Get a sneak peek behind the curtains of the Fuzztival 2020 organization!
You might have seen our article last friday about this super cool festival happening in just a week now? In the south of Denmark, Esbjerg brings us one of the best lineups this year for the Fuzztival 2020!
It’s always interesting to have a ‘behind the scenes’ input, and especially with the circumstances and complications of this year, I thought an interview might be more relevant than ever.
Check this out below and give the Fuzztival team the love they deserve!
Mr. Stone: Hey guys, I hope eveything is going smooth with the festival coming in just a few days. Can you introduce who are the people behind all the work to make Fuzztival happen? I read that you’re just music-loving volunteers, doing this on your spare time and yet I couldn’t help but to be impressed by how fast and helpful you are in your answers. How are you organizing all the work between you?
Fuzztival: Hey, man ! Thanks a lot for having us ! We’re a team of two, who do all the preliminary work, and a kick ass team of volunteers, consisting of friends, family and our wives, that help out during the festival days.
There’s me, Bo Sejer, who do a lot of the heavy lifts organizing the festival, booking the bands, handling our Social Media, creating the artwork, and find funding for the festival. Then there’s Thomas Bonde Sørensen, who’s not only a math wiz, making sure we’re financially on the right track the whole time, he is also the guy with all the connections in Esbjerg: He’s lived there most of his life, and he knows everyone in the business. If we need something, Thomas knows who to call.
He’s also my main sparring partner when it comes to booking music. We talk daily and discuss music and whatever, pretty much always talking about stuff for the festival. Thomas works full time, and last year he got a little girl, but he’s fully invested in the festival. I have a lot more spare time, only working occasionally, so I spend a lot of my time doing festival related stuff.
Mr. Stone: Before I heard about Fuzztival for the first time (I think a few weeks before your 2019 edition), I must confess that I’ve never heard about Esbjerg, and yet it seems a really lively city. How’s the scene there? And how did you get the idea of building up a fest in this town?
Fuzztival: Both Thomas and I were born and raised in Esbjerg, so it seemed natural to do it there. The scene is not great in scale, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for it dedication. No question this would have been a lot easier to do in a bigger city, but we liked the challenge of doing this in our own neighbourhood, and hopefully be a catalyst for a great fuzz scene in the area in the coming years. We also have a lot of great partners in Esbjerg, especially the local venue Tobakken, who helps out with whatever they can, and are really supportive in our goals.
Mr. Stone: Last year’s line-up was already great, especially considering it was just your second edition, and a real scaling-up from the 2018 free open-air one-dayer. I guess it must have been quite challenging in terms of organisation and pressure, could you tell us a bit more? And did it went according to your expectations? Was this enhanced edition received well by the audience and bands, but also by the city and population?
Fuzztival: Our first edition was really a « let’s just try and see how it goes » kind of thing. We got some initial funding from the city, and a lot of help from bands we knew. This really got our juices cooking, and the following year was the joint effort of Thomas and I putting in probably close to a thousand man-hours of organizing. The pressure was pretty insane, and I think we both had doubts if this was even something we could do on our own up until we opened the doors.
Luckily, the many hours planning were well worth it : Everything went smoothly, the crowd was having a great time, the bands seemed happy, the sound was amazing, and even the weather turned out great ! We’ve got a couple of people locally who are really into the scene, and a few I think we got some others converted last year. We had some older rock enthusiasts, who thought we were doing a metal fest, whom was positively surprised about the quality of the music and the bands : We had a lot of people saying « This is not what I expected at all. This is just good solid rock’n’roll like it sounded when I was young ! » and I think that was probably the best compliment they could’ve given us !
Mr. Stone: About this year now, your first line-up was insane, with bands coming from all over the planet. Some of them were also scheduled for Desertfest Berlin, was it just a coincidence or did you work in collaboration with them somehow? Being in Denmark also makes me think of the opportunity to work with the wonderful label El Paraiso, which is quite well represented on this year’s bill, do you have some ties with them? How do you usually build your line-up?
Fuzztival: We keep out eyes peeled for opportunity. We really want to bring bands to this part of Denmark, which in normal circumstances would never visit outside the bigger cities like Copenhagen or Aarhus. When we hear whispers that a badass heavy-psych band from Japan will be visiting Europe, you can bet we’re reaching out ASAP. Of course a lot of this comes from Sound of Liberation, who organize Desertfest Berlin. A festival of our petite size would normally never be able to get bands outside of Europe to visit us, but when said band is on tour, it just gets much easier to convince them to visit. And for a lot of bands, being booked to one of the larger festivals, like Desertfest, is key to be able to tour in Europe at all.
We also have a lot of friends in the scene, like Jakob from El Paraiso: He’s been real supportive of our mission to bring this music out into the wild wasteland of Denmark, and is of course a person we ask about recommendations as well. The same goes for a lot of the smaller labels: Majestic Mountain, Interstellar Smoke and Cursed Tongue: They will usually pitch a few bands to us, and we trust their ears as much as our own, if not more. We had great conversations with Riding Easy as well, whom got us connected to a lot of bands last year. Of course, we also have a long and ever-growing list of bands that we want to see at Fuzztival. A lot of them way out of our league of course, at least for now, but also a lot of smaller bands from across the globe, that we’re just waiting for a chance to pick up!
