TWH — The end of August dealt a bit of a setback to Pagan music fans when festival organizer David Banach published a series of posts on the CalderaFest Facebook page revealing that the concert was going to be postponed. Fewer than expected ticket sales were the primary cause for the upheaval, as The Wild Hunt reported earlier this month.
The reaction among folks who were planning to attend was mixed.
One commenter on those public posts said, “I’d like to know about the developments about refunds… my group spent $1000 and we’d like our money back. Many of us made special arrangements with work and family to be there. It is WRONG to keep our money if this festival is going to be rescheduled!”
Others pledged their support, offering to volunteer or to do whatever was necessary so that the festival could move ahead.
“What ever we can do to help please let me know, this is such a special event and it must happen,” a commenter said.
The issue brought up most frequently on the festival’s page are inquiries about refunds and people taking exception with the event being postponed rather than scheduled as a new event.
Bands that were scheduled to perform were generally upbeat about the postponement and voiced their support for Banach.
Mannun, bassist and vocalist for Witch’s Mark, said that he was, “Bummed.”
He added, “But I understand, if not enough people are gonna be there to make it worth while then why do it. Try again at a later date when things can possibly be promoted better and maybe more can commit.”
Solo performer Brian Henke also expressed disappointment that it won’t be happening this year, but he also said that, as someone who has experienced concert and festival promotion, he knows about the pitfalls.
“I don’t think most people have any idea of the amount of hard work, attention to detail and courage it takes to do a festival of this size,” Henke said.
There are a lot of variables that make organizing extremely complicated and difficult, he added.
“I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the folks that put this amazing fest together and am very looking forward to being at Caldera 2019!”
Spiral Dance had built CalderaFest into their 2017 tour plans, when they travelled from Australia to the UK, where they’re currently performing before flying to the southeast United States to wrap up their northern hemisphere excursion.
Singer Adrienne Piggott didn’t seem to be too shaken by the change, saying, “We’ve got some house concerts as well as Phoenix Phyre Festival so we’re looking to launching our new CD there. If Caldera happens in 2019 and we can be there, we will!”
What follows is a Q&A with festival organizer David Banach. There appears to be some unresolved issues that he still must face if he wants to rebuild the trust of both those who currently hold tickets and those who may attend in 2019.
Banach is admirably unflappable in his belief in the festival, his love of the bands and the music that they create. It is difficult not to get caught up in his enthusiasm.However, for the people who are sitting on tickets and are feeling like an event in 2019 is not what they payed for, it will take more than a love of the music to win them back. Banach may need to do some soul-searching, as well as reaching out to ticket holders to come up with creative solutions and compromises.
While he appears to sincerely want to do right by people, he still needs to dig in and figure out how best to make that happen.
TWH: First up, if you can catch me up on what’s happened so far. On August 31 you put up the original post to the Facebook page announcing that the festival would be postponed. What’s happened since then?
David Banach: Mostly, I have been fielding lots of questions and doing my best to deal with the backlash. Mostly, the response has been fairly positive, but there have been some negative comments. I’m doing my best to ignore the negativity and focus on making the 2019 event truly legendary.
TWH: How many folks do you have working on the festival, I think I saw mention that there are two of you right now?
Banach: CalderaFest is myself and my business partner at the financial core. I have two other staff members from 2016 and then we added five other staff members for this year. We are all volunteers in this. We haven’t made a dime. In fact, my business partner and I lost a small fortune putting on 2016. It’s a project we really believe can be successful eventually. We might even make that money back someday.
TWH: Can you say who your business partner is? And do you feel like a larger pool of volunteer help could have helped pull the event off this year or was it solely a funding issue?
Banach: My partner is Mary D. She was in charge of the vendors in 2016. She’s an awesome lady and a good friend. I never could have pulled it off without her last time.
The main issue for 2017 was lack of ticket sales. Putting on this festival is very expensive. When we announced the postponement, we had about a third of the tickets we needed to break even. The other factor was volunteers. We need about 90 to make it happen. At the end of August we had 12. The current plan is that volunteers get a severely reduced rate for working three 6 hour shifts during the festival. I’m currently working on a plan to be able to boost volunteer numbers for 2019 by offering a lower rate in exchange for working one shift as well. I want to give people lots of choices to find the plan that works best for them.
