those were gone by 10 a.m. Yeah. Yeah. My favorite story from that that first year was my wife was we had a seven month old. So she doesn't 13. She's in the sort of office that we have behind the stage. And about 10 a.m. we run out of ones. We ran out of ones. And sorry about that. We just a lot of kids stuff on the house. That's OK. We ran out of ones like 10 a.m. and it's a Saturday and all the banks are closed. So we have no way to get all this cash. Well, my wife's sitting there holding the seven month old in this room and she's like, isn't there a dog racing like casino on the other side of the river? And so Ellie gets in the car with the baby with five hundred dollars in big bills and rushes to the dog park and comes back with five hundred ones from the casino so that we can keep selling food for the rest of the day. That's a problem solver. That's good stuff. I don't know. Like those are the kind of things that you just don't prepare for. You're like, yeah, we had like three hundred dollars worth of change. Well, we have two dozen people buying, you know, four dollars or eight dollars, whatever they were. You need a lot of one. That's very great. What was it like that Saturday night? Because Ellie left Sunday morning, right? Or that Saturday night last Sunday night after heading to heart. OK, so that no, you're right. She left after heading out Saturday night. Yeah. Yeah. So I think I ran into you guys that night. You know, this is last year. Last year you were having sort of a quiet moment, which, you know, being the professional I am, I interrupted and probably ruined for you. But you seemed extremely relaxed. And I think I remember Ellie saying something like she was just so proud to have seen, you know, to be able to be backstage and see what it had become. What was that like? Because here, like we said earlier, you gave up control, you moved it to a town. I mean, there had to have been some questions, you know, going into it. Plus you had a wife that was 12 months pregnant. Yeah. Yeah. And my honestly, my main concern at that point was, you know, she her due day was like the following Thursday. I had the show on Friday, the VIP thing at the Walker Theater. And then we had our set on Saturday night before heading to heart. And as soon as we got done, I just was felt immediate relief because I was like, OK, if she goes into labor now, I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm going to be on stage. You know, I'm good. There was just like a lot of personal relief there. But yeah, I mean, standing side stage is heading to heart. You know, the first three years I headlined every night, it was very much sort of, you know, me and my fans and our thing. And I think, you know, once we moved to Chattanooga and grew the lineup and grew the location, I definitely sort of had to let go of it. There was an ego thing, you know, like I had to kind of let go of like it isn't just about like me and my career and being able to say I had lined my own festival. It's like, no, I just actually durated festival and I don't even headline it. I just know part of the bigger story. Taking that chance was like before it happened was certainly there was a lot of, you know, sort of psychology and philosophy in my brain about that decision and to sit side stage and see the crowd, seeing along to head and heart. And they had all been there for our set. Do the same thing the next day with Jude and Lyon and the Native Brothers. It just felt like incredibly satisfying. Well, that's a chance to make a change and have it work. And that's what I was going to ask you psychologically. Big picture. Are you most proud of something that you curated and watched grow and develop almost like a child or you're more proud of the best album that you ever wrote? I was still more proud of the best album I ever wrote. OK, all right. How about that? The music is essentially the thing that drives it all. I guess my new bucket list is to build my career to such a point that I can headline my own festival. That's right. You moved to the back or middle of the line. My name's on the door, guys. That's funny. Yeah. I like it. Well, man, Drew, I can't say how excited we were to talk to you. It's been a lot of fun and congratulations on all the success. And as a Chattanoogan, I couldn't thank you enough. And I don't speak for the city, but I think that we all feel the same. Thank you so much for taking a chance on Chattanooga. For somebody who took a chance to stay here for 20 years, it's nice to see the city grow around me. And I feel like I was on the foundation level of it. And watching people take chances on it the way that I took a chance on it feels really, really good. And boy, we can't thank you enough for it, man. Yeah, let me add on that. I don't know if anyone has ever specifically told you or explained, but I mean, when it was announced and then when it happened, it feels like a big, big moment in the city where a hump was when we moved over a hump, you know, like, OK, OK. Yeah, I equate it to for a long time, Chattanooga was wearing its dad's clothes. And finally, we grew up and we could buy our own suit now. Yeah. And we don't have to wear the hand me downs anymore. And it feels like we put on our big boy pants and our big clothes and we're finally starting to go out into the world and get our driver's