On this episode of The What Podcast, hosts Brad, Barry, and Lord Taco take a break from Roo news to dive into Merlefest, one of the oldest, biggest, and coolest family-friendly festivals on the circuit.
The crew is joined by Merlefest's Artist Relations Manager Lindsay Craven, who chats with them about how the festival has grown to become a favorite of family audiences and artists alike. They also talk about this year's event, which features Brothers of a Feather with Chris and Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, The Avett Brothers, Maren Morris, Nickel Creek, and more.
Listen above as Lindsay Craven enlightens Brad, Barry, and Lord Taco about the inner workings of Merlefest. You can also watch the full discussion below via YouTube. Also, remember to like, review, and subscribe to The What wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow the Consequence Podcast Network for updates on all our shows, and snag our "Radiate Positivity" T-shirt on the Consequence Shop.
Guest: Lindsay Craven
|11:15||How would you describe MerleFest, the three-day festival in North Carolina held each April? And, what are they doing so right that bands call them asking to be on the lineup?|
|17:45||Bonnaroo fans often poing to 2020 as the best lineup that never happened, but MerleFest in North Carolina also had a pretty stellar schedule planned. Can you guess who was on the bill that COVID shut down?|
Welcome back into the What Podcast?
Barry Courter, Taco and Brad.
How are you?
I'm doing super.
I'm doing super.
Before we step out of our Bonnaroo comfort zone and talk a little Merlefest this week,
I wanted to circle the room and see if there's anything big that might have happened that
I might have missed over the last couple of days.
I hear we've got a couple of bits of news, Barry Courter?
What are you talking about?
The late night schedule from Bonnaroo?
You're talking about personally around my house.
Well, I know.
We've got the late night lineup.
What's dad's personal stuff around the house?
What's he doing?
I'm hanging sheetrock today, man.
Life is good.
It doesn't get any better than that.
Is that code for something sexual?
I wish it was.
I'll be playing in the mud.
This is getting really overtly sexual.
Come over and help.
Come on, guys.
What is it Denzen says?
Elbows to asshole.
I'll be elbows to asshole in the driveway.
Taco, when's the last time you hung some sheetrock?
You know what I mean?
You know I'd be hanging it.
I know you do.
But the late night sets, I think the one that caught your eye, Barry Courter, of course,
is the Shaq Diesel set that I'm sure you are really excited about.
I'm very excited.
Actually, it's a really good lineup.
We can go through it here real quick if you want.
We knew about my morning jacket because we found that out months ago.
But what else did I miss?
Who else is going to be there?
So Thursday, Zed's dead, Liquid Stranger, 07 O Shake, Big Freedia, your fave.
I love Freedia.
I love Freedia.
That is going to be a twerking explosion.
Are you ready, Barry?
Are you ready to twerk?
You got to.
Get ready to hang some sheetrock.
I bet Big Freedia can hang some sheetrock.
Neighbor of Diarrhea Planet and Dad is the rest of that night.
I love, man, I love Diarrhea Planet.
That's probably the show I'm most excited about on Thursday, Diarrhea Planet.
Anyway, but the thing about Freedia is that you can't walk six blocks in New Orleans
without seeing or hearing some sort of Big Freedia coming out of somebody's house.
And you know what's happening in that house.
The balance is on.
And then Friday, what do we got Friday, Saturday, Sunday?
Friday, I'm going to go in kind of reverse order because I want to mention something.
Boogie T, Dirt Monkey, and Sub Doctor.
Diesel, which you just mentioned, our man Shaq.
I'm really looking forward to that.
Destroy Lonely, The Midnight, our friend Sylvanessa, and Subtronics, and Wolf Pack.
And I said them last because I just stumbled across a YouTube video the other day comparing
Weather Report and their song Teen Town to Wolf Pack's Dean Town.
I didn't know anything about Wolf Pack.
I know Weather Report very well.
So I was kind of curious to have stumbled across that.
So you're not hungry like the wolf?
I'm going to be.
Yeah, I'm actually very excited to see that.
And then Sunday?
Or is that Friday?
I'm going to be in my favorite band, My Morning Jacket, Korn, Louis the Child, J.I.
Jid, and SPS 9.
So which one are you choosing?
Are you choosing My Morning Jacket or Korn?
