by Steven Ashford
There's a feeling that the crusade for summer’s musical conquest is beginning to dwindle. I’m not talking about an evening gig at the Bluffs’ gamble cove or a day-long heat stroke in the city, but weekend events that extract oneself from the traditional realm and delicately transplant the mind, body and soul to a dreamland destination, of sorts.
Nationwide, music lovers’ palpable pallets yearn for the salivating quench that keeps on giving – for weekends at a time. However, the bountiful smorgasbord table of melodies, harmonies, tempos, beats and bends tends to run dry before summer’s end. Nebraska, where festivals themselves are few and far between, will host a weekend-long music and arts festival called Hullabaloo at River West Park Aug. 3-5, which is curated by Kris Lager Band’s Brandon Miller and will feature an eclectic collection of local performers including Bad Speler, Jamazz, UNIVERSE CONTEST, Voodoo Method, Lucas Kellison, The Lil Slim Blues Band and many more.
While busy assorting the final arrangements of the festival, Miller takes a little time to chat as he waits for his car to get a fresh lube job.
Note: Weekend tickets are $50 in advance; $60 day of the event.
Hear Nebraska: First of all, can you give a brief overview about the setup of this particular festival?
Brandon Miller: Well, we’re going to have a music and arts festival that runs from Aug. 3-5 at River West Park. People are encouraged to camp out for the duration of the event, and campers can stay until Monday morning. The gates will open Friday at 11 a.m. with the music starting at 2 p.m.. On Friday and Saturday we’ll have a tripped-out, late-night freak-out stage in the woods with music playing until 3 a.m.
There will be themes each night of Hullabaloo and people are encouraged to dress up according to the theme: Freaky Funky Friday, Sinful Saturday and Soul Salvation Sunday. There will be an MC giving out prizes to the best-dressed each night.
HN: Have you ever put together a festival before?
BM: Playing in the Kris Lager Band, we’ve gone to a lot of festivals, both as supporting and headlining acts. I’ve also attended many festivals as a fan, so I knew that this was something that I wanted to do and thought that I could do. Some bands that have created their own festivals have really spread their names. I thought this would be fun to do for ourselves to grow our band and the Nebraska music scene, as well as to have a really fun music festival in the Midwest. The first festival I put together was last year’s Hullabaloo and this weekend we’re having a smaller scale, Hullabaloo West in North Platte that’s only one day.
HN: How did you come up with the festival’s name, “Hullabaloo”?
BM: I just thought that the word Hullabaloo was absolutely perfect for a music festival. It is an English word that means a great noise or excitement — uproar.
HN: Do you anticipate more growth with this year’s festival while reflecting on last year’s attendance and success?
BM: Well, last year nobody had heard about it yet. I spent a ton of time handing out tens of thousands of flyers. I kept advertising to a minimum by staying local, due to the fact this only local groups played. This year seems to have generated more media. We had a write up in the Omaha World-Herald and this band manager I know called me a couple months ago, saying he was on a Southwest flight and picked up the Spirit magazine and there was an article about Omaha and it mentioned Hullabaloo in it, so he wanted to get his band on the bill. River West Park is also getting more recognition with festivals, where last year it was unheard of. All in all, the amount of awareness and advertising has grown. We’re running adds all throughout the Midwest and we have national acts that will draw larger markets.
HN: You say you stumbled upon River West Park on accident. How did that become a sufficient venue to replace Anchor Inn?
BM: Back last spring, it was becoming apparent that the river flooding would cause the Anchor Inn to close. By June, I ended up getting a phone call when I was on tour from a guy named Bill Novak. He told me he had an awesome piece of land and I should take a look at it to see if I wanted to throw Hullabaloo at his spot. When I got out there I fell in love. All of the camping is surrounded by giant, shaded trees, there is this natural tunnel that cuts through the trees that leads us to the stages and there is a beach on the campground that you can pop a tube into the water and float to the stages. I mean, the place is ideal. It’s so well-manicured and Bill takes such pride in that piece of land that I couldn’t imagine holding the festival at any other place now.
HN: So it sounds like you and Bill have a collective idea and vision a common ground as to how this piece of land should be used.
BM: Yeah, and this year we’re one of five festivals happening at River West. It’s a campground first and foremost, and that’s where a majority of his business comes from, but it’s set up perfectly to host these types of festivals and parties.
HN: As far as the lineup, did you have a predetermined route regarding the genres and bands that would float the bill?
BM: Being that I play with the Kris Lager Band, we’re blues, funk, rock and soul music all tied up into one package. I kind of wanted to differentiate the music festival and cater to that group of music. I wanted to have a lot of hip-hop and those other mentioned genres. One of the coolest things about throwing this festival is that I get to have my favorite bands out there and I get to pick and choose my custom festival. I did get most people that I wanted this year, and as the years progress I will set higher and higher goals for myself.
HN: You say that the word is spreading and the awareness of the festival has grown tremendously since last year. Do you know where you stand on projected attendance levels this year?
BM: Honestly, I don’t even want to know how the presale is going because I don’t want it to effect how I spend advertising dollars. It may not be the brightest thing to do, but I don’t want it to scare me. With these festivals and with these crowds, people like to old onto their money. I like to hold onto my money. I have typically tried to buy a ticket the day of or go down to a venue to scout around to see if anyone has an extra ticket. I think if I look into it, it’s going to make me a little more worried and insecure than I need to be.
HN: Aside from music specifically, will Hullabaloo provide any sort of side activities or entertainment?
BM: Well, the music is the primary focus, but I really am striving to make the land visually appealing. The late-night stage is going to be tripped out with cool decorations. The tunnel leading to the stages will be all lit up. One thing people really talked about last year was that we had these giant tree stumps arranged in a semi-circle with glowing TV screens with painted letters that spell out “HULLABALOO.” We’ll also have things like the Benson Theatre Project out there spreading the word. One of my buddies will be hosting an exercise class every morning, we’ll have a hula hoop workshop and face painting. We also have a company coming out with a ton of inflatables for the kids to play on.
Steven is a Hear Nebraska contributor. He encourages you to go out and get it. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.