The Frendly Gathering goes huge
On Tuesday, the schedule for the daily lineup of bands at this year's Frendly Gathering, put on by Jack Mitrani and Danny Davis, was released. Featuring more than 30 bands and DJs playing on five stages over three days, on a piece of land in Vermont outfitted with a skate ramp, swimming pond, and a full food and art vendor's village, this festival is an almost incomprehensible evolutionary leap forward from last year's camping and music party in the woods.
Most music festivals are organized by concert promoters who do it as full-time jobs -- and to make the leap from small to big time usually takes most festival organizations at least five years. These guys are trying to do it in one. Plus, Mitrani and Davis already have full-time jobs: snowboarding, the demands of which take up a lot more time than that spent on hill riding. So when we saw bands such as Deer Tick and Dr. Dog on the roster, and began to understand the full scope of what they are trying to pull off, it became clear that a phone call was in order.
We tracked Mitrani down in the woods in the middle of a stage build-out to get him to explain just what the heck is going on here.
ESPN: Before we get into the heart of this inquisition, tell us how the idea for a festival itself started.
Jack Mitrani: It started back in the last Olympic year, which was just the craziest year for all of us. First, with Danny and Kevin [Pearce] getting so hurt, and then Luke [Mitrani] got screwed out of going to the Olympics because of judging politics, and then Lago ended up going and medaling.
By the end of all that, when summer came around, I was like: We need to get everyone together and just have a little soul refresh.
So we just... gathered, in Crowley Lake -- it was just a camping trip. We brought some speakers up and partied. It was just a reason to get everyone together and have a good time.
We had so much fun, and after we decided that, of course we were going to have to do it again. Danny and I are music festival lovers -- we go to a lot of them -- so we thought we'd try to gear the next gathering more toward music, to try to do our own music festival. And here we are.
That's a pretty big jump, from a camping trip to what you've got going on now.
Obviously, back then we didn't know how much went in to putting on a music festival [laughs] but now that we know ... It's still all good. It's definitely still a reason to get all of our friends together, so it works out.
Putting on a festival on of this caliber takes a little bit more work than you were anticipating?
[Laughs] Exactly. We kind of got in way over our heads. As soon as you start booking all of these big bands then EVERYTHING else has to be bigger. You have to figure out how to accommodate them, so they are comfortable and have everything they need. You have to get more security. When you get 35 bands you aren't just paying for the bands, you are paying to have a legit professional venue to host them in. Every day the budget gets bigger. It's incredible.
But the bigger it is, the easier it is to convince people to come. You know, a small festival in Vermont, it's not so easy to get your west coast buddies to come out for it. But you tell them Z Trip is going to be there, and they're on their way.
What was the first festival that you Danny went to that made you guys think you wanted to do your own one day?
The Pick-a-thon, in Oregon. Dr. Dog was playing, which was one of my favorite bands at the time. Danny and I went to a thrift store and bought overalls. I'd never been to a music festival before, and I just thought it was the best weekend I'd had in a long time. After, we were joking around saying we should do our own some day and ... I can't believe that day is here.
So what's your setup?
It's in Windham, Vermont, on the back side of Magic Mountain -- like 20 minutes from Stratton. You can camp anywhere on the mountain. There will be five stages: a main stage at the bottom, a stage in the woods, a giant teepee, and a top stage at the top of the hill, and a DJ tent -- just a whole ground full of stages and music.
Are you going to have food vending and art and all that? A full village?
Oh yeah, we've got it all. It's legit. It's a full-on grass roots music festival. The thing is, last year it was really hot and everyone just kept leaving throughout the day. But we want to keep people here because we have bands all day, so we're trying to make it so everyone has everything they need so they have no reason to leave.
Last year the pond was a muck pile and no one could go in it so we put like 10 grand into the pond to redo it so people can swim in it all weekend long. We have a skate ramp, a slip-n-slide, yoga. We just built it into a whole world that you would never want to leave ... unless you're a wuss and need a shower. [Laughs]
How many days?
Three. But there's a sunrise set on Monday, so I guess it's almost four if you look at it that way.
That's so intense. Three days, five stages... That's so many things to have to deal with.
It's beyond. I honestly haven't stopped working on this since I started booking bands -- every single day, for six months. But, you know, we could keep the festival small, and then just get a little bit bigger every time, but instead we thought we'd try to skip years two, three and four and just ... get to it. [Laughs] I don't know if that's smart, but I couldn't resist.
Who's paying for all this?
We have sponsors helping foot a little bit of the bill, but this isn't a corporate thing. When it comes down to it, we're just two kids who have a dream and are trying to pull off a cool event. So Amp is the presenting sponsor, and there are others. Ben and Jerry's is going to give out free ice cream, every single day, which is the coolest thing ever. But Danny and I are like the ... title sponsors [laughs] -- we definitely are the biggest financial contributors.
You and Danny have your own money in this, too?
Yeah. A lot of money. It just takes so much.
Do you think that you will ever do this again? It's a full-time job to throw a festival and you two already have full-time jobs.
It's definitely a full-time job, but no matter how it goes this year I want to keep this going. It's not about the money, or if we pull a concert off. It's about going back to the reason that we did it in the first place, and that's bringing everyone together.
In snowboarding, in this world, you're all over the map, literally. Everyone's off doing their own things, so you don't get to see your friends as much as you used to. It's easy to lose touch. But if we have this gathering, it's a way to bring us all together again. It doesn't matter how big it is. As long as it happens, and all of our friends come and have a good time, that's all that matters.The Frendly Gathering goes down June 14-16. To find out more about the event, get information on how to attend, or just offer the boys some words of encouragement, check out the Frendly Gathering website.