Because I am sure that they're going to be in the exact same time slot.
I'm going to do My Morning Jacket.
I could probably go see Korn and the other four during the time that I'm going to guess
My Morning Jacket is going to be on stage.
My Morning Jacket show is going to be pretty fantastic.
They're going to have a whole thing around that show and the anniversary, not the anniversary,
but looking back at their set from years ago in the rain.
I can't wait.
You know, I've said this a lot about My Morning Jacket.
I don't necessarily think that they are, for me, the easiest sessionable band.
Just put them on and listen to it.
I've never really experienced them that way that I've loved.
But man, that live show is something so special and so fun and big.
And it's going to be big.
It's going to be a moment.
And it's going to be one of those magical, boner moments that I don't think that you
want to miss.
I can listen to them while I'm working around the house, hanging sheetrock, but that's where
I'm a little different.
But I agree.
It's something completely different.
What about Tako?
Is Tako doing corn or My Morning Jacket?
Probably a little of both.
A little of column A, a little of column B.
You would be the guy.
I know that there's somebody around the farm that has gone to every show in the history
At least there was, like seven, ten years ago, there was a guy that was specifically
trying to hit every stage and try to go to every band.
I don't know if he's still around anymore, but that would be what Tako would want to
He would want to go to every, if you could do one year where you just go five minutes
at every single show, I think you could do it.
Sounds like the path to madness.
Well, yeah, you can tick off all the bands you've seen, but then describe it.
What did you say?
What are you going to come away with?
It was a run by.
And then, and then finish this up on, well, there's nothing on Sunday.
There's no late night on Sunday.
Let me close out the Foo Fighters.
We do have tickets to give away for Bonners.
MGA, we'll talk about that here in a second.
But you want to jump into Merle Fest.
Explain how you came across Merle Fest with, I mean, this festival has been around forever
and so many, so few people actually know about it.
I would say I'm like a lot of people.
I've heard about it forever and probably like a lot of people thought it was a Merle Haggard
type of festival.
It's Merle Travis.
And is that right?
I knew I was going to get that wrong.
See, that's so funny because I didn't even think about Merle Haggard.
The first person I thought about was Merle Travis.
Everybody knows Merle Travis.
But I knew about it forever.
I mean, long before I think I even really knew much about Bonnaroo.
It's just one of those well-respected, well-loved, kind of independent.
It's one of those if you know, you know, kind of festivals, I guess.
But I think even people who don't go have at least heard of it.
So the folks that run it reached out and asked if we would like to have Lindsay on as a guest
and she was great.
I just love, I love the boutique festival that knows their lane and stays in it and
sort of expands their wings inside of that space.
And it feels as though Merle Fest has got that in spades.
They've really sort of figured out exactly what their bread and butter is.
And boy, oh boy.
I mean, every lineup that I've seen, I mean, going back how many years now, huge.
And Tanya Tucker this year.
I know, I mean, I'm not, I know it's kind of crazy to sit here and wax poetic about
Tanya Tucker, but I really love Tanya Tucker.
What a festival and what an interesting story because they have survived this long without
the majors sort of tinkering and coming in and buying it, rearranging the deck chairs
and trying to make it a corporate entity.
No, it stayed homegrown.
And the part that is fascinating to me is that they did all of this with no booze money.
I know, right?
They're doing all of this on a dry festival for families.
And I always think that the booze money makes all this stuff go around, but they're doing
it without it.
And they're doing it pretty successfully.
I think there's a couple of things that stand out.
You'll hear in this, that's one, the size of the crowd, which is a 70 to 80,000 people.
I mean, who knew?
This year, Little Feet, Marcus King, Tanya, you mentioned, Tommy Emmanuel, Sam Bush, who's
a regular there, the Avett Brothers.
The Avett Brothers.
Every couple of years, right?
I mean, and that's the third thing that stood out to me is they are so well respected that
the artists pretty much reach out to them.
They don't have to go sell it and go heavy shopping.
The artists want to play there because they enjoy it so much.
And so let's do that.
Merle Fest on the What Podcast.
Lindsay, welcome in to the What Podcast.
How are you?
How are you?
Barry, you brought this festival up to me and sort of like the genus of it and like
the soul of it.
