The Festival For Humanity: Our Interview With Anders Thueson

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to thrash out the details of the rock n' roll dream show you were planning on having at your palatial estate with vast acreage ? Any urge to call Perry Farrell and ask him how he made it through that many Lollapalooza events while waxing poetic about the finer points of stadium rock vs. small venue punk rock?


How about the logistics of thousands of people baking in the hot sun with too much alcohol, lack of porta potty access, bad food, and the occasional violent downpour to cake them in mud?

Still not sold?

I can't blame you.

The art of the festival is something few master, but we spoke this past week to someone who is doing it right: Anders Thueson, who is heading up the Festival Tor Humanity, which takes place this upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, May 27th-30th, at Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey.

Hi Anders, thanks for talking to us today.
No problem.

So let's start off with some talk about the Festival For Humanity. All I had to do is see the Misfits on the bill and I was sold.
Well good, that's why we put them there. We were hoping for that.
Well you also have quite a line up in addition to them. How did you approach these all these bands to appear, was it using the charity or the festival angle?
We used both. I mean, we certainly can't support the charities without a big crowd. And to get the big crowd, we needed the good bands, so we really kind of reached out to all the agencies and got our list of availabilities and then looked at the artists and what they represent with their music. We pretty much looked for artists like Third Eye Blind and Soul Asylum and Good Charlotte especially who have a track record with depression and mental health. We have quite a variety and the theme is suicide prevention, health, and nutrition, so that gives us a LOT of parameters. PETA came forward and actually asked us to be there which was actually great and Oxfam did the same thing. Oxfam is known for their work for poverty and hunger and PETA is obviously for animals, but they also are advocates of a vegetarian lifestyle so it was a good fit on that level for us.

The sheer number of charities are great but I also love the artist aspect of the festival and the call for submissions by unknown artists and also? The fine dining experience. I've been to a LOT of festivals in my time and I have yet to hit one where I could actually eat well.
Yes, and that's really our intent. The good thing about Mountain Creek is that they have a resort called Crystal Springs.
Yes, I've been there.
Good, so you know about their attitude towards green, sustainability, and organic food, so it was an easy fit on that level. They are working on their menus right now and they are actually styling some of the foods that will be offered around the artists' needs because a lot of the artists are really focused on eating well.This is revolutionary for me.
The last festival I attended found me sitting in a corner nibbling a Cliff Bar I stole from someone before contemplating hitting someone over the head for the last available water bottle. It turned into a weekend of survival skills. Gourmet food is such a great idea. I got worried it was going to turn into Lollapalooza and the bands would tear the place up.
Well we certainly DO want some of that. We want a LOT of enthusiasm and we want that energy level and that's partly why we put the Misfits on Friday night. They do appeal to a certain crowd and we knew going in that we wanted to harness some of that energy.
Also, the US Open Of Mountain Biking is going to be the same weekend up at Mountain Creek so we've invited them to use our Friday format as their ice breaker as well so that they can bring their 800 racers down and all their fans and announce their final heats for the weekend.
This festival is all so much more civilized than I'm used to. Maybe I'm getting old. Anyway, I don't know if I can do the mosh pit any longer.
It's there if you want it.
I noticed that people I'm talking to who are going to this are mixed ages. Young, old, whole families. It seems to appeal to everyone.
You know, I did that purposely. When we went into this, we didn't want to be only focused on the music. Although we do have a theme, in a sense we are really ranging into multigenerations. Obviously we are kind of heavy on '90s and 2000s bands, so it's probably going to attract as many 25-35 year olds as it will 16-25 year olds, which is what we want.
You've given people who maybe aren't even staying at the local facilities a chance to partake in the fun. Say someone's got kids -- they can drive in for the day and they know there is a place for the kids to get good food and rest on the grassy portions of the set-up. You don't have to set up to "live through it." Just enjoy it.
Yeah, we had thought in the beginning about a general-admission-only festival. But then we thought, "Well, we want to raise money for the charities, so let's create a fixed seating area as well for reserved tickets." Sales have been about even I'm glad to say up to this point. We are still early in the decision making process for people who buy tickets, so we've been offering some pretty steep discounts. We had a 50% off promotion going until April 1st and now we've dropped that down to 25% and gave out some discount codes that would enable you to get another 25% off.
The codes are related to the bands and the mountain and to us. We are about to send out a wave of discount codes to the charities as well so that they can use those.
Apparently you have had a thirty year career in the arts and entertainment industry including some very successful festivals prior to this one.
Smaller ones. I'm a jazz and blues lover by nature, so I found myself promoting that type of music which doesn't draw enormous crowds but it does draw good crowds that really respect and appreciate a good show. That's really where my head is. I don't want to be a Bonnaroo where we are just dealing with masses of people. The venue structure itself can handle up to about 18,000 people if need be. We are going to be very happy if we bring 7 to 10 thousand people this year. If we basically half fill our venue, it will be a very big success for us.
I think you will. I've been to these big ones that were so poorly planned, the attendees have been on the verge of rioting, which is probably a festival planner's worst nightmare. What do you think makes the difference between festival success and festival disaster?
Well, getting enough media and press behind this is huge obviously. You guys will be a key piece in getting the word out. I think the key to success is to appeal to a bigger audience and carefully pick the artists like we have and looking at their numbers and trying to come up with our seven thousand pretty comfortably within the range of what they would typically draw to their shows. And then certainly the appeal of the charity aspect should put us over the top is our feeling. There may be a good number of people who may not be familiar with the bands but I don't think there is any annoying music there at all.
There isn't. Also what's huge for me is that you aren't having your artists play separate stages at the same time so you don't put ticket holders in a Sophie's Choice-type dilemma where they have to choose where to go.
I am a purist in that respect and that's the way I've always done it. I feel that it's important that you get the opportunity to let the ticket buyer see everything that they want if that's what they want to do. If you come at nine in the morning and want to catch every minute you can do that and stay until nine at night and you won't miss a thing. We are planning an indoor event after the afterparty in the South Lodge, maybe bring in some more local regional bands that have good followings, too. If you're really into it and don't care about sleeping for a few days, you can have an enormous time.
We are real excited about it. I can't say enough about the artists we've brought in and we have another big announcement for that Sunday coming up.
Any chance you want to give that up now? Just kidding, I'll wait with baited breath like everyone else.
I can't say yet but you will be flipping out when you hear who we are talking to. We did have a near miss with  Dave Matthews.
You know what though? I think Cracker more than makes up for that in my eyes. I freaking love Cracker. I'd travel  across a hot sandy desert barefoot to see those guys.
We found a Cracker fan! Thank God. They told us, "If you put Cracker on the bill, you will have people coming from ALL over." Everybody I know, myself included, I'll drive five hundred miles to see them play.

