RA talks to the festival head in an exclusive interview.
After a few days of silence, the organizers of last weekend's Minitek festival have posted a letter on their website explaining many of the issues that led to the event's problems.
As many have already heard, Friday's events were shut down well before the 8 AM advertised closing time, due to Penn Plaza Pavilion reaching its official capacity. As the organizers tell it, however, the venue "misrepresented their certificate of occupancy." When asked by RA, in an interview conducted this evening, what the certificate of occupancy said, festival organizer Jenny Tan declined specifics, stating that it was it "definitely enough to hold everyone who bought weekend tickets at the very least."
While the organizers covered many of the issues with the festival's Friday night in their letter, we talked further to Tan to get the lowdown on what happened over the course of the weekend and whether there will be a Minitek in 2009.
From all reports that I heard, no one was in charge on Saturday at the day venue at 10:00 AM, no one was there. What happened?
Saturday morning, the sound was delayed. It was the same company that took care of Friday night, they took care of the whole festival. They were late, but as soon as they got in, they fixed the first stage.
Why hadn't the sound been fixed the day before?
The sound was set up. We had been working with the sound company for a year-and-a-half, and they had always done an excellent job. They were totally overwhelmed with the scope of the festival, though, even with having dealt with festival sound before. We believed them when they said they would be able to handle a festival of that scope….We had ordered them to come on Monday morning to set up the sound, but they eventually showed up on Thursday morning. We had obviously spoken to them about this, and told them that we could hire another company to do the day sound and that they could handle the night, but they said it would be fine. They were obviously too busy with the night venue. It was actually the Mint Stage that was set up more than the Purple Stage, even though it was eventually the Mint Stage that didn't happen until very late.
They fixed the Purple Stage first, but it took a long time because there were a lot of live sets, but they concentrated solely on that stage, even though we told them that they had to get the other working as well. They wanted to make the Purple Stage sound perfect. We tried to put some pressure on them to get the Mint Stage set to go, but they were not able to comply.
They just didn't have enough people to get it together?
We haven't spoken to the sound guys to find out exactly what went wrong in setting the stage up, but from what I could gather they didn't have enough people—or enough qualified people—to be able to work on both stages simultaneously.
It certainly doesn't seem like any work was being done at all on the Mint Stage.
No, but that was the terrible thing. The only thing that was missing was about 20 minutes of work [from the sound people]. The speakers were standing, the sound tests had already been done. The only thing was that some of the equipment wasn't there yet. Some of the turntables weren't there. The Traktor Scratch wasn't installed, the mixer wasn't plugged in. That was why it was so frustrating, because you could see that the stage would be ready to go with 30 minutes of work after the equipment was set up.
You were finally able to confirm that Studio B was the night venue late in the evening, around 7:00 PM. Why did it take so long?
Studio B hadn't been open for most of the summer, so it wasn't an operational club we could just move to. We wanted to work out what kind of staff was going to be there, the club itself had to sort out the staff, we also needed to make sure that it was going to be operational sound-wise. We talked to a few different venues, but Studio B made the best sense for us because we could also use Café Europa to honor all of the artist's performances between the two venues. We wanted to have that second space close by so that if people wanted to see one act, they could walk down the street easily.
Was there an announcement as to who was playing where?
Yes. At the end of the festival, we announced both parties on both stages and we also had a note at Penn Plaza guiding people to Studio B, but that was removed.
But if I wanted to see Pan-Pot, for instance, would I have known whether they were playing at Studio B or Café Europa? Or was that up to festivalgoers to try to find out by asking around?
Yeah. The lack of communication is something that we have to take full blame for. The day venue was supposed to have internet access, which didn't end up working. We paid for it, we had the internet installed on Thursday or Friday, but we were so focused on the night venue that we couldn't go test-drive it beforehand. So that stalled us in getting a message across.
The other thing was that Saturday's event during the day was also an organizational nightmare. We were relying on a certain amount of promised volunteers and then about 25 of them didn't show up. As opposed to being able to run the event, I was trying to extinguish fires right and left.
Why did the day venue end earlier than advertised?
We had requested a sound permit until midnight on Saturday and 11 PM on Sunday, and we were assured that it would be fine, but they don't issue permits until the day of the event—as far as I was told—so when we received the notice that we weren't going to go on until 12, we moved the sets knowing that we couldn't go on that long.
I think the biggest problem with the festival was the lack of communication to everyone else. Because we were so concerned with salvaging with what there was to salvage, we completely failed in communicating that to the crowd. We take full blame for that. We had the computers with us to make announcements if something was to happen, but then the internet wasn't working.
How many people were working on the festival?
Before the festival began, it was six. And, yes, we were totally under-staffed. There is no doubt about that. During the festival it was maybe fifteen or so.
Will there be another Minitek?
Yes, absolutely. It would be a shame that if everything we learned from this first bad experience we didn't use next year. I understand that a lot of people are extremely disappointed with us and mad at us. Going over the posts on message boards and websites, we can see that people put a lot of trust in us and a lot of goodwill into the event. A lot of people traveled from faraway places to come and enjoy the festival. And it breaks our hearts to see that we weren't able to give people what they were promised. And I truly mean that.
We lacked the experience. At the end of the day, you can't really know what it's going to come down to at a festival unless you've done one. Yes, we could have worked with people who have already done large events, but we wanted to do it on our own and we wanted to figure out what it is, what it takes to make this happen. I hope that people can give us credit for simply doing it at all. If it hadn't been for us, an electronic music festival wouldn't have happened in New York.
We definitely learned from all of the mistakes that we made this year. Everytime we did a Minimoo party, we would learn something and be able to apply it to next month's party. In this case, we have one year to prepare, and we won't be able to make up for it within a year. It will only be next year that we show that we can handle an event as large as that.