TWH: That’s awesome, I was really sorry I couldn’t make it to the first ‘fest. Are you concerned that you may get into a position where you have enough volunteers but the reduced rate still doesn’t hit the break even point.
Banach: There’s always that concern. I’m also working on alternative ways to fund the next CalderaFest as well. We will be selling some fairly inexpensive sponsorship programs that include advertising on our websites as well as ad banners on the stage and on the festival grounds. Corporate sponsorship would be great, but just like we focus on independent Pagan musicians, I’d like to be able to get independent Pagan businesses, media outlets, and organizations, including other festivals, to sponsor with us so we can help each other grow and be successful.
TWH: Have you worked with any fundraising pros to help you create a plan?
Banach: It’s not something we’ve done in the past, but I will be looking into getting some help in that area.
TWH: You mentioned that you chose the new date because of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Since that’s about a year and a half after the original planned date, why not aim for some time in 2018?
￼Banach: That wasn’t the only reason, but I mentioned it to build some excitement for 2019. The other factors involved are simply the amount of time needed for everyone involved to make arrangements to be there. There’s the guests that buy tickets, of course, but also musicians, vendors, and volunteers. Plus we have to work with the venue for its availability and one of our key staff members will be unable to do it in 2018 for health reasons. The best reasonable time we could find was Memorial Day 2019. If we had postponed only a week, or a month, or even a few months, most people wouldn’t be able to make their plans by then. We thought this was the best plan that was the most fair for the most people.
TWH: Since you mentioned musicians, do you have a list that have committed to the new festival date? Are there any lineup changes?
Banach: I really don’t have much info on that yet. Most have said they want to come back, but actual details for 2019 aren’t even tentative yet. The plan is to do a Woodstock thing, so yes, the actual schedule will change a bit. The lineup is yet to be determined.
TWH: Have you heard anything from the bands that were booked for this year? Any gripes? I know Spiral Dance was slated to perform, were they understanding?
Banach: All the musicians were very understanding and wonderful. Most knew that things like this happen, some were very disappointed, one even cried. I love them all like family that I still geek out on when I see them. They are really awesome people.
TWH: People are understandably upset about the changes, are you offering refunds to those who can’t make the new date?
￼Banach: I want to do what is right. If I had the ability to refund everyone, I would. I have given the people who have tickets several choices and they have been very understanding of the situation. I will do everything I can do for them. I wish I could do it all.
TWH: What are the options that you’re giving them?
Banach: We would really like them to keep their ticket for 2019. I’m brainstorming ideas to benefit those that do keep their tickets. They can also sell their tickets or we can sell the tickets for them via brokerage. When tickets go on sale for 2019, any brokered tickets will be sold first. The last option is of course refunds. I understand that this may be the only option for some. I will do my best to take care of all of the people with tickets.
TWH: Have you had anyone threaten to sue or anything like that?
Banach: There has been some talk about it on Facebook, but fortunately not. I hope people realize that we’re not a giant corporation with unlimited resources. We are just regular people that wanted to make something wonderful happen. I’m doing my best to satisfy everyone.
TWH: Do you feel like you’ll be able to regain the trust of fans/vendors/bands? What would you say to people who are feeling uneasy about investing money for the 2019 event?
￼Banach: I know this isn’t the first event to be postponed, and hopefully everyone will know that this project is our passion. It’s what we gave every free moment of our time and our life savings to. We want Nothing more than for CalderaFest to return better than ever. I’m asking them to believe in CalderaFest and us. If they need a second opinion, ask those who were there in 2016, fans, and musicians. It was real magick for those few days. We can, and will, do it again. We need everyone’s support to make magick again.
TWH: Thank you so much for your candor, Dave. I appreciate your willingness to share. Is there anything else you want to add that I haven’t touched on?
Banach: I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported this project in the past and we look forward to bringing CalderaFest to you in the future. If anyone is willing to help us make it a success, please feel free to contact me.