Jeff Cuellar was a key member of the teams that created such festivals as Bonnaroo, Railbird, Forecastle, and Moon River. For today's episode of The What Podcast, he joins Brad and Barry to talk about his roles with those events, as well as to chat about his new job with Sixthman, where he helps produce mini festivals on cruise ships and resorts around the world. Cuellar also goes over some of the changes made to The Farm before he left.
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Guest: Jeff Cuellar
|13:25||Sixthman Vice President of Partnerships Jeff Cuellar tells Brad and Barry why mini festivals aboard cruise ships are so popular with fans, and artists.|
|40:57||Jeff Cuellar was a part of Bonnaroo since the beginning and he tells Brad and Barry about how close the event was to happening in September before it was canceled due to an excessive amount of rain|
|48:10||Jeff Cuellar was a key part of the Bonnaroo festival team before taking a job with Sixthman in October and he tells Brad and Barry about some of the changes made to The Farm before he left.|
You're gonna be living within an hour of Barry Courter. I will. I could ignore him from 90 minutes away. Yeah. Let me give you a hint. I live to five minutes from Barry Courter and I still never saw him. So, you're in for a treat, my friends. What part of the country you in now? I'm currently still in Northern California, just outside the Bay Area. So you're leaving Northern California for Atlanta. You say it so so disparagingly. Like, I don't know. I'm making a good move here. Yes, yes, yes, I am. I am. And I will say the things there. There are there are less things I will miss than than things I will not miss. Why? Sure. That's a big thing. Let me just let me start with the obvious question. Have you ever been to Atlanta? Yeah, I have lived in Atlanta, yet I have. I've had good times in Atlanta. And I got this close to producing a festival in Atlanta. But we ended up pulling the plug due to Hurricane. They came through. If you guys remember when Tomorrow World got knocked out, it was just outside of Atlanta. We got the remnants of that that destroyed our build for Afro punk. When we were we were. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I do remember that. So I've had some fun in Atlanta. I like I've seen the house that I purchased. It seems it seems cool. I'm excited about the area. We're as as someone who is preparing for a move myself. I I'm literally it. Do you know how fear the fear that lives inside of me to sign a lease with an apartment slash building that you've never seen before? I've done it twice. So I'm very aware. Yeah. I actually I bought a house like not this time. I at least went out and saw this house. The first house I ever owned. We did not see it first. Wow. My mother did that when my dad moved the family from Indiana to North Georgia. And I mean, it's relevant and we won't belabor this. But as we're driving from the airport on that 40 minute drive, about 35 minutes in, my mother looks at my dad and says, Bill, what have you done? And I'm pretty sure she put the Purcell sign right back in the yard. And it took two years. First off, and I and I apologize, this is going to get personal in the next you know, a little while here. But why did you make the move to get out of this version of the industry and into a completely new one? It really was complete. I don't call it serendipity. I wasn't looking. I think you guys know me well enough to know that I was happy. I was really happy. I love doing what I did. And I mean, obviously, I'm still essentially kind of doing a lot of what I did beforehand. And I felt like even with some of the transition that we had from, you know, coming out of the pandemic and then being now like under C3 and reporting in that way, honestly, there was a lot of opportunity. To continue to grow. What was kind of being put forth in front of me in terms of that, those growth opportunities were fantastic. Plus, a much larger team at our disposal that I really hadn't had in the past. So from a standpoint of was I happy and was I looking? No, I wasn't looking for anything. I was happy doing what I was doing. And obviously, floored that we didn't get to execute Bonnaroo. That's still, I mean, every time that just enters my brain. I just start to just cringe because that was so painful. But I wasn't looking. And then, you know, honestly, a headhunter reached out to me and it's someone I'd known someone had known for a while. And he's like, you know, I know he knew I just moved out to California, or I recently moved out to California for my wife's position. And he was like, listen, I know you just moved out here or recent. But there's this opportunity. And I think you would be perfect for it. And I would be remiss not to at least talk to you about it. Can I jump in real quick? Because I would do like station IDs or like that. Well, something like that. Something like that. I ran across some traffic on the 10s. Hang on a second. I ran across something that some sums all this up and it's it's almost a better explanation of why we're talking to you. First of all, I was thinking about it this morning. I think you had maybe the best job next to mine that I know of, except you probably made a made a whole lot more money than I do. I love what I do and and the job you had. So I just did a search and the headline is on Global Newswire. And for people who don't know who Jeff is, I think this really just sort of but acclaimed music festival director Jeff Quayer joined Sixth Man as VP of Partnerships, which they describe as the global leader in festivals at sea. Now, you we've always teased you about your your titles. That's a good one. I didn't even know festivals at sea existed. But it points out, you know, your leadership roles at ACC3, Live Nation, Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Highwater, Railbird, Moon River and a lot more. And I mean, to me, that's why I mean, you've been a guest on their show a couple of times and Brad and I have always said you've been one of our favorites because it's always been so insightful. But that's what we want to talk about is for 20 years since it started. I mean, you've been right there at the forefront of developing these things that we love. So I just thought it was interesting that it's not just us that think that highly of you. It's all these other people. Well, that's just be fair. I mean, we know who writes the press releases. So however it gets done, I don't know what you're talking about, Brad. So it is an interesting time to do this because I won't put words in your mouth. Do you feel some sort of shift in the festival world away from what you had built and the things that you had seen in the years with with Bonnaroo and then C3 Live Nation? I don't want to call it necessarily a shift, but I definitely see the growth in the industry. We've talked before in the past about how I mean, Europe is I still feel ahead of the United States when it comes to the adoption of the festivals and how consumers essentially it is woven into the fabric of entertainment choices and things of how they want to consume and be a part of these events. And the US has been catching up quickly in that space. But one of the things that I think has started to really develop over the past few years is this immersive experience. And it is more I think as artists have become, I don't want to say bigger, but more developed from a standpoint of not just being banned on a stage, but the extensions of some make wine, some make whiskey, some do podcasts, some have fashion lines, some have there's so much more that are entangled into what it means to be an artist now that these more immersive events are really intriguing. And I think that's kind of where they caught my attention when I started having the conversations of my initial conversation with Anthony Diaz, who is the CEO of Sixman, was this understanding that they are gathering, the goal is to gather these passionate fan bases. So when a lot of people think, let's go grab the biggest artists there is that is selling millions upon millions of what are we selling, even concert