license. I think that's right. Well, that certainly feels from my perspective like overstating it. But I'm honored to hear that it's meant a lot to the city. And we feel the same. I feel like I've been able to put on my big boy pants, passing the torch on and moving it there and having it be there. So it's a mutual affection. Well, thank you so much. Hopefully we'll maybe maybe we'll see about you going to come to Bonnaroo this year. I'm all right. It's pretty a lot of friends on that list and a lot of good shows. I've got a couple of days penciled in. Well, you got you got a spot of Camp Nut Butter to camp anytime you want, because I know you're going to be very hurting for lodging. Well, well, well, you got a home in Chattanooga for Moon River and you got a home in Manchester for Bonnaroo. One of the artists appearing at Bonnaroo, by the way, thanks again to Drew Holcomb. That was a really great chat. And I feel like we learned a lot. It's a nice perspective to put on to Bonnaroo and how massive an operation it is versus a ten thousand fester, ten thousand person festival. It's quite amazing. Now going to Bonnaroo, you know, you have a dream and you're an artist that shows up. We heard it from Paul Janeway last year when we talked to St. Paul and the Broken Bones. He went to Bonnaroo and said, all I want to do is make it to that stage to be in this festival to have my name on a lineup. And this year we found another newbie. We found another Bonnaroo former patron that now has turned into a spot on the poster patron to poster. It's fun, isn't it? It's one of those things that I don't think you know, going in, you don't watch for it, but we've done it enough times we can look back and see, you know, the moon taxi guys, the Avid brothers, all those, as we've said many times that, you know, this was a dream, a high school kid's high school dream. Yeah. And then lo and behold, here they are. Here they are. Illiterate Light. Luckily they made some time for us. I don't know how. I know that we're just a lonely old radio show in Chattanooga, but we got to talk to Illiterate Light a few days ago. All right. Hey Barry, how are you? Thanks for talking to us, man. We're talking to you for two reasons. One you're coming to the Signal next month, one of our local venues, but also added to the Bonnaroo lineup. So you guys got a lot happening. Yeah, man, the Who stage. We're excited about that. Yeah, we're all, we're all careers begin the Who stage of Bonnaroo. Now, have you ever, Jake, have you ever been to Bonnaroo before? Yeah, I have actually. Really? I'm trying to remember exactly what year, but I think right around 2009, I was right after my freshman year of college. And it was like the one time that me and a few of my cousins went out on a limb and drove out to the festival and did the whole experience. Well, 2009 was Bruce Springsteen, Fish, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails. Is that the year you were there? It was definitely Bruce Springsteen. Yeah, that was it then. He's done it a bunch. Yeah, that was it. So you got, you are, you went to the last show that Fish did at Bonnaroo and now you're playing the festival with their triumphant return to Bonnaroo. There's the link. That's pretty incredible. I remember, I wasn't at the time a big Fish fan, but I remember that being a really exciting moment and like going and seeing the show and just seeing like the massive amount of people that were just out of their minds and being like, oh man, this is an experience here. This is something to behold. Where did you guys come from? Where'd you drive in from? We're from Virginia. And that's where I was with the college in JMU in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Yes, I know a lot of people that went to JMU. I'm from Richmond. So JMU is like where all the kids went that didn't want to stay home. Exactly. Yeah, I grew up in Northern Virginia, right outside of DC. And it was the same story. It was like, if you're from Virginia and you're going to college, you're trying to get out and get to either JMU or Virginia Tech or if you've got the grades to go somewhere else, that's fine. Well, well, I had I had none of that. So I tried to go to VCU. Had you guys done a festival before? Has the Literary Light done a festival? No, no, no. Had you your friends? I'm trying to get this whole idea of going from you being a fan to now you're going to play it. Oh my gosh. Yeah. No, no. At that point when I was when I was freshman in college, that was my no, you know, I'm trying to think. I think in high school I did in Baltimore, there was a few years that I went to Virgin Mobile Festival, which which was an insane lineup for. Yeah, it was like the first concert I ever went to was there. And it was like Wolf Mother. It was before they broke and they were playing like Friday afternoon at four p.m. and that was like my first concert ever. And I was just like, whoa, this is a pretty wild experience. And then Red Hot Chili Peppers and the police and all kind of all kind of crazy people on that tour on that festival. And then I think that was like close enough to home that I think we just drove into the day. Bonnaroo was the first time it was like me and some friends and cousins just like camping on our own, you know, figuring out the whole thing. That's a long drive from JMU, man. That's