Motherland Stage – Backwoods Sets New Bar for Music Festivals
Motherland, Backwoods Music Festival’s largest stage this year where Porter Robinson, Infected Mushroom, and Odesza are playing is setting a new bar for music festivals in the midwest. The stage is many steps beyond that of the traditional main stage found at music festivals around the country. While there are a few major festivals out there known for their amazing artwork and effort put into the stage design itself, most festivals including some of the biggest and the majority of all mid size fests, rely solely on a large stage with lighting and 10-12′ square video screens mounted to the side. While the lighting may be intense at times, the creativity that’s missing from the stage structure itself really affects the overall experience of the festival.
Will Royall, one of the Executive Producers of Backwoods Music Festival said, “We really want to do something different for the area. There are a few festivals in the mid-west that do great with their lineups and they draw crowds, but when I see photos of the stages and environments they’re putting those people in, to me they still just look like concerts.” Royall is not just focused on the music, he went on, he’s really trying to create an overall environment for every venue at the festival that surrounds the attendees. “We’re working on one environment right now yet to be announced that will have a 50′ flame shooting from the center of a giant light throwing disco ball, and 6 flaming towers surrounding you with video walls and speakers on each. This means you’ll be surrounded 360 degrees with surround sound, LED walls, and fire.” he continued.
The Motherland Stage, is a new concept for Backwoods Music Festival which also surrounds the crowd. The Front of House (where audio and lighting is typically controlled from) is designed as part of the stage and adds to the experience located behind the audience. The FOH area is large enough to be a small stage itself, and will not only house lighting, video, and sound techs but also contains a raised platform for artists, producers, and Backstage VIPs to get an elevated view of the show on stage, above the crowds. The stage itself will be larger than your standard 40′ stage you see for other festival’s main stages, and may end up at 100′ wide with the addition of two 20′ wide towers on each side, and a performance platform of 60′.
Motherland’s design is called “The Castle” and was concepted by Backwoods’ Creative Stage Designer, James Cui, otherwise known as VJ Fader. We asked Fader a few questions regarding his design.
1. What was the inspiration behind the design?
“It is inspired by the German Gothic castle designs from the Medieval period. The design features two giant towers measuring about 80’ tall standing on either side of the main stage. Each tower is faced with a huge 25’ tall LED video screen for displaying visual and live video. On the stage there’s another very large oval shaped LED video screen resembling the shape of an eye. We will be using lots of recycled wood and fabric as building materials for this stage.”
2. Can you explain the eye looking structure at the top center and what the meaning behind that is?
“What I am trying to do here is to create a focal point for the Motherland stage. With a ‘castle’ and ‘medieval’ theme, a strong eye symbol keeps coming into my mind. The ‘eye’ module that is attached to the center of the triangular shaped stage roof is a light module construction. It will shine strong beams of light into the audience at night, as if the Motherland stage is staring into the crowd.”
3. With designing the front of house (FOH) to mimic the stage, what does this do for the experience?
“The front of house (FOH) is often most overlooked area at a live concert. This is where the lighting designer, sound engineer and VJ is operating during a show. Although the music is being played on the stage by a band or a DJ, the visual aspect of the show is mostly being controlled at the FOH. You can think of it as the ‘heart’ of the show. Most people do not realize this fact. Just as most people only recognize the famous actors of their favorite films, but in reality is there are a great team of talented people including the director, cinematographer, editor… etc. behind every great movie. Same is true for a great concert experience.
At Backwoods Music Festival this year we are integrating the FOH design into the overall main stage design of ’The Castle’, so you won’t see a typical large white tent stuck in the middle of the dance floor. We are including a Backstage VIP area as part of the FOH structure so people can see how the stage magic is created. The FOH has the best vantage point of the stage because of its raised deck. We will give the opportunity to Backstage guests who purchase cabins and artists to enjoy the show on the Motherland main stage from the best seat of the house, the FOH.”
4. What challenges have you had so far in designing the stage?
“As a stage designer I often try to push the scale and not think about budget or gravity at first. Once the design goes forward then I would work with the lighting/construction company to figure out how to make it into a reality. I would say this is the most challenging part. Budget, safety and local regulations often comes into play where I will need to make revisions. At the end the goal is to stick with the look and feel and not compromise the integrity and impact of the original design.”
5. By construction standards this stage is massive, much bigger than most main stages at most main events. How would this compare to say, a Blue Whale?
“It is safe to say that we are going BIG this year as Backwoods is growing. But more importantly we are giving back to the people and offering them a ‘bigger than life’ sonic and visual experience.”
Backwoods is really stepping their game up this year with production. The festival is investing an amount of capital equivalent to twice the normal amount for a festival its size in production. “We want to blow people’s minds so they can’t help but come back next year and bring all of their friends. And why not, they’re paying for this, it’s their party.” said Javi Guillan, another Executive Producer at Backwoods.