tickets these days. And that's who you want to create a destination experience around. But it's not. It is really looking at those artists that have these rabid fan bases that are in Reddit groups that have fan clubs that are buying merch that are doing all of the things that make, that are associated with that particular artist and then be able to create an experience there because you ask a lot of a fan to come and to do an immersive destiny, like come on vacation with me and understand what it is to be a part of it. But honestly, while we've created and I'd say one of the aspects that I loved previously about my other role was I felt like I had a great opportunity to find and work in underserved markets and some of these that are not the major metropolitan areas, but the Charleston, South Carolina, the Louisville, Kentucky, the Lexington, Kentucky, Asheville, North Carolina, some of these hotspots that are just so juicy in terms of what they offer as an experience that we got to shine a light on that. Yeah. I love when you say the words juicy hotspot. So I loved that ability to create that spotlight on some of those communities and really dig in and be able to showcase it through food, through art, through all those different things. And the shift for this is I'm now getting to do that for an artist and being able to look at it from that standpoint and not necessarily just partnering with an artist, but it can be doing maybe around a genre. Where are the passions at? Before I joined Six Man, they had done like Walker Stalker crews and those people who are extremely passionate about The Walking Dead got to have that kind of experience over a number of years. They've done comedy before, like in Practical Jokers. They've done all of these different things where there is a passionate fan base and that are looking for that next level experience versus perhaps going to, let's call it a land base festival, that is more or less, let's give you a smorgasbord. I mean, it's curated, so I don't want to say a smorgasbord, but a curated experience down a certain genre or whatever it may be, but you're still only getting what, 45 minutes to maybe two hours if you're a headliner on a stage. So let me back up for a second. So basically what you're talking about is you find an artist, you find a clan, you find a fan base, you find the, then you curate an entire experience for them for an insert amount of days. The bigger the artist, I'm guessing the bigger the crews, the smaller the artists, the more small the boat. Am I going in the right direction here? Kind of. I would say that the model has been refined over the years in terms of what makes sense. And Norwegian about, I guess it's about 10 years ago, purchased Six Man. So the ability to have an understanding of where we can move ships around in order to create these experiences. Norwegian owns two islands. So therefore our access to be able to create, do something different and actually utilize the island as a potential destination space. And then resorts, resorts are part of this too. And it does, so it doesn't necessarily have to involve a ship, but that is the, I would say that the bulk of the business revolves around a ship, but doesn't have to be. So we got done events. So all the best with John Prine, rest in peace. That event that was done with them, Melissa Etheridge, we've got one coming up and we're doing that at Playa Mujeres. So it doesn't have to be a cruise, but it can be. So if there was, if there just real quick, if there just happened to be a rabid fan base that loved say a podcast and they all wanted to go on a cruise together, that podcast probably wouldn't fill a Norwegian ship, but would they have a pontoon boat available for us? You know, it's podcast is actually one of those verticals that, you know, we're looking at as, as, as an option. I think there is, there's something there. I mean, you look at the fans who are, who are tuning into podcasts the way they are now. Now, how does that work? How do you super serve that guest and maybe, you know, either show them how the sausage is made or do something interactive in a way that really capitalizes on it. But it's, it's so much more than just bands on a stage. Right. I mean, that's where I was going to take TikTok stars. For instance, you get a whole bunch of TikTok stars on a, that's a, it's a really, it's fascinating now that I've thought about it because you're right. I immediately, when all this happened, I was like, Oh, Jeff's running some cruise ships. Um, but this makes so much more sense now. Okay. But it, it's the, what I was going to say, listening to you and thinking back to, you know, some of our conversations about, uh, our moon river here, which is a boutique festival. One of the things you said was people are looking for that next level experience. They want a unique experience. They just don't want to go stand in a field or a, or somewhere and watch a 90 minute set or a 45 minute set. They want to feel like they've seen something, uh, unique, but it sounds like this takes it further where it's a two way street where not just the fan is having that experience, but the artists now want to be involved. Right. It is. So my first event that I did with six man was soul shine, uh, where Michael Franti, it was, it was partnership with Michael Franti and to see him, I mean, he's such an amazing individual period, um, but to see him and his wife on the ship and their interaction with guests, you would think that they, I mean, like it was Christmas for them. And in terms of just some artists, you know, they want maybe a little bit more separation and we have the ability to create that with different ways to configure, uh, you know, where they sit, there's a place called a Haven that, um, I mean, honestly, you talk about a role like a rock star looking like an amazing place to, to experience a show, be in the Haven as, as an artist is like, wow, I get paid to go do this, um, and travel around through the Caribbean or wherever, wherever we're going to go Europe doesn't, you know, pick the destination. Um, so there are different, even experiences that we can provide to the artists, but those artists that choose to just kind of maybe be exposed a little bit and, and kind of let their guard down and say, these are my most passionate fans. These are the fans that will basically carry me through as long as I choose to have a career and kind of having that understanding and knowing that, yeah, I can go sit down and have a cup of coffee and just allow people to come sit down with me. And we just trade some stories. And then I have to go walk away because now I am up to go do a set on a stage or do, um, do a cooking presentation in terms of like things that I like and just being able to showcase the personalities that are a part of this artist and not just the host artists, but even the other artists that are trying to gain this following. So you've got a lot of, I mean, it's not just one act, you know, it's typically peppered with several acts and those acts have the opportunity to make fans that will carry them through the rest of their, the rest of their career. I mean, fans think it's in the past, especially it's, you know, it's a glamorous life, but they don't understand it's 20 hours or 22 hours on the same bus, roll into a city backstage, unload, play the show and leave and, you know, rinse and repeat, right. You know, which, which has its pluses. I'm, you know, it beats digging a ditch, but what you're talking about is, uh, you know, an immersive. That's what I mean. It's both ways. It is definitely both ways. Right. And you know, there's definitely opportunity to make money. You know, how much control are you giving the artist in or whoever your feature is, uh, with something like this? I asked because when you started talking about the immersive experience and changing and growing sort of from what festivals were, it was remarkable to watch Hootie and the Blowfish basically just throw their own festival. Uh, we're going to go to, we're going to go to Mexico. Uh, we're going to get a barren naked ladies, blues traveler and Hootie. And