a long drive. You must have had like what got you, what hooked you to say we want to go to Bonnaroo? You know, I mean, I think we had just one of my cousins from Alabama. And so she was a little closer and had a friend that had gone a year before. And there were a few bands playing that year that I had kind of like been tracking with. I think there was some right beforehand. I think I'd already bought the tickets well before this, but I really had fallen in love with Dirty Projectors. They were playing that year and it was like I saw them play in D.C. and then like two days later saw them at Bonnaroo. And the same with TV on the radio. And just like a number of bands that I was just like in love with were playing. So Bonnaroo was like a pretty easy choice for me at that stage. Something that's kind of within eight hours and has every band I want to see. And frankly, Jake, let's be honest with each other. You were probably 21. You didn't give a damn. You know? I don't think I was. I was 19 and doing some of my first experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. Nice. What? Cut this interview now. I was a late bloomer. Yeah. Do any of the other, to your knowledge, have any of the other guys in the band been to Bonnaroo before? No, it's just me and Jeff and he has not been to Bonnaroo. So what are you telling him about it? You know, I feel like we've heard that as artists coming in, it's a pretty wild experience. But we were kind of just going to ride in and soak up the whole thing. And yeah, I don't I don't have a lot of information. I remember it being quite a quite a large festival and the place where I certainly had the bands I wanted to see, but then spent a lot of time just wandering around. And I feel like we'll do the same thing this time. Are you staying? Are you staying the whole four days or are you just doing the day that you have to play or you're getting out? We're still doing some routing around that time period with our agent. So we're not quite sure yet. So tell me so tell me about the band. Tell me about you guys in general. It's just the two piece, right? It's guitars and drums, huh? Yep. That's the basic. I'm I'm playing drums and I'm playing a standing drum kit. That's kind of a weird version of a regular drum kit that I kind of just piece together for this band. And then Jeff is playing guitar and he's also playing a synthesizer with his feet that's playing. It's a bass synthesizer, kind of looks like an organ foot pedal. And he's singing lead. I'm thinking harmony with him. And we're both on stage just giving it all we got the whole time. So it's pretty fun. Pretty fun thing to be a part of. It seems to me like you guys are pretty intense on stage. We like we love we love rock rock energy, rock music. That's kind of what we grew up like. I grew up listening to so many so much weird stuff. But the point where Jeff and I really meet in our history of music is just, you know, loving the energy of getting in people's faces and feeling the whole the crowd kind of pushing back against us. And that's kind of like what we kind of are seeking out with these shows, I think. What was it like for you guys getting the call that you were going to be doing the what stage and sort of where does it fit in the career path or career list of goals? Yeah, man, we had we were kind of like hopeful for, you know, this season is a lot of changes for us going on and starting to work with a booking agent, starting to work. You know, we've been Jeff and I have been in a few other bands together for the last eight to 10 years of our friendship. We've been in other bands. We've run a farm together. We've pretty much been close friends and partners on so many projects. And this this illiterate light has been three years of just like pedal to the metal, everything into this project and with just him and I really simplified a lot of stuff. But yeah, so so we've been doing everything ourselves up until just very recently, bringing some some team members on board management and learning how to work with different people like that. And so it's the first time that we've even been on the radar of like, could we play a Bonnaroo stage? Like, that's insane. Wow, and to get the yeah, to go from, you know, last year at this time, I'm sending out hundreds of emails trying to get a single response from any venue across the country to play any show to the now like, man, somebody is, you know, somebody wants us to play Bonnaroo. That's that's a mind blowing. It still hasn't really sunk in, I guess, especially since I experienced that. When I was when I was 19, was sort of when I really was like, man, music is so important to my life. But I don't know, I'm in college. I don't know if it's what I'm not studying music. I don't know how to be a rock musician. I'm just going to like, enjoy it. But there were some bands at that time that were really kind of speaking to me as a as like, man, I could do that. Like, I think I think I want to do that, or I could do that. And I didn't know how to form it. But that was definitely a big thought going on for me at Bonnaroo. Well, so how did you so how did you form it? How did you get from point A to point B? I think it's like music has always kind of been a part of my. I've kind of had to drum and had to write songs to get through a lot of stuff going