Hands up who went to Westfest last year? The event was held for the very first time in Auckland at Vector Arena over two nights last year. And it was great. The likes of Rob Zombie, Megadeth and Korn graced us with their presence and the two-night affair was a huge success. Enough so that Olly and his team at ODR Productions are going for round two this year and they have changed it up a bit this time. New venue (Mt Smart) and a one-day festival this time (think Big Day Out only more metal/rock).
With just over a week to go until the festival, I spoke to Olly earlier today to get the inside story of what is involved in being a festival promoter and how this year's event is going to pan out. He was surprisingly calm.
"It's definitely easier this year, less surprises", he said. "Well I don't know if easier is the right word, maybe less of a strain because I know a bit more about everything after planning last year's event."
First up, I wanted to know from him, why the venue change/change to a one-day festival?
"Because the NZ event is after Soundwave this year so logistically one day works better", Olly said. He also is trying to make it a bit more of a festival vibe - last year was more like two big rock shows in a row.
Olly confirmed there will be three stages this time, and it will be more spread out than last year. They're really going for the outdoor vibe where there is more freeflow between stages and no-one is trapped in one place.
However, don't expect exactly the same layout as BDO. The final version will be released "hopefully by tomorrow" he said, "but basically the stadium area will be blocked off and the main stage will be up in front of the fields with the second stage down by where the Super Top used to be and a third stage behind that." "We want everything nice and cozy" were his exact works, like one big gig.
Naturally I wanted to know how big a crowd he is expecting. "It's supposed to be around 20,000" he said "and we're hoping to reach that".
Then we moved on to the timetable - I wondered if he was expecting many clashes, especially with lots of people keen on seeing the two main acts,Soundgarden andFaith No More (or are they just my favourites?). Olly told me they have tried to minimise as many clashes as possible, even going so far as to send out draft timetables for the fans to comment on and give their opinion. They then changed a few things around to fit everyone what seemed to be the best slots. "No-one is playing at exactly the same times, some bands will play longer than others or a band will start half-way through someone else's set so you can at least see half of each band you want to" - which he thinks is a fair compromise. And I agree.
Given that Olly has attended Soundwave previously in Australia, I asked him about AJ Maddah and what contact (if any) he has had with him during the setup of Westfest. Olly said he and his crew are going it alone, he has not really dealt with AJ and the Soundwave team at all, except to arrange the breaking of contracts so the bands can play in NZ. "AJ's a smart man", said Olly, "and he knows what benefits the people. So if it doesn't hinder him, I can't see him doing anything that would hinder us you know?"
True enough - and the bands are already over this side of the world so its great that ODR are willing to bring them just that little bit further for our listening pleasure. Usually fans have to travel to Australia to see a lot of these bands but Westfest has changed all that. Thanks Olly.
"It's actually a lot harder than most fans would think (logistics-wise)", Olly told me. "Fans don't usually realise this, he certainly didn't realise it until it mattered. Originally all he would care about is that he wanted to see a band and why weren't they coming to NZ - but a lot of the time its just impossible for them to get here."
One of the reasons Olly has set up Westfest is obviously to bring this type of music to the NZ audience. But most of all he likes watching the crowd enjoy the bands - that gives him more satisfaction in the long run. I would tend to agree with him - last year at Westfest the crowd were so enthusiastic, it must make the whole thing worth it. "It's a lot about the crowd's reaction and the great vibe on the day, he said. A diverse range of people all in attendance for the same reason - the great music and the atmosphere".
That it is Olly, that it is.
Olly plans to continue bringing Westfest to NZ every year if this year goes without a hitch - he's not making any promises of course but we'll see how we go..
I mentioned that Soundwave appears to be going well so far this year (the first weekend was held in Adelaide and Melbourne this past weekend. Olly hasn't had a chance to check out any of the reviews yet as he is too busy - no surprises there.
Next I asked Olly about the reasoning behind which bands he has picked to be on the list for this year's festival. "Some of it", he says, "is knowing the information before it comes out. Some bands take a lot longer than others to negotiate with. And it is also a matter of mutual contacts and bands you have dealt with previously." Certainly it was, to a degree, seeing the first round of Soundwave announcements to see who is playing there and snagging them for himself. Recommendations also help.
Olly has a main crew of around six or seven working really hard to get everything running smoothly - "we've all got an interest in keeping this thing alive" he said. "There are two of us that are like the collective mastermind of it all and we really knock a lot of ideas about and get the formula that works, but there's definitely also a great team behind us, so I can't take all the credit myself."
Olly's company also brings bands over for smaller gigs to NZ - think Skid Row last year which was a great gig. This helps with contacts for future bigger bands he says as it gets you known in the industry.
Part of Olly's team is his publicist who arranges all the media/interviews/promos for the event. Hopefully we'll get to hear some great interviews this time round with the likes of Faith No More and Judas Priest. Although Olly says the bigger bands tend to have super busy schedules.
We finished up talking about how great it must be for some of these bands to come to NZ and Australia during our summer. This will be the last stop of the festival circuit for a lot of these guys. I suspect the weather plays a large part in why they say yes in the first place. Olly agrees.
Get ready for a great day next week people. With the likes of Faith No More, Judas Priest, Lamb of God, Fall Out Boy and of course, Soundgarden, there surely will be something for all rock fans' tastes. Here's to a great day and to many more. Although last year will, for me, be hard to top. See you all there.
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