It feels like something that, well, you describe it the way that you described it was the best,
Well, I'm excited about having Lindsay.
Lindsay is Books' Merle Fest.
And I have to admit, I was trying to think before we got on here, I can't remember whether
I heard of Merle Fest first or like Lollapalooza or Coachella or some of the others first.
Merle Fest has been around.
Since I was in diapers.
The other day.
And it's just from the first time I heard about it, it's just been cool.
I don't know how else to, you know, I've never heard a bad thing about it.
So that's number one.
Number two, we like to on this show, you know, get the inside baseball kind of stuff, which
we've done many, many times with our friends from Live Nation and AC Entertainment, how
they book big and small, you know, local and big.
But this is a chance to talk about Merle Fest, which is an independent festival.
You guys are.
And so I just wanted to hear how they, how they've done it.
Well, the way that you say it, it was like, it's just cool in that it feels like it feels
like Jazz Fest for a certain different type of genre.
You look at this lineup and there's, I don't know, 200 bands on it.
You know, like last year, you know, anything from Duran Jones to, you know, Joe Smothers
to it was a T. Graham Brown was on it one year.
Like there's like a certain Americana old crow medicine show ish vibe to all of this
that feels so lovely.
Tell me about like the origins of Merle Fest and how it got to 1988 to now.
So it was created by the college and Doc Watson as a fundraiser 35 years ago.
And it's what they wanted to start a garden of the census.
So if you're not familiar with Doc Watson, he was blind.
So they wanted to create, they wanted to up the grounds of festival because it takes place
off the campus of Wilts community college.
So they wanted to improve the grounds and create this garden at the census.
So they started, they decided to do this fundraiser and it was additionally going to be an indoor
But the demand for it grew so much that they outgrew the indoor space.
And it was actually Rosalie Watson's idea to move it outside.
And they set it up on a flatbed truck.
That was their first stage.
We're actually using that in our marketing this year as part of our 35th anniversary.
The image of that does does does the flatbed truck stage still exist?
No, it doesn't still exist, but we still have images and lots of history from that.
But so they set it up there, had an amazing first year.
And the name Merle Fest actually didn't come around until after the first year.
They started getting lots of phone calls.
What was it called the first year?
It was just the Merle Watson Memorial Festival or Memorial show.
But they started getting phone calls asking of when they were going to bring this event
And somebody called and said, when are you going to have that Merle Fest again?
And so it just stuck, you know, that started getting passed around and they decided to
Since ever since it's been Merle Fest and we're going 35 years strong this year.
So Barry mentioned it being totally independent with no Live Nation or C3 that we're so typically
used to hearing every time.
How does the process work for you guys when Merle Fest comes around, you know, late April?
When does the next Merle Fest begin?
How do you operate the grounds?
Who is booking the artists?
What is the whole capacity of volunteers or staff look like?
So we've got a combination of staff and volunteers.
We have a huge volunteer base throughout the year.
We have volunteers that get the grounds ready.
We have volunteers who prep getting credentials and all that stuff together.
And then we have a full time staff that does all the other things.
I'm the talent buyer.
So I do all the booking of music.
I've got a crew of people, some of our other full time staff that sit on a panel with us
and kind of go over things, throw out suggestions.
And then, you know, there's me and the festival director and one other staff member kind of
narrow it down.
So we've got, you know, people who handle doing the hotels and people who handle the
site operations because it's a once a year festival.
So we've got some permanent fixtures.
Our main stage is a permanent fixture and our cabin stage.
A couple other stages permanently live there, but we set up a lot for the weekend.
So if you don't have the truck bed stage anymore, how many stages are you working with now?
We're at a total of 12 now.
Oh my God.
So how do you keep all that straight as the main talent booker?
Do you farm out some of the other stages to the people that work for you?
Or are you, when you see a band, you know exactly what stage they're going to go on,
exactly what time, et cetera?
Oftentimes when I'm looking at a band, I know what stages I'm thinking of for them.
You know, we have kind of themes to some of our stages.
We have a dance stage.
So obviously that one's more upbeat dance oriented music and then a traditional stage
where we focus more of our old time bluegrass music.
I've got a Creekside stage.
That one is sponsored by Come Here North Carolina, which is part of the North Carolina Department
of Cultural Resources.