on in my life. It's been a great just thing to be involved in, whether it was like high school marching band or forming my own rock band. It was just something I always put a ton of energy into. And my father is a painter, like a visual artist. And he's been able to support our family by just being an artist for our whole life. And that's a really inspiring thing for me to have a father who is super artistic, but able to also like sanity of I need to do this in a way that's going to support my family. And, you know, I'm I'm doing what I love, but I'm also a sane human. So, yeah, I don't know. I got a lot of encouragement throughout college from my family to study something, something that would lead to a job. I studied health science and I worked as an EMT for a while. In the midst of that, I loved that and I love that work. But I had a lot else going for me in the sense of, I don't know, getting the idea of being in a hospital setting for the rest of my life started to become a sort of being really claustrophobic. It doesn't sound like a hospital. Sounds like a prison. Right. Yeah, it gets a little scary. So yeah, I remember a very vivid number of shows. Actually, that the Dirty Projectors show in D.C. that then led to me going to Bonnaroo and then seeing another Dirty Projectors show where this band called The Gibbers opened for them. And it was just it was like a few just like a few moments in those shows, that string of shows where I was just like, there's something special about music that I don't quite know how to describe. But then like, and it pushed you to just go for it. Yeah. Like it wasn't right away. It wasn't like now I'm going to be a rock musician. But it was like, hey, I'm already all of my free time is going into band, you know, writing music, booking shows, doing whatever, just because I love it. And it's sort of like that was also right around when I was meeting Jeff. He was in a similar he's kind of since he was eight years old, wanted nothing more than to play music for a living. So he's everything for him has kind of been like barreling towards that. So we kind of met each other at a time where both of us were really looking for that and not not finding the right people like Ian Harrison Berg or at JMU. It was like there's a lot of good musicians here, but there's there's something about the level of drive and clarity that both of us had when we met that just sort of it was like, hey, this isn't going to happen overnight, but we're kind of going to be in this together for a while. Or are you are you OK with that? And we sort of took off at that point. So with that in mind, and it may be too early to tell because I imagine you just got the word a couple of weeks ago, but getting this gig, what does that do? Does that now be like, hey, we can do this? And all in? Yes. Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah. It's very it really legitimizes a lot of, you know, the effort that we're putting in. But it's also just like it's still hasn't quite sunk in yet. You know, like we also got we're playing a small stage at Lollapalooza. We're playing shaky knees. These are some like big level festivals that were just like every time we hear that that's happening for us, it's like, man, that's a that's a whole different size of crowd that like we're so excited to feel the energy and how does our music spread out over that that space? And we played some smaller festivals. But but yeah, that's like just a different it's different to see our name. Right. We love we love seeing our name as the tiniest little thing on this massive poster, you know, hit lines by the bands that are our heroes. And the best part and the best part of it all is that you you get to share that experience that you one time had to share as a fan. You now get to share it as you know, feeling legitimized as an artist. That's got to be incredibly, incredibly rewarding. So man, congratulations and good luck on all of it. And by the way, you've got some hell of a booking agent, that's for sure. You got some. Yeah, they're working they're working their butts off for us. Yeah. So we're very grateful for their work. You've done you've done a pretty nice job at listening to you talk about your story. You've done a pretty masterful job explaining to maybe a kid who's listening to this podcast exactly how you can possibly do it and get to Bonnaroo and do and become an artist yourself and do exactly what Jake's doing. And by the way, get the name of his booking agent. Yeah, all the things that he did and get his booking agent. It'll help you monstrously. The team really matters. But yeah, man, Jake, Jake, we can't wait to see you, Bonnaroo. Thanks so much, man. We can meet you. You're welcome at Camping Up Butter backstage behind the witch stage any day, buddy. Hey, I love to hear it. Drew Holcomb to Illiterate Light now to you, the Bonnaroovian. Welcome to the What Podcast. Again, that's Barry Courter. I'm Brad Steiner. And over the past few weeks since we started the podcast, we've been giving you a chance to win tickets to Bonnaroo with a camping pass. And all you had to do is just say hello to us or drop a comment to the what podcast dot com or on Twitter or on the pod beam or a review. It didn't matter. We put all your names into a big big hat and it's time to actually pull the winner and give them a