we're going to play for three days, uh, on the beach. Um, that was, it struck me as why aren't more bands just doing that? Why aren't bands curating their own, their own things like that? And I wonder how much control if a band really wants to, how much control do they have over what you're offering in, in one of these things? I think, I think it's becoming a model that more and more bands want to participate in. The question is not necessarily can they, but they're expensive. You know, I mean, they're definitely, it's just like, I mean, anything involving a live performance, there is an immense amount of risk that goes into it. So where, who is, who is taking that risk on and how, you know, how is that being served? So I think there is, you know, that hat, you have to get past that. Um, and we kind of have, I've created this proprietary index of honestly, we'll take an artist and run it through to determine whether or not we feel like it's a safe bet. And if it, you know, if it gets high on the index, it's something to say, like, there's something here. And if the artist is going to have that kind of participation and be a part of it, we feel like there's a great chance of success. There's also something you run through and you're like, no, that's, that's going to be a risk. And if the artist is willing to help share in that risk, then, you know, perhaps, you know, we can take a look. Um, but it is, it really is funny, you know, kind of running through that stuff. Some artists you would think are like slam dunks and they are because asking someone to join you on a three, four, five, seven night vacation, um, you know, and perhaps on a cruise ship, because let's be honest, there's stereotypes that are involved in cruise ships. And I think until people experience one of these events, they're like, Oh my God, that's totally not what I thought it was going to be like. I'll be honest. One, two, it was like, I think I went in with a certain expectations and I was completely floored and like, Oh, I get it. And you know, one of the easiest, most tangible thing having my background of the number of times I've used a porta potty, didn't have to use a porta potty once. And that alone was so, but just like the ease of access and how tired like you aren't like, I'm a fan of music festivals. I'm going to continue to go to them, but you're exhausted. And I can honestly say even after working, you're like, it's not bad. Like that's, that's a pretty solid place to be in the Caribbean, uh, you know, enjoying it in kind of a different way. Um, you know, everything's got its pluses and minuses, but it's, it's a, it really is a beautiful thing and to kind of watch it and to see these bands. And I liken it to, um, the most passionate Bonnaroo fans. So think about that, like on a scale of like within a specific artist base, it's just the knowledge, the understanding of the operations, the, all of it, like that's where it kind of clicked with me when I started having these initial conversations. I'm like, we're basically taking the most passionate bands, which, you know, I dealt with on a Bonnaroo level and doing it in a destination. What's been the most interesting one that you've done so far? Uh, I'm still, I'm still, uh, I'm not, I'm not salty yet. Uh, I've now only had my second, uh, cruise. Um, so my first, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Is there a group of the salty? Is there, there's like an induction ceremony to become salty? Is there a full thing? Really? Yeah. Oh yeah. You start getting like, there's number of events and there's number of days at sea. And it's, it's pretty amazing to see the, you know, some of, uh, my colleagues and stuff, the number of days they've been at sea, the number of events they've participated in. You get to a certain number and all of a sudden you're wearing an eye patch. Like what is the, uh, Yeah. You go around the Cape and you got to get an earring. Is that all that you just, you understand things about maritime law and other stuff that, uh, is just, it's just a different, it's just a different life. So you've done, you've done two so far then I've done two. Yep. I did a Joe Bonamassa, our partnership with Joe Bonamassa, the keeping the blues alive, um, which I think was either the six or the seventh, uh, iteration of, uh, of that event. In fact, we've got them again here in, uh, in Europe. So we're a Mediterranean one will be sailing this summer. Um, but, uh, yeah. And two from soul shine with Fronti to Joe Bonamassa, keep the blues alive, completely different experiences hands down. And, but the one thing that carries true is the passion and just the sheer happiness. Everyone is just billowing out the entire time. And, um, it really is a way to focus in on, you know, with, with our company and our values is, you know, super serve the guest. And I think the artists see that too, as a way of saying like, you are taking care of again, the people who are going to take care of us for the rest of my career. Does this feel like next level, um, or an, an addition, or does it feel like it's going to replace something? Will it replace festivals or live shows or just feels like it's a next level? It is, it definitely is a next level type of thing. It is, it is not for, you know, not for everybody, but I think as artists recognize their power and of course their ability to, to make money, um, on the touring side of things, it is, to me, it's almost one of the purest ways for them to build that bond with their fan base. I mean, three 11, I want to say we've done 10 cruises with them, uh, 10 events with them. And now we are, we're helping to handle three 11 day as a part of their team that was actually just in Vegas. We had team just get back from, uh, the three 11 day in Vegas. Um, but to think that, you know, we've been doing their cruises for a number of years and then, you know, now helping them out on, and when they do three 11 days. So it's like every other year is when they do their cruise. But I mean, just thinking about three 11, I mean, the, you know, no one can say that they're huge in terms of like chart popping and things of all of those lines, but they've got that fan base that, you know, will carry them the rest of the way. And they're, they're passionate. Our, our fastest sound before we did launched the emo's not dead. So we partnered with, uh, Matt Kutcher and the emo's not dead social handle and launched that event that's happening this, uh, this fall. Um, coheed and Cambria was the fastest selling event in six man history. I want to say it sold out in like three days. And now you've got, uh, emo's not dead, which I think sold out in two, but you think about like coheed and Cambria, no offense to code and Cameron, a phenomenal act, but you know, they're not a household name for a lot of folks. Well, they've got a massively passionate fan base. So sitting here thinking our own Roger Allen Wade, who people will know he's Johnny Knoxville's cousin. If you're going to be, you gotta be tough. You know, he's a known guy. He's a Chattanooga guy. He just this past week came off of a cruise with Lucinda Williams and Amy Lou Harris and somebody else. And my point in that is Amy Lou and Lucinda are not people that I imagine say, you know what? I want to hang out on a boat with people. I don't know, but they did. Oh yeah. Multiple times they are, they are pretty salty themselves. Um, and I think understand the, uh, the, uh, the value that, you know, these types of events bring to the table. Yeah, they just got off the, the outlaw cruise. So it's outlaw country cruise, which we are having the first or first or second iteration outlaw West this fall. And I think they already announced dates for, for outlaw the continuation of it because it's now hitting it's so, so the, so these are all obviously port from different cities. Um, when you get the people that buy tickets, the people who are, are, are they mostly local from the city that they're porting from all over? Are they, so when you said the Mediterranean, uh, that's happening, uh, you know, am I, am I buying something that is including a flight to get to the port