Anyone who has ever been to an outdoor music festival knows how much fun they can be. The energy and excitement of the crowd is electric as the artist takes the stage and gives a blowout performance. Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to make this type of event a killer success? Doug Daniel gives us an inside look at his day producing the entertainment for the ACC Championship Game’s FanFest.
Here we go. Buckle up. It’s here. December 5, 2015. Game day. ACC Championship day. The good. The bad. The ugly. The day I have been working on for the past nine months. Show day. FanFest day.
Ok, so let me back up a little. For the past few years since Charlotte was awarded the ACC Championship, I have worked with my friends over at Raycom Sports and the ACC Network to book acts for the annual FanFest that leads up to kickoff of the ACC Championship Football Game. I am lucky to have these friends and this year is going to be the best one yet for me. The game sold out back in what feels like 2005 (73,000+ tickets!). There’s not a ticket to be had. It’s going to be wall to wall fans at FanFest…….aaaaannnd I should mention that I’m a little excited because I’m an alumni of one of the schools playing in the game. Go Heels!
This year’s menu of acts is all Country! We start with young up-and-comer, Tucker Beathard, as the opener. Dustin Lynch then takes the stage later in the day, and we conclude with Tyler Farr as our headliner. All acts have been great leading up to the day. All the sound gear, production and hospitality have been advanced. The “red M&Ms” have all been bought, the stage is built and we’re ready to roll. I get to bed around midnight which is doing really good for me. I’m confident. Until……
5:44am – I get this text from my production manager, John: “Farr’s bus down. I may switch headliner.” Instantly, I know the day is off to a good start! @#$% So, let me explain the number one rule of producing a show – stuff is going to go wrong. Period. Heck, if it didn’t why do I even need to be there, right?! What I’m always hoping for, though, are small “fires” to put out. Those small brush fires are manageable. What I hope to avoid are the super, giant California- burn-your-whole-neighborhood -down fires. The good news is that there are only a handful of problems that would be a fire of that magnitude. The headliner’s bus breaking down? Yep, that’s one of them. Day on!
Needless to say, I start blowing up the tour manager’s phone, email and text until I finally reach him at…
7:00am – We talk. He tells me that they did have a breakdown in West Virginia, but they took care of the problem right away and are still on schedule for a 9am arrival in Charlotte. He’s rolling in with two tour buses, towing two trailers and all are arriving on time.
7:45am – Runner arrives. This is maybe the most important part of the day. They say that working “on top” of a show rather than “in” a show is the key to successful management. Without these important people, I am dead in the water. They move the band members around from hotel to venue to music stores to restaurants — just about everywhere. They fight traffic, they make sure the artists are happy, fed and rested. Always remember: happy artists put on good shows. These guys are super important and, basically, one of the biggest reasons I stay even close to sane on show day. I have the best team this year. Chris is coordinating everything with Kolbe and Eric assisting. The A-Team!
8:50am – Tyler Farr arrives with both buses. Kolbe makes sure all the rider stuff is delivered to the buses and then starts to work on getting the bus drivers over to the hotel for some well needed rest after the overnight drive. This is pretty standard. These guys are nocturnal for sure. Overnight drives and lots of day sleeping gets them ready to roll into the next town every day.
Load in starts. John gets the union labor moving. I believe that we may actually have a concert later!
8:55am – Dustin Lynch’s buses arrive. No bus drama. No breakdowns. Just two tour buses rolling into backstage with some tired drivers and hungry crew.
9:10am – Everyone seems good. I venture out from the backstage area to talk with the crew and check out all the production and staging.
10:30am -Tyler Farr’s people finally have everything in place and we’re ready for sound check. Checked and done. They retreat back to their buses in search of Eric and Kolbe for a food run soon. If you can’t tell, food is a pretty popular topic the day of any show — where to get it, how much of it and when’s the next meal coming?!
11:00am – Dustin starts loading in and will be checked by 12:30pm if all goes well. There’s a method to the madness when it comes to producing three acts on one stage. You always load the headliner in first and do sound check. Then you load the support act in front (downstage) and sound check. Last, you load the opener in further downstage and sound check. That way, when each finishes later in the day, you strike and work your way back upstage until you get back to the headliner.
12:00 noon – Tucker Beathard arrives. Now this is a super young up-and -comer that management almost gave to us for the chance for him to share the stage with Dustin and Tyler in front of the thousands of people we are expecting. Crew is the nicest ever and I’m instantly glad we added them.
1:00pm – Tucker loads in. At this point, he just stays up there and…
2:00pm – Tucker takes the stage! FanFest kicks off and the 2015 version is underway! I also happened to find this guy roaming close to backstage. I immediately abuse my position of authority and have security make sure he knows who’s in charge.