surprise phone call. Yeah, that's pretty cool. Very exciting. And I think she'll be able to find a home for these two. Who are we? Who are we calling? Celeste Ed. Celeste. All right, let's do it. Hi, Celeste. Hey there. It is indeed Celeste Brad Steiner, Barry Courter from the What Podcast. How are you, dear? I am great. How are you guys? Oh, doing fine. Porky pine. We're just so many. So few days away from Bonnaroo. It feels like when we look up, we're going to be, you know, knee deep in the middle of summer in a field in Manchester together. You you sent us a you sent us a note to a little while ago, a few weeks ago. Barry, what did it say? That's what I was just looking for. Unprepared, unprofessional and unprepared. Yeah, there it is. Whatever you are. Well, I would have memorized it, but it's about 55 pages long. It's a book. It's literally a book. She liked it. Would you like a job at the Chattanooga Times Free Press? Yeah, exactly. Paid by the word. She liked I was listening to AJR. OK. She likes whatever we're talking about. Uncomfortable incident with a wolf spider. That's right. You found the third bug ever at Bonnaroo then. At this point, at this point, a bug is a headliner. So what happened with the wolf spider? Oh, gosh. So we had a we have a like a changing shower potty temp. And one was definitely just chilling in there. Just hanging out. The scenery is great. Right. I don't know. We have to we chase them out of our spot like the wolf spiders. Like when we get there that day, we Wednesday, we have to chase them out of our spot. But they're pretty much gone. Like, yeah, it's rough over there in group camping with the spider. So you so you this is something you've seen before? Wolf spiders? Yeah. Wow. OK. The reason I say that is because we have gone on time and time again on this show basically saying that we've never seen a bug at Bonnaroo. They must do something to like coat the entire farm with some sort of pesticide that I don't know. Nobody's actually gone on the record to say it. I think maybe the noise also sort of runs them off. But it's they're not bad after the first day. But that first day out in the campgrounds, the wolf spiders are everywhere. Wow. Wow. Amazing. Yeah. All we've ever had is the skunk. Yep. Just a skunk, random skunk. Well, you know what? I'll take a wolf spider over a skunk any day. It was one of those moments where I think I told the story before, but it was one of those moments where you're just sitting at camp and just watching it come closer and closer and closer to you. There's nothing you can do. Right. Literally nothing you can do. Nothing we could do. And like I said, it could have gone very badly. Yeah. For the whole weekend. Yeah. So so what are you excited about this year? I'm assuming you've been several times. You always use group, I guess. Yes, I do. Nice. Well, one of the biggest things I'm excited about is reuniting with my Bonnaroo family. Of course. There's a bunch of us and we come from all over the place. Yeah. But thanks to Bonnaroo, we've started hanging out with each other on the off season and traveling to visit each other. So that's always number one for me is seeing the family. I'm one of those people who jump on the tickets like the pre-sale tickets before the lineup even comes out. Sure. Because, you know, at the top of my lineup is the Bonnaroo fam. But musically this year, Odessa, a lot of people are bummed that they're bringing their same show that they've been touring for a while. But I don't want to be selfish, but I've never seen it. So I'm excited. Yeah. That's that Jim James and John Prine slot though. That doesn't cause you any- It is. It is. Well, I didn't get into MMJ until the last time they were at Bonnaroo. So I'm not deep, deep into them. I discovered Donna Missal actually because you guys mentioned her at the end of one of your episodes. So I was like, hey, I'll check her out. And I'm super stoked about her. Yeah, she's got a great voice, man. I might try to get on the rail for that for the first time in my Bonnaroo career. Is she in a tent? Where is she? She is. I think she's in this tent maybe. I thought, for some reason I thought that she was going to be a cafe artist, but yeah, they put her on a tent. Look at that. And believe me, it's an early enough show. You'll be fine getting on the rail. I don't think you're going to have to be fighting the crowd at the Donna Missal show. Although she's got a great voice. That voice is really superb. It is powerful. Yeah. Well, we I what other years have you been to Bonnaroo, by the way? I started coming in 2014 and I haven't missed a year since. So this will be year six for me. And how many in the group? All of my years I've camped in group camping. But as a whole group, we've been together for four years. How many of you? At the core, there's probably about 25 of us. Yeah. But we each wind up bringing newbies in every year. So I think this year we're up to 37 or 38. Did you meet did you meet them all at Bonnaroo or did you or they all people that you've known for years? I will try to make this as short as possible. It's a podcast. We got all the time in the world. In 2014, that was the first year I decided I was going to go to Bonnaroo. And some acquaintances from town have gotten a group spot but didn't realize they needed to fill it with 24 people in