city? Um, flights on you. Okay. So it leaves from the port city. You, it's up to you to get to the port city. Um, and then from there, you know, where you're, you're essentially your ticket, your cabin pays for your, all of your experience, uh, on the ship. You're obviously your, your, your stay and food. Now there are some like upper food packages that you can get. There are some restaurants and stuff that are on board ship that you can pay a little extra for something along those lines. And then your drinks are, are on you as well. I hate that. I just asked that question because it turns you into a travel agent all of a sudden. You know, I'm sorry to get for my package. It's new. The power of new people who get introduced to cruising because of this is, I mean, let's, let's be, let's be frank. It's why Norwegian, you know, was so impressed with and, and wanted to, you know, wanted to bring six men into fold is it is a way to help shape or shake the stigma that cruising is just for, um, older demographic because we got to, we got a pair more crews. You know, we've done pair more for a number of years. You talk about, you know, the, you know, it's a young demographic. So I guess at least it was younger, even when we started doing these things, um, but that are piling on and you hear the majority of them, this is their first time on a ship and it's definitely not going to be their last. Now are they, you know, I think it's, it's, it's up to us to continue to deliver and over deliver on those experiences, whether it's changing ports, acts that support it, the experiences that are on board, um, all of it, but you know, it all goes as part of the experience. I could see where, you know, my first one, maybe I went to the Caribbean with coheed and then I find out they're going to next time do an Alaska one. So I could, I could see where, you know, I get to see the band I love, but now I'm going to, you know, do a cruise in a part of the world I've never seen before. So this is all, this is all with a six man. Is it, is it in conjunction with any of the live nation AEGs of the world? Are you guys all booking this yourself? Uh, it's, it's primarily coming through us, but, but yes. And we have worked with, uh, you know, other partners in terms of, of trying to, you know, secure talent and things along those lines. But you know, again, it's, it's one of those things that you gotta kind of get it. And you know, we try to invite, you know, folks to see it and to see, you know, the Haven especially, and there's different class ships. I mean, to your point beforehand, like what size ship we've got a model that works around, uh, like the, what we call the jewel class and like the Norwegian Pearl is a, is a ship that we use quite often, but we've configured it to a point to like, we know how to load and unload in terms of production, build a stage on the pool deck and the types of things that make it work, um, in, in a flawless type of way, because one thing that's different is, you know, when we build festivals, depending upon the event, you know, I'd get anywhere from nine, you know, three, four, five, nine days to build an event. You've got less, you've got hours because that ship could potentially be somewhere else. It's coming into dock. We basically crane stuff on, decorate it out, you know, vibe it out the way needs to vibed out, load up passengers and, and we're going. And then the way we kind of have some certain things structured, we'll do kind of back to backs. So you could have kiss coming off and soul shine coming on in the same day. And we're able to flip branding everything with the ship and have an annual science. How many a year are they pulling off? Um, next year we are, I think right now we're going to be, we're slated for 22 events. Okay. So, but we've got, we've got right now, I've got three back to back that are about to leave, um, out of ported out of Miami. And then we'll have, I think five more in the fall. And then one, one in Europe or one of the Mediterranean this summer. And this is, you know, obviously it's kind of our, as we're kind of scaling back up to, to get to, to get to the place. But yeah, 2023 is going to be an exciting year and 2024 is going to be even bigger. And we're, we're already, you know, 2023 is just about fully booked. And then 2024 is, I would say, you know, do you have, do you have like a white whale? Do you have a big one that you, that you're just holding in the back? You're probably like, uh, I got, I got, I got Lady Gaga. Um, really? I think that's part of the mentality that's probably shifted for me. Cause you know, I used to think about headliners and you know, what is going to be best to draw on a festival crowd and pull them into whatever city we're doing. Um, where my head space has changed a lot is who are the most passionate fan bases. So I don't really think about it in terms of like white whales anymore. From that standpoint of like, who do we want to see on, you know, what stage of Batarou? It is more or less now who can we, you know, who's the best for us to super serve? Like who, who were, who ha who gets it and who, um, you know, who's got that fan base that just is really attractive to create something special. And then we build our own event. So like Keamo, which is about to happen, uh, this iteration of it is a festival brand that we've created, um, that, you know, we take and, and, and move a lot of places. Um, what's, I'm trying to think of more, uh, that we've got. There's just so many, uh, we've got a new one that's about to launch here in like two weeks, three weeks. So you'll look at my calendar or some way, um, that, uh, there'll be a brand new festival concept we've got coming out that I'm personally, I'm really, really excited about it. So well, my speed in terms of John, well, speaking of festivals, um, what do you miss the most about the festival world and the festival life? Ooh, that's a good question. I mean, I would probably say my team, um, the team that we've built, you know, over the years. And, and when I say team, you know, it's the, you know, the immediate, you know, colleagues, the same company stuff, but as well as the, the, uh, industry as a whole from that standpoint and getting into it in a city and trying to solve those kinds of challenges that could is a, it's a special group of people and then, you know, they are family in a lot of ways and they will continue to be family. I will always support, um, everything they're currently doing out there. So it is, I would say, you know, the fact that, you know, some of the, some of these people I've been working with for 20 years, um, I'm not working with some of them and, you know, but there are some that, you know, I have jumped over, uh, and, and are now working with us, uh, in different ways. I mean, I've got, I've got a couple of people that were, that worked with me, you know, AC, uh, on our events that are now full time at six man. So it is that I know that will develop and I know, you know, that will happen. There's also several that are contractors that are part of six men events that I've seen them like, Oh my God, yeah, we we've worked together a bunch. So I think that will start to commingle more. Um, but it really is the team and I'll say to the cities, you know, there is, there is something special about, uh, I mean, I'll, I'll say it no matter what, you know, Manchester coffee County has, has, has been a home for me. I think I want to add it up days, I've spent more time in, uh, in Manchester than any other city in my life. Um, so, you know, those types of things, I still keep in touch with a lot of people, uh, in those places and even other cities that, you know, that we we've done business in and, and, uh, that, that, you know, I, I liked being able to shine a light on those communities because they are so special. I want to, I want to ask about Manchester and the 20 years and all that, but let's work backwards a little bit if we can. You mentioned it. Um, and we've obviously talked about it probably to death on this show and a lot of other people have, but if you don't mind, what was September like? Um, I mean, just