So we focus some more North Carolina acts there and then the other stages are a little
But yeah, we don't, we don't farm any of that out.
That's all, that's all on me.
Is it, is it a hundred percent new each year?
Like you said, David's come what, you know, every other year or something.
Are there other acts that you pretty much are penciled in, you know, either every year
or every other year, every third year?
Yeah, we have a list of acts, some of which had been with us all 35 years, acts like Sam
Bush, Jerry Douglas.
Jerry hasn't made it every year, but he's been close.
Peter Rowan, T. Michael Coleman and Joe Smothers, some of those guys who played with Doc in
So those have been coming with us every single year and they stay on the lineup.
See that's one of the things that's a little bit different, right?
Cause people know they're going to be there and I'm going to guess the artists know they're
going to, I mean, they're not doing the same set every year.
They're probably having guests come up and join them.
I mean, it becomes a, a, a picking night type of thing, right?
I mean, that's, I would, I would assume as a fan, that's why I'm going.
I'm going to see Sam Bush play with whoever else is on the lineup, right?
They often invite, you know, different acts up.
If Sam's there, depending on his schedule, sometimes he's not there for the entire weekend,
but last week, last year he was, I didn't even know where Sam was going to pop up.
That man was all over the festival grounds.
He showed up with Sierra whole.
He was up with nitty gritty dirt band.
He, he was everywhere.
I think, I think Brad, that that's part of what I was alluding to.
And I mean, it's just cool.
You don't know, you know, it's not like you're going to follow a schedule.
You just go and see what happens.
Well, I kind of like, I kind of like this idea of like where your head is at when, when
you book some of these things, you must really love bluegrass.
But we aren't just bluegrass.
A lot of people assume that it's a bluegrass festival.
We doc named us traditional plus, and that's what we like to go by.
We actually, that's also Barry's waist size.
Just to call that custom.
I think if anything, we probably skew a little more Americana than anything.
But we have a little bit of, which is why, which is why.
We do some classic.
So how long have you been talent, the talent booker?
I started in July of 2018.
So you've been a talent for five years, now five years.
Who was the hardest to book?
What are you most proud of?
Well, we were very excited, unfortunately, about our 2020 lineup.
That was set to be our biggest year before we canceled.
I think a lot of festivals had like this dream lineup that just came together.
That was the year you had the stones, wasn't it?
No, we had Willie Nelson though.
So we were close.
We had Willie and Allison Krauss and John Prine, sadly.
And it was just, it was a huge lineup.
Billy Strings was on the lineup.
And we just, some of those we haven't been able to recreate since, because they've really
blown up since, you know, we had them on the lineup.
So it's harder to get them now.
But, but you know, everything we've put together so far has been great.
Well, because of its established situation, is it a hard festival to, I mean, it may be
not for you to answer because I don't know if you've ever booked other festivals, but
does it feel like a hard festival or is it one you have people calling you want to play
and the hard part is for you to, you know, manipulate and make it work?
Or I guess what I'm, are you out chasing or do you, is it coming to you or a little bit
It's a little balance of both.
We actually, we get a surprising number.
I think what people would be surprised by the amount of artists that reach out to us
that are typically outside of our budget that want to come just because it's Moral Fest,
it's just because of Doc.
They either, they're wanting to, you know, establish a different kind of a reputation
or really grow their fan base.
So we've had a lot of that actually, you know, we actually, we've had a couple this year
who've reached out to us.
Sometimes it doesn't always work.
They catch us a little too late and we don't necessarily have a spot that's appropriate
for their caliber.
So we'll have to push it off to the next year, but we definitely get people reaching out
wanting to come play the festival.
And then we have to chase them down too.
Ben Barry, 1988, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Chet Atkins, Bella Fleck, Earl Scruggs, give
me a break.
Well, I was just sitting here thinking you had Willie.
You had Willie and John Prine.
Just what you were saying, I'm betting those two can play anywhere they wanted to.
I'm betting they said, I want to play Moral Fest.
We'll make the numbers work.
You know, they can price themselves out of anywhere to your point.
And to your point, Brad, it's amazing.
And it's been this independent since the beginning.
I wonder, and this is going to be, you know, pretty inside baseball.
Has C3 or Live Nation or an AEG offered to buy you?
I'm not privy to that.
