Exclusive: Interview With Bamboozle Founder Christian McKnight
Behind every successful venture, exists a forward-thinking mind. For The Bamboozle Festival, that brilliant brain is festival founder, Christian McKnight. Since its inception in 2003, McKnight has been at the helm of one of the nation’s most successful weekends of music. And this year, from May 18-20, The Bamboozle, for the first since 2005, returns to where it started — in New Jersey’ Asbury Park. With acts from Skrillex to Mac Miller, and My Chemical Romance to Bon Jovi it promises to befit its tenth-anniversary billing. And McKnight couldn’t be more excited. Myspace chatted with the longtime promoter before the festival kicks off this weekend to get the lowdown on the festival’s rich history, what goes into pulling off this massive musical throw down, and how he likes to keep it in the family.
Myspace: It’s a big year for The Bamboozle. Not only is it the festival’s tenth anniversary, but you’re back in Asbury Park.
Christian McKnight: Asbury Park gave birth to the festival. The first Bamboozle actually was 2003… the first two years it was focused more as a jam festival. 2005 was when we switched formats to make it the festival that it is today. 2005 was also the last year we were in Asbury Park. 2006 was the first year at Giants Stadium. 2011 was the last year we did it there. But there’s something about having an actual site, an Asbury Park. Every big festival in America has a good city that goes along with it: Coachella and Indio. Manchester, Tennesse has Bonnaroo. And now we have Asbury. I just think it fits the personality of our festival a lot more than being in a parking lot.
Myspace: And you landed Bon Jovi, no less. How much more perfect could it get.
Christian McKnight: It’s still kind of funny when I think about it. It’s awesome. I’m just like ‘Bon Jovi are playing Bamboozle.’ No matter how many times I say it I don’t think I realize the enormity of it, how big it is, ’til I actually say it aloud. It’s like ‘Holy shit! They’re playing Bamboozle. That’s insane!’
Myspace: I take it you have mixed emotions about Blink-182 not being able to play The Bamboozle this year and subsequently being replaced by My Chemical Romance?
Christian McKnight: Your heart kind of sinks for a second and you think ‘how are we gonna come back from this?’ We had been talking to My Chemical Romance about coming back to this festival at some point whether it was this year or next year. And they were a really important band for us. In 2005, the last year we were at Asbury Park, they were the last band to play — they headlined the main stage that night. And that was right when they started to blow up — their first record was out and people were talking about them a lot. So to have them come back now after all their successful records and tours, as bummed as we were that Blink couldn’t play, it was cool to get somebody like My Chemical Romance.
Myspace: The Bamboozle has become a vital part of East Coast teenage culture over the past decade. What elements have been important for you to keep intact?
Christian McKnight: As time goes on and we add different elements, different kinds of music –obviously in the past couple years we’ve had a lot more hip-hop, a lot more dance, last year we had Motley Crue, this year we had Bon Jovi — I think what’s important to keep around is the bands that we started the festival with. Taking Back Sundays, The Brand New, My Chemical Romance. All those bands have helped build the festival up. As long as this festival is going on, you’re going to see bands like that. One thing we have this year is a stage which is going to be focusing on bands that helped bring in the festival, bands that played back in the day, like Anti- Flag, Bayside, Bouncing Souls. It’s always important for us to keep the element of those kinds of bands.
Myspace: As festivals have gotten more commercialized it’s nice to see that The Bamboozle has maintain allegiance to those bands.
Christian McKnight: One of the things that we’re really big on is we’re constantly looking for bands that we can bring up through our system. We kind of look at our different stages as like farm teams in baseball. There are so many bands we can think of that started off with us as second-stage bands, playing the first or second slot in the day, (and went) all the way to being main-stage headline slots. I think that a lot of bands actually remember that and that’s why they are pretty loyal to us. And I think the fans also see that. When a fan goes to a festival every year — and a lot of our fans are repeat customers that just love the festival — they grow with those bands as well. The kid that saw Paramore play a side stage in 2005 is the same kid that saw Paramore as one our headliners in 2009. The same person that was in California when we did Bamboozle in California when Skrillex played on a side stage to 100 people might be the same kid that sees Skrillex headline Friday night over Incubus and Mac Miller. So that’s really important to us. Making sure that we start those bands out and have them come back. And it’s an awesome success story when it happens like that.
Myspace: In recent years you’ve added pop, hip-hop and dance acts to the lineup.
Christian McKnight: We realize that our fans get older. The people that started out listening to the bands that we had years ago might not necessarily like that stuff (now). If you actually look at Sonny Moore, Skrillex, as an example, he is totally reminiscent of somebody who might come to Bamboozle. He was in an emo band, From First To Last. He also had a side project that was kind of electronic but there was still some band elements. And now he’s a DJ. He evolved. I think that’s very similar to a Bamboozle fan and to Bamboozle. That’s why every year we have different stuff. We don’t necessarily go out there and say ‘Hey, we need more hip-hop, we need more electronica.’ We gout there and say ‘Hey, is this artist gonna work?’ And there’s reasons why, certainly, that artists will work. The past couple years we’ve had really good luck with hip-hop; 2010 was one of the first years we really had a dedicated hip-hop stage. That year we had Far East Movement, who eventually went on to do a lot of stuff; Wiz Khalifa, who came back last year. We’ve always been good like that. When we have different genres, they’re still genres that work for the Bamboozle audience.
Myspace: How far in advance do you start plotting out the lineup for the following year?
Christian McKnight: The good thing is that we’re promoters. We work in New York City, Long Island, Asbury Park, where we book clubs throughout the year. We know who’s coming through and what’s going on and we really watch the bands and get ideas for who would make sense for the next Bamboozle. We’re always thinning of ideas and there are always acts that we say ‘Oh, they’d be awesome for this year’, make a phone call, find out they’re not available but then we think about them for next year. So we’re always thinking about who would work on the festival.
Myspace: Describe an average day for Christian McKnight during The Bamboozle?
Christian McKnight: Most of my work actually happens before the festival. It’s the planning stages, making sure that everything is taking care of. Most of the surf that I have to deal with the day of is making sure all the bands are happy. To be totally honest, I try to watch as many bands as I possibly can because that’s what I mainly focus on. If I put a band on and I see there’s 20 people watching them, I think, ‘Oh, maybe that didn’t work.’ So for what I do it’s really important to me to see as many bands as I can and take notes — be like ‘this is cool, this doesn’t work.’
Myspace: Bamboozle 2012. What is Christian McKnight looking forward to?
Christian McKnight: We’re really excited to be back in Asbury Park. We’ve never been in Asbury Park with the magnitude that we’re at now, with as many stages and bands. It’s very exiting to see that happen. Once the kids actually get down there and they see the site and they realize that it’s essentially a beachfront town that they’re just gonna have fun at for a couple of days, it’s just gonna be great. People are fully gonna get it. A lot of the kids that are coming might have been too young to be at the (pre-2006) Bamboozle. I think they’re gonna realize how amazing this site is.
Myspace: Over the years, what have you not been able to accomplish at The Bamboozle Festival?
Christian McKnight: That’s a really good question. You know, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s anything. It’s such an evolution. We just make it up as we go along. If we think of something, we try to pull it off.Tags : Bamboozle
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