leading up to it and everything. I mean, obviously 2020 canceled 2020 move from June to September, you know, I, I don't think I had been more excited to go into a run and, you know, it was rail bird into Bonnaroo than in the moon river. And to go into that run, I don't think I had ever been so excited. And I knew we were, there were a lot of challenges that we were going to be facing for all of our events. I mean, just coming out of, you know, the pandemic and the way we did and how do you, you know, everything was changing and you could feel fan frustration because, you know, we're having, you know, we're giving real time information on stuff and, uh, is for some people they liked what we were saying. Some people didn't. Um, I mean, I think that, you know, it kind of goes with that, that political environment. Um, but going in, uh, I, I, I had that zest of, so ready, so ready, uh, to, to do a lot of them and just being at home. I think, I think even my wife and family were like, you've been home too long. Like you, you gotta go. Um, and so the Jones and just to get out there and be on site and, and feel it. Um, I think one way I physically did it as I went out to, uh, the farm first, did some work out there, then went to Lexington to do railroad, then came back, of course, to the farm and then ended up to, um, Chattanooga. Um, so. You know, even, even coming after, you know, that was the biggest railroad, you know, we ever did there. I mean, it was, it was, it was a great event. We had some, we had some stumbles that, you know, they needed to get corrected. So back to, back to September for a second, how close was it to being a guess? Do you, how close do you think that it actually could have been? I think a lot closer than people realize. We built it. It was built. It was, it was ready to go. Um, the challenge was for, for those of us that, uh, you know, saw Manchester salty, uh, in Bonnaroo salty, we knew oh, four and knowing the amount of rain that we had an oh four. Yeah, exactly. I was there. I was knowing the amount of rain we had no four and understanding what that did to the property and what that did to the experience, what that did all over the place. It was going to be worse. So that, I think you just hit a point point that I totally forgot about explain what it did to the property because I had to pay a kid $50 to pull me out of a mud pit. Um, and this was just a random kid from the neighborhood. Yeah. And I think Jeff, you're gonna, you're gonna say it, but I know we talked about it. I talked about it is people don't understand. They see a mud puddle and they think it's just a mud puddle. They don't understand what 80,000 people walking through that mud puddle does to it over a day or two. But, but yeah, that's a great question. What, I mean, what were you thinking? Um, the, what we lovingly call the back 60 and seeing how we had changed some things up operationally. And even if we wouldn't have changed up things operationally that, you know, that, that honestly that didn't matter. There was, there was so much rain. I mean, I don't, I'd have to go back and look at, you know, Tennessee records, but I think during that span, I think that had to have been like the wettest timeframe, like on record period. It was just an immense amount of rain and what would happen? The ground was so soft. You put any weight. And when I say anyway, I'm talking like a human foot, you've just now created a mess and the, could we have gotten everybody in? Maybe, but the amount of disruption mud, just everything, one, it would have destroyed the grounds to everyone would have been stuck and there, no one would have been getting out of it. And it would have been, it would have been a safety issue. And I think that's the other part is talk about some bad headlines afterwards. Oh, it would have been, I mean, like, I mean, heck, we talked about, I think I referenced tomorrow world beforehand. We all know what happened there. I think it would actually don't think, I know it would have been worse than that. And it is not at a fall. It's mother nature. You know, she, she, she won in that level. So when, when people think, you know, like you asked me like how close we got the amount of brain power that went into every possible thing from opening up refund windows to shifting things around. Do we, you know, not open a day and open up a day later in order to like let the sun come in. I would say every single plausible and even non plausible option was put on the table. Some executed and done to give us a shot because no one, no one, no one on that team, even the people who were slogging it out, like actually getting, you know, just dirty, muddy, gross, wanted to bring it down. When you make a call, like when you make a call like that, how many people are in the room batting ideas around? I mean, you know, you bring in the brain trust, you know, it's a small group, but it's, you know, you, you, you bring in the people who specialize and know certain things. Cause as you know, it's like a ripple effect. Everything is effective. So like, how does this impact food vendors? Can they get shipments? Or, you know, can they get their shipments in to get stuff done? Can we service porta potties? Can we all of those different operational pieces factor into it? And so you solve one problem, but you have to make sure you didn't just create three more. And so it's a small team, but you got the best in the business in terms of trying to figure it out and, and share that collective knowledge of what happens to the property when it gets wet and then what is needed to be serviced to make things, you know, take place. Did anybody in the brain trust disagree? No. Okay. Totally unanimous. Totally unanimous. I think we, there were some that, you know, wanted to try and push it, but it's, it's a safety issue. I mean, it comes down to, you just can't, you can't, you can't do that anymore. Like I don't think you can take those types of risks anymore. It's not worth it to do it from a standpoint of, of destroying the brand and, and what has been built over 20 years. So you know, could you ramrodded it in there? Maybe, but then, then you're potentially killing it for the next 20 years. And is that worth it? And again, I go back to just safety and experience and if everyone has a crap experience, like it's just, you weigh that and it's just, it's just not, not worth it. I think that's where that salty thing comes. I mean, that's a, you were there in 2004, Brad and I were in fork and Louisville, you know, with, when the Gus NATO or whatever, came off the river. And, you know, I remember you running down the, running towards the stage, get everybody out of here. Yep. I'll just, I'll never, I'll never forget Sam Smith. Poor Sam Smith comes out and he says, hello Louisville. And then three seconds later, good night, Louisville. Run. I mean, you've seen all those kinds of things. Yeah. It's, it's fun. I, you know, being, you know, in my limited time right now in this position to see the salty folks and making some of the decisions. And it's kind of interesting too, like with the Caribbean and able to work. One of the benefits is one, we've got indoors as well as, you know, doing an outdoor pool deck, but knowing that so many things are so close, some of the hops that you do or port stops, you could really do in like a couple of hours. So they're just out doing donuts in the, you know, in the ocean, like tooling around, but what it does is it allows you to have time so they can see storm fronts and stuff coming through and like go around things. And so from that fan experience out of stuff, there is more control and being able to watch some of this stuff firsthand and learn, you know, how, you know, how my colleagues and stuff like that navigate that is, is fascinating to watch because it really is like, it's, it's just a completely different beast and some things you have control over some things, of course, you don't. Let me ask along those lines then, cause on our last show, we had gotten an email from Bonnaroo about the changes that have been made, paving some of the roads, some changes to the, what do they