Interview conducted by Eric Riley.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what Crash Line Productions is/does.
– No problem. I’m Michael Snow, co-founder of Crash Line and one of the producers for Boston Calling. My job is basically to break the festival down into the major parts – performers, sponsors, licensing, etc. etc. And after all of that gets set, we try to see how well we can build our small little city in a day and a half or so. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people may not recognize right away, but they appreciate. They don’t tend to focus on the video screens or the Port-A-Potties, but they like that they’re there.
You previously worked at the Phoenix Media Group until it closed last March. After it closed its doors you and a coworker, Brian Appel, decided to form Crash Line Productions. What is it about working in this industry that made you guys want to pursue creating a company on your own?
–– I was more on the radio side of it. We ran a station called WFNX here in the city, along with a newspaper and a magazine that we all worked on. But working here, like it would be in any company, there are a lot of different directions and a lot of different goals and a lot of things that you want to achieve. Things are always changing, so you have to do things to keep your audience connected and make sure you always have a product to give them. I think we always just enjoyed doing new things and seeing what we could get done. So now, we took what we had both learned in the past and applied it here, working to use that knowledge throughout the year and focus it down into two weekends.
This will be the fourth edition of the Boston Calling Festival – and a very exciting one at that. The festival itself, in comparison to others at least, is still very young, but the buzz around it is huge. Did you anticipate this big of a response so soon?
– We’re only two years old. And the truth of it is, no, not entirely. When we started this, we both thought that the city wanted an event like this and could support it. But we also knew that people in Boston as well as throughout New England tend to have high standards for things like this, because we’ve been privileged with all of these awesome sports arenas and theaters and concert venues, so we knew it had to be done right. It had to focus on the attendees and deliver a solid experience, then the city would respond to it and the rest could come naturally. It’s been extremely humbling to see how quickly this has all happened, because we knew that if we could do this right, we could do something special.
Boston Calling has a pretty diverse lineup. The May lineup is typically pretty different than the September one, while the show in the fall shows even more range. What made you guys choose to make each edition so different?
– *laughs* Well what made us do that is what artists are actually available. With the cycle of booking, it’s a little bit of timing, a little bit of money, and a whooole lot of luck. These artists could be anywhere in the world, so to get them to your event takes a lot of different things to come together. But sometimes, once you get two or three artists set, or if you see a the crowd is responding well to something in particular, it makes sense to pull more people in from certain areas or genres. We’ve been really fortunate to be able to get the lineups we’ve made, and it just so happened that people’s schedules worked out well enough to give us the diversity that people loved.
A good portion of the festival’s sponsors are Boston-based, and I can assume that that’s intentional. Why do you feel like it’s important to partner with Boston-based companies?
– Well I’ve lived here my entire life, so I think that it’s really important to fly that flag and show that your community as a whole embraces and supports what you’re doing. When things are really working out, and you’re bringing in people who are passionate about the area and about what they’re doing, it just makes sense and it works. Boston is a city where people remember the time they spent there, no matter how long it was. And along with that, we have the local sponsors who not only do we believe in them, but they believe in what we’re doing as an event. They call up and tell us that they enjoy and believe in what we’re doing, and it’s fantastic.
Who has been your favorite performance throughout the past three shows, and who are you most excited to see this time around?
– I guess if I narrow it down to one from each show, I’d start with saying I’ve been a huge fan of The National for a long time. They were the last band to play at our first festival, so the experience of watching them play is something I’ll always remember. Their performance was sort of the endcap to the entire year and-a-half that it took to pull off the first one, so feeling that sense of accomplishment, teamed up with the appreciation I’ve always had for that band, it was truly special. But I think my favorite from that year was probably Matt & Kim – the weather that year was so awful, but those two have such a high energy and it made everyone forget all about it.
I think the most unexpected performance I’ve seen would have to be Major Lazer, no question. I had seen it in smaller venues before, but watching it on that grander scale was unlike anything I’d ever seen.
For this upcoming one, I think I’m most excited to see Bleachers. There’s a lot of buzz around them, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Then again, if I can see more than three songs from a band’s set, that’s a victory for me. There’s always something to do, so we’re always running around. But even if I can’t stop and watch an artist’s full set, I can still have to chance to watch someone watching their favorite band. And to think that we had something to do with giving them that opportunity, it’s such a great feeling. Getting a second to step back and take the entire scene in as a whole, it never loses its impact. It’s a rare instance when you can see a pure sense of appreciation in someone’s face, and I think music is where we get that chance.
The lineup for each show seems to get bigger and better each time around. Have there been artists that fans requested a lot? Or maybe one that you tried to get but couldn’t?
– There haven’t been many that we’ve gotten each year, but when Outkast announced their festival route, we hadn’t announced our lineup yet, so there was this huge pouring-in of people asking if they’d be here. I don’t think we’d ever be big enough to get an artist that huge, but I think we’re a festival stepping stone – kids can come out and find out that they really enjoy seeing the bands that they like while surrounded by 20,000 strangers, and then turn around and go to a bigger one, and another after that. We’re like the gateway drug of festivals. *laughs* But maybe I shouldn’t say it that way.
Each show seems to bring something new, and this time you included a huge Octoberfest celebration. Was this a chance to celebrate Sam Adams’ 30th Anniversary? Have you already started planning for the (hopeful) next one?
– We haven’t really started planning the site for May yet, because we want to have the chance to see if there are things that happen this weekend that need to be changed or tweaked for the next time around. We’ve been working with a few of the performers for the next one, and we’re very excited to announce some of those. We like to always have something happening no matter what, we always like to be thinking of new things or creative ways to add in new features, because it’s always a “why not?” mindset. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, right?
Well whatever you’ve got planned for the next one, which we all hope will be in May again, I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. Thanks again
– Yes, you’ll see us back here in May. We’ll keep doing this until people stop showing up.