Tucson has a number of musical festivals, including a number right around this time of year, but with an entertainment lineup of visual artists, vendors, various activities in addition to rock, hip hop and DJ acts in numbers hovering well over 30, the inaugural Night of the Living Fest could be the must-see, must-attend event of the post-summer-heat-we-should-go-outside season. Primary organizers Ben Schneider (of the fantastic local band Otherly Love) and Leann Cornelius (of equally fantastic local band Acorn Bcorn) have been tirelessly working to make the NOLF a reality for almost a year. Simply put, you either are a fool or hate fun if you miss this.
"I had the idea for a while," Schneider told me recently. "About three years ago I took my little cousin to Old Tucson for Nightfall (Old Tucson's annual Halloween event) and I was totally blown away by the place. I'd been there as a teenager and forgot about it. I thought the place was gorgeous and how no one utilizes it as a venue. I've always loved the idea of throwing one big killer party a year. I don't want to be a promoter. I don't want to be in the entertainment industry besides being a musician. But I love the idea of doing one event that can inspire people. I came up with doing a festival in Tucson and I was sitting with a friend and said, 'why don't we just do it?'"
Schneider and Cornelius put together a plan and a team to put this festival together. Tucson's beloved tradition of the All Souls Procession, as well as Halloween, played a major part in the timing and organization of the event. "I really love throwing shows around Halloween because it's the perfect time of the year in Tucson and I've always been blown away that there's nothing that ties All Souls weekend together," Schneider says. "All these things came around and we said 'we should do a festival at Old Tucson and we should do it on All Souls weekend.' We started a conversation with those guys (the organizers of All Souls Procession) and they were very into it."
"All Souls is a very inspiring event. Our idea was to create a music festival that would be unique and inspiring. It's a chance to celebrate everything that's vibrant and lively, whereas All Souls is more of a time to remember and reflect."
While Schneider and Cornelius had minimal concert organizing experience, things fell into place rather quickly and effortlessly. "I picked my favorite bands and the bands that people love that we're working with on this thing," Schneider explains. "We'd look at booking agencies and their rosters - 'Oh my God, they've got this band! See if we can get that band.' It was a lot of excitement because we're first time bookers."
"There's probably a core group of about 25 people, who have been integral in helping with promotion, making art and videos, and coordinating volunteers. There's probably going to be 50 to 75 volunteers on the day of (the fest)," he adds.
As for the music, you couldn't find more quality acts in one place than at NOLF. As of press time, the roster includes (deep breath) Vox Urbana, Bob Log III, THEESatisfaction, Meat Puppets, Deerhoof, People Under the Stairs, Laser Dad, Golden Boots, Fur Family, Ranch Ghost, Bombon, Tweak Bird, White Mystery, Shannon & the Clams, Cherie Cherie, Acorn Bcorn, Bebe McPhereson, The Pork Torta, Lonesome Shack, The Monster Women, Michael Gaugahn, Shaun Harris, Headlock, Lenguas Largas, NOBUNNY, Jivin' Scientists, Defaced Property, and others.
These artists will be appearing throughout the day on "three stages: One is inside a saloon, the other is inside this huge bar that probably fits about 3000 people, and the third is an outdoor stage — the main stage," Schneider says.
But what if music isn't your fancy and/or you have kids? Schneider stresses that NOLF is a very family-friendly event, adding, "There will be tons of things to entertain you besides good music. The art's gonna be stellar. We have installations, a couple of artists are building things specifically for the Fest. There's gonna be live mural painting. Hopefully there will be a live recording (of the bands performing) that will be immediately cut to plastic picture discs. There will be art and apparel vendors. The main focus is definitely the music but the idea was that every turn in the park — you're walking around this huge park, it's gorgeous in the middle of the desert with weird buildings around you, and you turn a corner and there's someone painting a live mural. Then you turn another corner and there's miniature golf. We're having a nine-hole miniature golf course built for the event out of all-recycled materials. The idea was to make all the attendees feel childlike euphoria where it's just 'I don't get it but I love it!'"
Other things you need to know about the event: Entrance for children younger than 10 is free, food will be plentiful (but not free), and a percentage of all ticket sales go to the organizers of the All Souls Procession.
Schneider concludes by stressing, "It was important to do something outside of downtown Tucson. It's important to take people out of their element. It's important to utilize Tucson's weirdness and not just do things that are comfortable."