call it? Stormwater and that sort of thing. So you haven't been gone that long. I assume you probably have a pretty good idea. We haven't been on the farm in three years. What sort of things changes, uh, do you know of, or do you think have happened along those lines? I mean, you guys have been very good and we laugh about it. You know, I've written about it. You plant grass, nobody, you know, cares about planting grass, except for Bonnaroo people or shade and those sorts of things. So you know, for the veterans, what sort of things do you think have happened to the farm up there? Um, you know, I haven't seen the, you know, I know there was probably more stuff that's been done since, uh, since September, um, in regards to, to improvements. Um, so I'd be kind of curious to see certain things, but a lot of things like people never got to see are, you know, like, well, I guess people wouldn't see production road, but production road being paved. I mean, that's the paved road. That is a glory. Hallelujah. Jesus. Praise your name. God. I, uh, it is, uh, it is glorious. Like, so when I was down there, um, like I would do, I would do kind of runs. Like I found like a good three mile loop that I would do, uh, just to go for a run and get some exercise in. And yeah, there's a good part of running off. But when they were talking about the paved road, just, just to make sure when they talk about the paved roads, they're not talking about a paved road through center. You're talking about the paved roads around in production road and down to like the campsites, right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. See, I was worried. Me and Barry argued about this last week, but you just don't pave a road through center room. You just don't do that. Your feet have to touch the ground and it cannot be through asphalt. Yeah. But you want to be able to service things where you have your heavy equipment and things like that, that, uh, that do differently. And there's always been work done regarding like drainage and like, how do you, how do you, you know, map certain things out to get water so that, you know, things can drain and the ground can rehab quickly, uh, where certain things are positioned. There was a lot of thought. And I think, you know, take the benefit of that amount of rain is, you know, for some of that group, uh, you know, they're new or they're newer to the property. So they got to see the worst, you know, I mean, what oh four to 2021, like look at that span of years that we had never experienced something like that ever again. So there is now another, you know, there's now a new brain trust that has, that has now seen what weather can do and therefore impact some of the decision making because we didn't own the property at oh four. So the ability to make certain changes couldn't be happened, but now that, you know, that team, or, you know, the, the, the more, the, the recent team can got to see a lot of that. I think, you know, it makes it easier case to say why you should do something when you're like, To be, to be clear, oh four was one of the worst experiences I've ever been a part of. I literally said, I will never come back to this place. I loathe did the literally the next year, the, the girlfriend, then eventually wife, the girlfriend at the time looked at me and she said, why are we not going to Bona Roo? It looks incredible. I said, I will never ever go back to that hell hole again, because that's what to your point it was so bad. The user experience was so bad. And if I will always give Bona Roo credit for it, it's a lot like Apple. Apple understands user experience and user interface. And that is the most important part of their entire operation. And Bona Roo just has always done that and excelled at that. So you know, it must have been a very difficult decision in September, but a worthwhile one with that being said, how this is what you do for a living. What is the most important thing when you're trying to communicate even basic information, hard to deal with information with a brand voice? How, what are you trying to do there? I think it's authenticity. You know, it is, it is being, you know, heck, it's one of the, you know, the, the things about stay true to Roo. And I, and I think that honestly extends into everything. So every event, everything that, you know, I, I have my hands in, I think of what that, what it, what it means for that specific event and what do they need to hear that makes it better. The challenge is so many people want to believe they're experts and think they've got the information that can counter counterbalance the truth. And you know, if someone comes in and says, you know, I've been to 17 Bonaroos or something like that, it's like, yeah, but you're a fan. Like you, you aren't in the back room making decisions. And that, you know, that again, again, that goes across the board is people try to say, you know, I I've watched message boards and things like that for, for a lot of events just spiral down. It's like, well, I know. And it's like, actually you don't. And then do you jump in like as, as an expert, like, do you, do you say like you're a hundred percent wrong? And I know because I signed a check on that one, like that's not what happened. Or do you just let it happen? And that that probably is, I think that's some of the stuff that's changed over the years of how engaged message boards or, you know, comment sessions, whatever. Have you engaged on a Reddit or a message board? Have you done it? Every time I do, I regret it. I have. And it mostly is a lot of times it's like, let it play out and your people that are grounded in reality will typically come, come to defense and help squash it. Sometimes you utilize there are other methods in terms of going to influencers or taste makers to provide them the correct information and allow that voice to, because I think at times, you know, if I go in there and say something, I'm paid to be there and say something like even, even if I've got the right information, correct information, I can, you know, give you the full timeline of where it may be. You may not listen to me. You're like, oh, he's just toeing a company line or, you know, he's just all about profit. Nah, that, you know, that comes out of that. So do you, do you have a conversation with someone that, you know, that there's that trust and they can be a taste maker to say like, Hey, for the facts, you know, do what you want with them. Here they are. And allow and allow that to kind of happen. But it is, it's that authenticity. It is, it's a challenge. I mean, it really is, you know, that some of the things I think that probably get me more and I know you guys as a standup, amazing journalists and members of the media, you're actually going to tell far jokes on the radio. I am no journalist. Yeah, but you're going to fact check. You're not just going to throw something out there and say, and say that, you know, this is it because you know, Bob down the street told me so you're going to dig in, you're going to ask for comments, you're going to find out where things come from. And I, you know, I never, I never want to say anything bad about the press, but today in these times, there are more of just stuff getting out that is just blatantly not true. And it's like, did you even ask the question? Because if you would have, if you would have just texted me, I would have been like, no, that's wrong. Do I have a comment? No, but I can tell you that that's wrong. Like that is factually inaccurate. And that's, that's frustrating as well as because when you're combating that stuff, again, you're not going to win. I'll say the thing about Bonnaroo and, and you've been a huge part of it. And I'm not saying that because you're, you're sitting right here. It, you guys have always seemed to approach it that we're not just worried about this year. We're worried about next year and the next and the next. And that that's a different attitude than a lot of people, you know, have, and it makes a huge difference. Like grass, like bathrooms, like water runoff, you know, we all laugh about that. Now every year I write it, but