If they have, I wouldn't be surprised.
I know I've had not people of that caliber, but I've had people try to hire me as a talent
buyer in hopes that they get Moral Fest under their umbrella.
Yeah, because there's just so few of festivals like you, you know, Boston Calling being one
of them up until last year.
You know, it just feels as though every time you find one of these independent festivals,
at some point, one of the big operators are going to gobble it up and to see you guys
continually doing this since 1988, you know, that's got to be really impressive.
And also at the same time, you know, if I'm one of the big operators, Barry, I probably
look around and be like, what's it going to take for us to buy these people?
What more do we have to do here?
So for other people, Brad, who's never been, Barry, who's never been, describe the festival.
It's on a campus, right?
Is it camping?
It's not a city fest?
I mean, how does all that sort of...
So there is some on-site camping and some RV spots.
The bulk of the camping is off-site, but close by within walking distance to the festival.
And we're a lot different in that we are a dry festival, which is pretty unusual amongst
festivals these days.
And we're family friendly.
We kids 12 and under get in free with a paying adult, of course.
We have a school day on Fridays where our high school and middle school kids come on
campus and attend the festival for Friday for free.
We do school outreach.
So we're a little more community oriented than most festivals.
And it's just a different vibe on site.
It's more about the music than the festival vibe.
When does everything wrap up usually on an evening?
So Thursdays we start a little later.
That's our first day.
It starts at three and then we go till about 10-ish.
Fridays and Saturdays we go from 11 in the morning till about 11 at night.
And then Sundays about 11 AM till five or six in the evenings.
The people that I know that have gone talk about the camping aspect.
So I just as...
Yeah, there is camping.
We've got some very popular camping sites nearby.
Our YMCA operates a campsite called Rivers Edge.
There's one that's really popular called Sewer Fest.
That's been going probably almost as long as the festival.
So there's definitely a community of campers that come every year.
They get their campsites together and that's the time of year they get to see each other.
All right, Barry, we're going to play a little game.
Me and you.
Meet you in taco.
I'm going to give you a band name and you tell me if they have played Merle Fest before.
I'm going to go... let's start with My Bubba.
Real Merle Fest artist or fake Merle Fest artist?
I'll say real.
That is a real Merle Fest artist.
2005, were you there at that show?
Lindsay, were you there?
That one was a little before my time, but I do remember that.
Barry Courter, Lord Taco, real Merle Fest or fake Merle Fest.
Sounds delicious, but I'm going to say no.
We have a tie game that is a real Merle Fest artist.
They're a favorite.
Are they really?
They're a big favorite, yes.
Tell me about...
Everett, who doesn't like a good Shiny Ribs?
Tell me about Shiny Ribs.
They're from Texas, I believe Austin, and the lead singer is the most entertaining person
you will see in front of bands.
Every year has a huge crowd.
He's got people doing a conga line through the fields.
What are they playing?
What kind of music is it?
They've got a little bit of a bluesy sound to them, but they'd probably fall into that
Are they local?
No, they're about...
I think they're Austin, Texas.
Austin, that's right.
I got number three for you guys.
This may be break the tie.
Sack of puppies.
I'm going to say no only because I'm pretty sure that's a punk band that I probably say
I'm saying no.
All right, Lord Taco.
I'm also going to go no.
I'm taking under.
That is not a Merle Fest artist.
That is a Brad creation.
So we're still tied, so we need one more to break the tie for the last one for the win.
That could go either way.
Yeah, I think I'll say yes.
Well, this is not going to work to break the tie if you guys keep answering the same question.
Yeah, the answer is yes.
Now I'm running out of bands.
That's good though.
I like sack of monkeys.
Somebody's writing that down right now.
Or it's a puppies rather.
Sack of puppies.
Free band name.
Sack of puppies.
Sack of monkeys is the sack of puppies cover band.
Come on, Barry.
That's the pandemic.
Yeah, next year there's going to be a sack of monkeys for sure.
It's a pandemic version.
So who do you, I know you haven't released the lineup yet.
Or have you?
Did I miss something?
Yeah, we've got most of it out.
We'll release the last of it on Monday.
So who do you have so far?
So for Friday we have the Avett brothers.
We mentioned that.
And Marcus King is also on the lineup that night.