order to meet the minimum and keep it. So they wound up recruiting me and a close friend of mine. And her and I joined them. But we wound up having to combine with another group that didn't meet the 24 person minimum. And through that, we had gotten some we got in touch with some girls from InfoRoo who were looking for a group to camp with. And so they were from Ohio, we're from Georgia, we linked up with some people from Pennsylvania. And we had our 24. And all of us didn't wind up coming back the next year. But myself and my friend that came with me, and then some of the girls we found on InfoRoo wound up making a group the following year. And so we we failed to meet the minimum. So we combined with another group a bunch of wacky Canadians. And we wound up keeping some of those Canadians for the following year. Some of the Canadians made the cut. That's really good to know. They did. They did. So we just kind of that kept on throughout the years. And then finally, I think it was three years ago, we were struggling to meet the minimum. And I reached out to another group leader from Massachusetts. And she and I were like, we were exactly alike, we have the same music case. And so her group and my group joined. And basically, we meet our minimum every year just with us. The cast of thousands from Canada and Ohio and Georgia, and then her people from Massachusetts. And she had a group from South Carolina. And that's awesome that people from Wisconsin and we're just from all over the place. And we're like all pretty much best buds now just because of Bonnaroo. What are some good do's and don'ts for group camping? What kind of thing gets you uninvited or makes you first being Canadian popular? Yeah, I just want to mean, you know, it's putting a bunch of people together is always such a tricky thing for everybody to get along. But what are some things you've learned that work and don't work? Well, do bring things to share. We try to have like, we attempt every year to have a potluck on Wednesday night, we call it Rue Year's Eve. Because we all get it, we all try to get there Wednesday night. And so we all bring food to share. We never wind up doing it because we all get weird in the entrance line. And so we all don't get there at a normal hour. So throughout the weekend, we wind up just snacking on all of the food that we brought for the potluck that was supposed to be on Wednesday. And do also try to carpool as best as you can. The thing with group is they give you one car parking pass for every three people in your group. So basically, it only works if everybody's coming three or more to a car. So you got to get as many people into one car as possible. And then also, you know, just like don't be a space hog. Don't bring a bunch of unnecessary stuff. Oh, we're out. We're all about the square footage. I bring, well, I mean, my easy up is 10 foot by 20 foot. But half of it is dedicated to like making the quote living room space that we all kind of share throughout the weekend. So, you know, just do try to be considerate of how much stuff you bring. Again, I bring a lot. I'm one of those people who like want to be prepared for every possible situation that can arise. Yeah, me too. But unfortunately, all the situations that arise are 800 square feet of carpeting, two couches and potted plants, a mirror, a fulling mirror. We've got some carpet. We've got an RV mat that goes down. But we share, we do a very good job of organizing and sharing our like our living space. So we're just sort of one big happy family in a compound all weekend. Well, I love to hear it. And what's even better is we're really happy to tell you that your group will be with two more people this year because you are the name that we drew for the tickets this year. So congratulations. You just won a pair of tickets to Bonnaroo. What? Yeah, I hope you can find two more people. There you go. Oh my gosh. Your group campers. That's amazing. Your group camping just got added by two. Just got two more people. Hey, well, I thought you meant that you guys were going to come join and I was like, well, we got space. After all of the entries and boy, we had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of entries. We picked your name out of the hat. So congratulations, dear. Oh my gosh. Thank you, guys. That's amazing. Yeah. And we can't wait to meet you at Bonnaroo and hopefully, you know, get to kick it with you for a little while. By the way, because, you know, we have so many people out in group now that we want to go see. Yeah, it seems to me like that's where we got to be. Absolutely. You really got to come check it out. Like a lot of stuff goes down there. Super group and rhetoric. They they are do some pretty amazing stuff with their setup. That's awesome. I'm going to be so jealous. I'm going to be so jealous. Thank you so much for keeping the Bonnaroo spirit alive and congratulations. Thank you, guys. All right. There you go. Celeste, Illiterate Light, Drew Holcomb, Barry Courter, Brad Steiner. I mean, that's a top line. Another award winning episode. Another award winning episode. What awards have we won? I don't know. I'm going to you make one up for me and I'll make one up for you and it will be award winning. It will be podcasting. That's Barry Courter. I'm Brad Steiner. I'll see you next week on the What Podcast.