I'm like, that's long-term thinking. And Brad, Brad said it with the last time we were there when we walked in at night and saw the lights in the trees, you know, we just went crazy about that kind of thing. But that's that little detail that, you know, for the first timers would have not realized it was new, but for veterans is like, Oh, that's a really cool improvement. Well, I mean, look, it's those little details that as a guy that, you know, runs a radio brand, which is definitely not a music festival. It's those little details that when I watch other radio stations do drive me nuts, absolutely drive me nuts. I'll give you an example, literally over my two shoulders. Jeff probably has an example like this in the Bonnaroo farm, but this was the logo that was done before me. That's the logo I did there. That typeface drives me bat shit crazy because it's completely inconsistent. It's crooked. It drives me nuts. People do this all the time. And when I see somebody pay attention to details like Bonnaroo, right. By the way, I fixed it with the new logo of just mine. Okay. But when I see Bonnaroo, the other one is still there. Well that's because it's, what are you going to do? I can't, I can't solve every stupid problem. So when Bonnaroo gets the little details right like that, it makes me feel really happy because I've invested all of this time and energy into a brand that cares and that knows that the details matter to the point that I was trying to sort of insinuate with the question. It does feel as though the brand's communication has been spotty at best. And I wonder if they are aware of stuff like that, if it is in the consciousness or are they just trying to hold on and survive and just make it work for right now? Obviously, I'm not in that room anymore and I can't necessarily speak to that. That's why I freely ask you because now you're unshackled. The people that I left that are still there slogging it out and putting it to is still some of the most passionate people in the business. There's a lot fewer of them, right? There's more than you think, that have had 20 years, no, yeah, there's very few that have lasted long. But I mean, there's still, I would say a lot of people are still within it are still veterans of the business that are from that standpoint understand what it takes to pull off a large scale event, every event being different. But the group that is behind it and the group that is still pushing forward on it, some of the most passionate, they care, they genuinely care and want to do what's right. And that comes from the top down and the bottom up. I mean, it's a whole everybody, I think they understand and respect the power that they yield or wield within that brand specifically. And there's a lot of care and attention done to it. I think we're all navigating coming out of the pandemic, especially as we ramp back up in the live event world. The pressure and the desire to go, go, go and do more and some of that can make you tired. We're all human, we all make mistakes. And that's going to happen. But again, not in those rooms, but I do know a lot of the people who are still there, obviously, and I can't say enough positive things about the group that is there, that is making the decisions that is doing everything they can to make that event and to make every event they're a part of special. And it's a family within the industry that I think for those that are salty and have been in it for quite some time, that care and attention is there because you don't do an event as a one-off. That is when you go in doing something, the intent is to create a legacy on it and to build a brand and to build a passionate property that will stand the test of time. And sometimes things come and go and that's just the natural evolution of things. But that is definitely the goal going in. And I can speak to that even now as we're looking at destination stuff, as we approach our partners in terms of artists or not even artists, but how we want to do things, it's not about one event. We're already thinking this is how it's going to evolve over the next five years. And if we're not together, some paths go in that place, then we need to have a conversation if this is going to be the right thing to go because you have to build these things for the future. You have to take those right steps in order to maintain longevity. So as somebody we absolutely trust, would you consider and understanding that you are sort of biased because these are very close friends and people that you care about and think that are doing wonderful work. And I don't deny any of that. Just be totally honest and real with me. You feel as though even though there's been a lot of change, it has really adjusted. The whole structure has almost been completely upended. You totally feel confident that it is going to be the same feeling walking in there this year than it was five years ago, four years, three years ago. I do. And where I go with that is it's still incumbent upon the fans. I think the delivery of and fan mentality and how people come together is different. I mean, let's be honest, none of us here, we're not young anymore. This stuff's not meant for us. A lot of these events across the board are built for the youth in a lot of ways. So that is the one thing that I did. You can't look through that lens because what was important to you and I five years ago, it's probably not the same thing that's important to us now. So that is going to change. The musical tastes are going to change. So it would be wrong to kind of look through that lens like five years ago because it is a constant torch passing for an event if it's going to maintain it. If it's going to stay like one thing the entire time, it's never going to stand the test of time because things change. Like you get married, you've got kids, you've got life responsibilities and I can't go do this or I'll come back to it. And you have to understand there are certain pieces that will maintain that are still a part of that soul. But it's not for I don't want to say it's not targeted to you anymore. And as long as you're willing to understand that yeah, there's going to be kids there. But five years ago, ten years ago, you were a kid too from that standpoint. So that's the part that I think has changed. But from that aspect, I do think it will maintain. But it's not just incumbent upon the producers. It is the fans maintaining that spirit and that understanding of what this event is or what any event is for that matter and keeping it going because the fans choose they don't want to. And that's kind of when you make that decision of do you keep doing the event or not? Can you in any way sort of quantify or qualify how the 20 year run has gone? I mean, from what you maybe envisioned it in 2002 to where it is, has it been a straight line? Has it been, you know, were there moments where you were because there was for me and I know when it started, it had this hippie Jamfest label and it took a lot of hits early on when people said it's lost its soul, it's changed. But having talked to you and Ashley, that was always sort of the plan was, you know, you brought that group in first because they would camp. And the idea was to add VIP and nicer, you know, all the things that you've added. But you can't do that all at once. You didn't own the farm. So that's what I mean by I mean, is there a piece of paper somewhere in somebody's desk that says here's where we want to be in 2022 and how close did you get? I guess is what I'm asking. Oh, God, that's a great question. I think for the first several, it was just like, we just hope we get to do it again, type of thing. And you know, I wouldn't say there was a long term vision goal at that point. So I think it was just a matter of if we can make it five years, that's awesome. And I think probably starting around maybe oh, four or five, it was like, oh, shit, they're still coming. Like, we really got something here. Making a past or four years like, oh, I came back. Oh, five. I think really that long term planning started to become more evident once the farm was purchased. And I think that's