Mr. Stone: Sadly though, Covid struck really hard on the culture and music scene, as we all know. Lots of festivals have either cancelled directly or waited a bit to see how things were going and eventually cancelled. But your first reaction was to postpone to July, and when that wasn’t also possible, then to September, which is gonna happen, thankfully! Could you tell us a bit how all this unfolded on your side, how you kept that determined to make it happen, and how you managed all the complications (with the lineup, bands, capacity, venue, safety measures…) it involved?
Fuzztival: We could talk about this subject for hours : It’s all we’ve thought about all year now ! Honestly, I don’t think we actually thought we would have to cancel up until mid-april. We discussed the possibility of course, but I honestly thought this was an overreaction at first, and that we would be opening venues by May the latest. I guess that was pretty naive in hindsight, but at the time, Denmark was spared most of what was going on around the world, and it didn’t get serious for me until Thomas and I talked on the phone after our head of state had addressed the country, and told us just how serious this was, and how long this was going to last.
When we knew there was no way we would get to have our festival in May, this was when reality sunk in. The easy thing from there would be to cancel, of course. At least that’s what it would seem like. But in reality a cancellation is like trying to pull the trigger on a loved one. We just did not have the heart to do it. We work our butts off, and we wanted this. We wanted it bad. So we set a new date quickly and got to work once more. A few weeks later we got news that venues would not open by July as planned, and people would still not be able to gather in large groups. So we set a third date. Meanwhile bands cancelled and had to be replaced, for any number of good, valid and solid reasons. But this is part of the game and just something you work to solve.
When July got around we realised that things were not getting better, and that our venue was unfit to handle this amount of people safely. So we contacted our friends at Tobakken, and after a short meeting, we decided to move the festival there. It’s pretty close by, so the decision was not hard: Especially not since Tobakken is actually the second-largest venue in Denmark, normally reserved for the biggest bands in the world, and easily fit 1400 people standing. Now, the danish guidelines state we can’t have people standing, so everyone will of course be seated during the concerts. But with a venue this large, a festival of just 200 is easily managed.
Mr. Stone: I guess you’ll want to put up for the missed opportunities next year, if the circumstances get better by then. Did you already thought about what you might prepare for us in 2021? At the rate you’re going, I must say I’m really wondering where you’ll stop, Fuzztival will definitely have its spot on my list of recurrent events not to miss 😉
Fuzztival: We’re hoping to bring back a lot of the bands that we sadly had to say goodbye to this year. Unfortunately not all of them will be able to make up for it. But I’m happy to say that we already have a lot of bands on next years billing. Normally we would not be booking anything until after this years’ festival, but it’s a very different year, which means a lot more bands are at home right now, looking at next year, so we had to be on our toes if we wanted to secure some of them ! We have yet to book our headliners, but we do have two in mind, and one that we’ll be negotiating with in September, so I’m confident that we can already start announcing the first bands shortly after this years’ festival !
Mr. Stone: A good festival is not only just a great line-up, but also a sweet atmosphere, I guess this year’s not the best to work on that side, afterparties, for example, are probably out, but I read some stuff about foodtrucks, color-coded chill areas… Could you depict us a bit more how it should feel like and what you have in store for us next week? Maybe also some crazy deco, lights, even maybe lightshows?
Fuzztival: Atmosphere is key, in our opinion. Some of the stuff we had planned can’t be done, unfortunately, but the new venue opened up some new possibilities. We just talked to a great artist from Germany who’ll be setting up some crazy light shows for us during the concerts!
We had a couple of foodtrucks ready in May, but unfortunately a lot of them had to cancel in September, and some COVID-related stuff meant that we would not be able to bring our Fuzztival chef in to the kitchen at the new venue, which was a real shame, ‘cause he was really going to cook up something tasty for all our guests. We’re working hard to replace these and secure great food at the festival, but right now it’s looking rather limited, so we’re trying other sources and thinking alternatively: Right now we’re looking at veggie/vegan options like cold lunchboxes or salads that you can purchase at the bar, but it’s really up to our venue to decide what we can and what we can’t do at the moment.
We still have a healthy supply of beer brewed for Fuzztival. While our Fuzz beer from last year will not be making a come-back, we got a desert rock appropriate Hazy Sun IPA and a space rock themed Calista Moon Pilsner, both from the small brewery Ugly Duck. We had a taste earlier this year and they are amazing! Of course the venue bar will be fully stocked with whatever you might enjoy, but we hope the audience will try out our special beers and support the festival even more.
Our color-coded chill areas is another COVID situation, and one of the ways were we’re really thinking outside the box right now: All guests will be identified by city/region/country or friends group, and given a colored bracelet when they turn in their tickets. These colored bracelets determine what area this group can stay in: Outside, where they can chill between concerts and hang out, and also where they sit during the concerts. This way we can keep a safe distance between groups, while friends can still be close and enjoy the atmosphere and mood of a festival, without having to worry about their safety. Of course we’ll be asking everyone to wear masks when they go between their seats inside the venue and out to the bar, food truck or chill area, and we have plenty of hand sanitizers and masks for everyone free of charge. Our hope is that we can do this in a way where everyone gets to have a great time with their friends, while keeping everybody as safe as possible in smaller groups.
We’re still working out a lot of the details, and right now we’re not 100% sure about what these areas will look like, but we are working through a few options and trying our very best to make sure it’s not only safe, but also so chill and cool that the audience will be asking for these areas back in the coming years!
Mr. Stone: Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer me, but especially for your passion and dedication, for staying cool no matter what and making great things happen!
As I said last week, we cooked up a sweet playlist featuring 2 tracks from every band that are going to play at the festival, in order or appearance. Enjoy those fine tunes to be fully ready next week !