2:15pm – Dustin Lynch Meet and Greet. As part of the sponsorship deals that are put together, we always leverage face time with the artists. A chance to meet the artists and take a photo goes a long way toward creating happy sponsors and clients. This is a good one. Dustin is friendly, ready to shake a bunch of hands and smile a lot. It’s going to be a good day.
2:30pm – I take Dustin to meet the guys from FOX TV. They knock out a quick interview backstage.
2:45pm – Tucker is killing it. Crowd is building and it’s EARLY!
3:00pm – Tucker’s show has wrapped. One down!
3:30pm – Dustin Lynch takes the stage. This dude looks like a real Country artist — t-shirt a little smaller than it was intended, large hat and boots. The math all adds up… he’s going to be big one day.
4:15pm -Tyler Farr Meet and Greet. Meanwhile, we recreate the exact same scenario with Tyler for the sponsors. This guy! He looks like your buddy who wants to join you out on a Saturday night and drink a few PBRs — beard, unassuming, friendly, jovial. Maybe this is one of my tailgate buddies punking me.
4:30pm – FOX TV loves this guy. Turns out he’s a GA Bulldogs fan and his wife went to South Carolina. They still ask him whom he’s cheering for… and in perfectly coached PR speak, he says that he’s just “hoping for a good game.”
4:45pm – Interview over and on the way back to the tour buses. I notice I’ve lost track of Tyler. He was just right here. What the what?!
Mystery solved, I just spotted him. He left backstage to join a tailgate with Clemson fans. This guy is making the best of the day for sure! Although, I’m starting to worry that they may have influenced him into becoming a Clemson fan.
4:50pm – Ever heard of a Twitter Mirror? Me neither. ACC Network’s manager of social media introduces the idea to me for Dustin and Tyler. Basically, it’s an iPad set inside this cool looking mirror. You use it to take a selfie and it has a direct link to tweet it out immediately.
I’m told that all the cool artists are doing this. He said Taylor Swift even carries one out on tour. I told him that you had me at “Taylor Swift.”
So I jump up on stage left, tell the tour manger the whole deal, Dustin then grabs it… and then this gem goes out into the world instantly!
5:00pm – Dustin Lynch wraps up. He retreats to the bus for a little rest after what was a great show. Client went crazy. Crowd was the biggest we’ve ever had for a support act and I’m starting to think that some of the people showing up for the game might have been doing a little “pre-gaming” already. Two down!
5:15pm – These two girls whom apparently fell in love with Dustin plead their way with Chris to meet him. I text the tour manager. It doesn’t go over very well. I’m told to “make them go away.” I leave Chris in charge!
5:30pm – Tyler takes the stage. Crowd is huge. Biggest ever. Tens of thousands. I go up on stage with the band. People as far as we can see.
6:00pm – Tyler plays a country cover of “Turn Down For What!” I like this guy.
6:15pm – Twitter Mirror makes a second cameo of the day. The social world will never be the same.
7:00pm – Tyler is off. Whew… what a show! Load out begins. Tucker and Dustin’s gear was long ago struck. Tucker rolled out about 5pm. He was gigging later that night at a local bar in Charlotte. Two a days — hard working new artist!
Crew and union guys busting it out. The faster they bounce, the faster John can start getting his gear out. With a game that will be over by probably 11:30pm and 73,000 fans leaving at the same time… every minute counts. John is running stuff like a general in the middle of battle. Everyone gets their marching orders and I try to stay out of the way viewing the carnage.
The bus drivers will get picked up later. All meals and hospitality are complete and everyone is basking in the glow of a good and smooth day.
My client seems happy, I now know that Twitter Mirror is a thing, all three artists thanked me and vice versa. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. I make sure my world is buttoned up and I leave Chris in charge. He knows I’ll be close by if anything pops up, because… I’M GOING TO THE GAME!
8:00pm – Game kicks off
9:45pm – My son and my dad met me down at the stadium. Three generations of Daniels at the game and the only way it could be a better day would be if my alma mater would be leading.
10:30pm – I get the word that Dustin’s buses just rolled out. All is running smoothly, so I stick around in the stadium to watch my Heels start to come back.
11:30pm – Game over. It wasn’t meant to be for UNC, but it was a game and a few plays that are going to be talked about for a long while. It was a close loss to a good team and at the end of the day, I’m happy we made it to the Championship for the first time. Of course, I’d rather we had closed the day with a win, but it just wasn’t in the cards today.
12:00 midnight – Tyler’s buses take off and production is all most entirely gone. John is gone. Chris is gone. Buses are gone. I’m gone and headed straight to bed. I plan to sleep my way through any 5:44am texts that may come in tomorrow. 2015 is in the books and I’ll be ready to jump back on 2016 in a couple months. Goodnight.