where it's gone. So has it every year, you're always kind of taking bits and chunks off. And there are definitely plans that you're going after. And sometimes when you've got a good one, it allows you to take more of those chunks off. Other times you can't. So I would say yes. I think we did get there. Now was it maybe that path that we all thought we were going to go down? No. And there's definitely peaks and valleys in that. And I think we've taken, we've always swung. And I would say that is we've always tried. And no one can accuse us or accuse the groups over the years for not going for it and swinging and trying new things. Some things landed awesome and other things fell completely flat. And that man base was the quickest to call you. I'd be like, you definitely missed the mark on that one. Would you call missing the mark a big square that you walked into? I don't know what you're talking about, Brad. Okay, got it. I was, well, I was saying that's all I could say. Yeah. Somebody walked through. I think I know what you're talking about. Roll like a rock star. Didn't work. You guys took that, you know, you changed it. Right. I mean, I think you said that three or four years ago and yeah, you find out what works. Right. I mean, and again, things change. It's like, yeah, that program was fantastic. But when you own something, is there a way to do it better? And you know, some of the some of the newer faces that have come in and I'll call them out by name, Tuba, is some of his approach in terms of asking why and has reframed a lot of what, you know, even the way I approach certain things sometimes is has been fantastic. You know, I think it gave a real like injection of looking at how we do things instead of saying like, that's the way we've always done it. It's like, why is there a better way to do it? Yeah, like, let's look at a better way to let's do the best way we can do it. Not that's the way we've always done it. Now, if we always know is the best way to do it, because we learned that that's the only way that's going to work. That's one thing. But question it and figure things out. And that group has, I think, has always been great about really questioning what works, what doesn't. You got to fail to succeed in a lot of ways. And so I think this piece happens across the board. Well, so it's sort of to Barry's question. What was something that you never ever got to finish or do that was on the list that you said, oh, man, if we could do blank and you never got it. This is going to sound you know, you talk about grass and things being the thing sewer. Oh, a sewer toilet are a good being able to handle and address the wastewater issue. I think that's one of those things that that to me is that's one that I really, you know, I put a lot of time and energy on personally, that I wanted to see a solution out of that, because I think that could have been a game changer in terms of how and you know, that's going to be something that's, you know, that's going to be that you talk about white whale that's the one that is so many times it's been it's been within grasp and you got to make those decisions. But yeah, that one I think is a is a big one. And you start, you know, and I would say other pieces, you know, specifically for the farm is really thinking about that investment of how we get or how they know we not we anymore, how traffic being addressed and being able to because you start looking at the pain points. And I think that was a kind of a shift in focus, even the last couple of years, there's like, what are the biggest pain points? And what can we do? What kind of time and energy can we put toward dressing it? One of the things I think that shifted a big way is guest services and looking at how do we take care of the thing or how how how how the fans taking care of so like from wayfinding to like those types of things again, grass, you know, it's not putting rolling stones in the main stage or something along those lines. It's those little things that truly make the experience better and special. And I say that's as part of what's really exciting about, you know, what I do, what I'm doing now in six minutes, the scale is just different. I don't have to think about 120,000 people on a farm, you know, with staff, artists, everything else, I get to think about a ship that's contained. And what are these microcosms of experience and knowing that really one one piece of signage can make a difference in a lot of different ways and having my mindset come in because I'm you know, I feel blessed and lucky to have the experience that I had and now get to take that into this new phase and, you know, challenge, ask a lot of those why questions for those some of those who have been salty and to say like, well, let's look at it this way, see if it if it changes the guest experience in a positive way. And that you talk about maybe what gets me up in the morning right now and gets me really excited and keeps me up at night are the opportunities right now that are there to really think differently about how we create these immersive experiences, understand I get to try things in a different way. You know, the scale economies of scale are completely different. Jeff, your answer is exactly why this show exists. I mean, nothing makes me more excited than your answer being sewage. And I'm solely honest about that, because the moment that me and Barry were walking backstage and I noticed the the fact that the the core the lines were in PVC pipes. And I said, how many hundreds of yards of PVC do they have here? And to think that that somebody put it together to put it over to the side so that people weren't tripping over it. That's when the show started. Yeah, that's when we started. I started looking at the whole thing differently. I started looking at what you do now at a little a little bit differently. How do these things start getting put together? And the answer being sewage is just another line of, you know, us. Well, I may be like one of the very few people who are thinking that, by the way. But yeah, those are the those are the things that I know. That's the thing you've you've stressed, I think, since we've been talking since I've known you is it's not just the act on the stage. It starts with the ticket experience. You know, did I have a hassle buying my ticket? Because if I did, I already got a bad taste in my mouth. You know, did my ticket show up on time? Did I have a problem? Did I did I get to my campsite on time? You know, or in a reasonable amount of those are the things when you leave that you remember, you know, the the the the great show helps and it will overcome in some cases. But if you left there and it's like, man, I didn't have any problem with bathrooms. That's a good day. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it is I got in and out with no traffic. It is pretty remarkable. You know what? I got to see the Rolling Stones of Bonnaroo. Unfortunately, I shit myself. I just because because the porta potty was full. Yeah. What are you going to remember when you go home? How's the show? Don't remember. Show. Another problem. Man, Jeff, I again, we say this to you every time and it's not just blow and smoke up your ass. I didn't know you the minute that you came on the show years ago and fell in love with you because you are exactly the way that you speak as a brand. You're authentic. You are incredibly gifted at what you do. And you're first and foremost, you're really generous. So being as generous as you are with your time, it's it's as appreciated as you can ever imagine. So thank you so much for hanging out with us and walking us through the new property, the former property and I hope the move goes well. Thank you. When you guys invite someone to come join us. Hey, I'm ready. I'm ready. You name the time, the place. We can start sussing out this podcast concept. I love it. I love it. Yeah. The less work I have to do, the better. Barry will testify. Well, it is work, but it just could be a problem. I'm in. I'm in. If I get to hang out with you two guys, you count me in. Tropical destination in Barry Porter. That is Cypress Solaris.