Camper Van Beethoven the same thing. You should have him do a set with both!
That would be neat if he said, "Now let's bring Camper out!"
So many of these bands on the roster draw big crowds down here in DC where I live.
Yeah, actually I'm a DC guy today. We are doing promotion down in your area as I speak. 
Yeah I'm right in [name of my neighborhood removed so no one comes to kill me].
I'm right down the street near Adams Morgan. 
DC is such an awesome place for music, always has been.
Yeah, we also considered Bad Brains at one point but we went for the Misfits for a number of reasons.
Now that I can't sit around and admire my vinyl records all dall and everything is a digital download, I kind of feel that live shows are where all the fun is at for me.
That's great, I'm glad you're going. I'd also like to quickly talk about something you brought up earlier and that is the art aspect of the show.
Oh yeah I started talking about that at the beginning and then I went off on a wild tangent and forgot to come back to it. Sorry.
That's okay, we are still looking for artists. We have pretty close to 200,000 square feet of wall space to paint, so we cannot have enough artists to do it. I have graffiti artists. I have an artist group from Philadelphia that's going to be coming on. I've got individual artists from all over the place and artists that are submitting work as oppossed to coming in and painting the week before. It's a real  combination. We are going to leave some considerable blank wall space and the chosen artists will be given the opportunity to mentor or proctor sections of the wall and the fans will be able to walk up during the course of the day and put their message to humanity on the wall as well.
It's going to be an evolving art event for the weekend. We'll have enough significant art in place to decorate to start off  the weekend . I'm a builder by trade so just building this thing is a really exciting part for me and seeing it work is just going to be the most incredible part of it.

This sounds epic in scope. You heard him artists, check the website for rules and parameters and then submit your work! Thanks for talking with us today and I'll see you there.
A pleasure, take care.

For more information on Festival For Humanity, visit the website, follow them Twitter, and check out their Facebook and MySpace pages.

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