Black Opry Review will be playing on Friday night as well.
Saturday we've got Maren Morris headlining.
Sam Bosch will be playing.
And we're doing a Doc Watson 100th birthday jam that the Kruger brothers are going to
host for us.
And there'll be several guests on that.
Sunday we've got Nickel Creek, which we just announced this week.
Excited to see them back out on tour.
They were regulars at the festival before they took their time off.
We've got Tanya Tucker, which will be her first time to the festival.
Let me give you a little, let me give you a little inside.
You may already know, you said it's a dry festival.
You might want to have a little something, something for Tanya.
You know, the artists.
She was at River.
The artists do what the artists are going to do.
She was at Riverbend last year and she, she and Leslie Jordan like sharing a shot of something,
not Leslie, because I think he's sober, but anyway, she's got her own tequila line now,
So yeah, I'm sure she'll be traveling.
Every celebrity has a tequila line at this point.
So she'll be traveling with her own, I imagine.
The full line lineup comes out by when?
When is the full lineup going to be?
Monday the 13th.
Do you have any more headliners, any more headliners ready to go?
So Thursday we've got Brothers of a Feather, which is the Chris and Rich Robinson Black
Crows duo that they started doing right before COVID shut down.
And they haven't really put it back together since.
So it's their acoustic duo will be our Thursday night close.
We've got Little Feet playing before them and Tommy Emanuel before him.
Donald Buckleau or regular spores every year.
How about this?
Real Merlefest band on the 2023 lineup or fake Merlefest band, not on the 2023 lineup?
Yes, it is.
Or yes, it's a fake.
We have a winner.
You've won two tickets to Merlefest.
Can't wait to see adolescent puppy.
Adolescent sack of puppies.
Have you started, have you already started working on next year?
We are in the process.
We work usually at least a year out.
So when you say it's family friendly, what are the kids doing normally when the parents
are doing this kind of stuff?
It sort of feels a little jazz festy.
Am I wrong about that?
I think that's probably fair.
We have what we call our little pickers area.
That's for the kids.
We've got different community groups that set up craft areas.
They've got a wall they can paint across the weekend.
There's jugglers out in the field.
And then we've got a little picker stage where we focus younger acts to perform for the kids.
What's the crowd size?
Our average in the normal year is 70 to 80,000 across the weekend.
Did you hear that?
I told you this thing is cool, man.
So how many, there's got to be some sort of like a cooking competition.
We have, we do have food tents on site, but.
I was really hoping for like a, like a North Carolina like barbecue cooking competition.
That would be the place, right?
We have a lot of barbecue competitions around us throughout the year, so that might step
on some toes.
That's a huge number.
That's a massive number of people.
That's a massive number of people.
Where are they all coming from?
Are they, I mean, is it 50 states and beyond?
We get somebody from every state pretty much every year.
We we've got a strong foreign, you know, people come from other countries.
I know for a while we had a strong presence from India and several different countries.
Huge in Pakistan, huh?
I, I, it's gotta be a bucket list item for a lot of people.
I think it is.
When I was describing it to Brad, I mean, I'm telling you, I've been hearing about this
thing for a long, long time from, from a lot of music snob type people.
Well, that's where I heard.
Well, we all just assume when we hear, hear Merle Fest, we just assume it's Merle Haggard
And it's not that at all.
And you're right.
The more that you have always, you keep bringing it up to me and I always just sort of like,
oh yeah, the Merle Haggard Fest.
And you have to always remind me, no, no, no.
I always assume that it's in the middle of the country.
No, it's North Carolina.
To be as, as prolific as you guys have been since 1988 and still gaining, you know, people
like me and still actually having to teach the audience and teach new people what this
festival is, man, you guys think if it's 70, 80,000 now, what it could be in five years.
Along those lines, Lindsey, what's the secret?
Why do you think?
I mean, it's been around for a long, long time.
That's a lot of people.
That's a lot of people.
You have not only fans, but artists.
And obviously you're not selling liquor, which I mean is a huge revenue maker.
So what's the secret to keeping this thing not only going, but so relevant?
I think it's just, it's, I honestly believe it's just the vibe of the festival.
The fact that it is family friendly and that, you know, we have a lot of people who've been
coming since the beginning that have, you know, grown their families and continue to
bring their families and start a whole new tradition with each generation along the line.
You know, we're not far from a college campus.
We're about 30 minutes away from Appalachian State University.
So that I think helps keeps us relevant with the younger crowd paired with the artists
that we bring, like the Avett brothers and Maren Morris.
And then I think the artists help us with that too.
They keep us relevant because they share with other artists that, you know, we've had more
than a handful of them say, you know, this is where I'd like to come.
This is like summer camp for me to come here because I get to hang out with my friends.
The audience is here to listen to the music.
They're not loud and obnoxious.
You know, they're just there to enjoy.
So I really think that makes the biggest difference for us.
You know, Barry, it's so interesting.
I haven't thought about this, but how the music experience changes if you don't have
Because I mean, imagine how much more focused and into it you're going to be when I'm boozing.
I'm just screaming at Lord Taco.
You know, right?
So a lot less screams for free bird coming from the audience.
You're telling me in the middle of North Carolina, they're not screaming for free bird.
I don't know if I believe you.
Just as an outsider, I think if I were to pinpoint it, it's the musicians part of it,
because that's what I've heard.
The musicians want to play there and that, you know, that feeds back and forth and so
But that's what I've always heard.
That's a place where I've heard musicians say, I want to do that for whatever reason.
What a really interesting festival and great work on it.
I feel like I've learned so much and I feel so bad for assuming for so long.
And I won't lie about that.
I just assumed a million different things about this festival and the fact that it's
as independent as it is and you guys do as well as the job as you do.
It's really a testament to I mean, you must have a group of people that's been there since
day one who refuse to let this thing go away and keep the spirit alive.
So that's fascinating to watch.
That brings up a question I hadn't thought about.
It kind of goes back to your, you know, have you been approached with somebody trying to
Is it a struggle to keep the board, if you will, in line or is it pretty easy?
Everybody, you know, this is what we're about and this is what we're doing and, you know,
All of the people involved with the festival are very dedicated to keeping it as Doc wanted
it and as it was intended.
It's a fundraiser for the college and that's our purpose.
We know we're a nonprofit.
Our goal is to keep that campus going and growing and we make sure we honor what Doc
would have wanted at all times.
You know, it really helps.
Everything helps, Barry, when you don't worry about the profit center of it.
You know, everything becomes a little bit easier.
Man, it was so nice meeting you, Lindsay, and hopefully we'll get to North Carolina
soon enough from Earl Fest.
It's a very intriguing, very intriguing festival.
So good luck this year.
We'd love to have you.
Yeah, I'd love to.
Thanks so much for doing this.
This was fascinating.
Thank you, James.
See you soon.
There you go.
What are the dates on that again, Barry Courter?
April 27th to 30th.
So same first weekend of Jazz Fest.
So if you were to drive to Merle Fest, what is the drive like from you guys?
It's got to be a while, right?
It's a trek.
It's in North Carolina.
What's it close to?
That's not that bad, actually.
Yeah, that's not that bad.
Not too bad.
Yeah, the upper corner.
That's not so bad.
So the thing that we mentioned earlier in the show, we have Bonnaroo tickets.
How are we giving these away, Taco?
Did we ever come up with an idea for that?
I was about to ask you the same thing.
Well, stay tuned next week.
We'll find out how we're giving away these tickets.
No, we've got a bunch of people signed up on our mailing list.
So there's clearly interest.
People want to learn how to get these tickets.
So that's a good question.
We have a mailing list.
Yeah, we've always had a mailing list.
Well, let me take a note of that.
Is it like an email list?
Oh, all right.
Well, sign up for that.
And whoever signed up for that, we'll pick from one of those people.
What do you say?
We'll get somebody.
We'll find a fun way to pick it.
We need to do it pretty soon so that you guys, whoever wins, can make their arrangements.
We understand that.
So we'll do it pretty quick.
Yeah, I mean, last year we did an art submission.
I mean, you want to make us a GIF that we could do that?
I don't know.
We'll figure something out.
We'll have it figured out by next week.
Maybe write in a Bonnaroo story or memory or something that maybe will help stand out.
We'll have an official idea this time next week.
How about that?
I have no idea.
Stay tuned for our first ever official idea.
We'll talk to you next week on the What Podcast.