We did a phoner with Eliav Vanunu Rocking The Daisies production manager who studied music & audio production and 8 years ago he was a site crew volunteer. Couple years later he pursued his passion for art by designing two art installations for the festival thereafter he did the festival’s security consulting, fast forward a few years and Eliav is now fulfilling the role of production manager.
In-between setup he made a few minutes for us to chat about this year’s festival, what festival-goers can expect and the massive effort that goes into putting together South Africa’s biggest music festival.
Eliav and I started chatting about how the festival is put together and I quickly came to realize although he might be involved with other productions during the year, being such a core member of the Steyn Entertainment and Rocking The Daisies team they dedicate close to 11 months of work towards putting the festival together.
He explained that the restructuring of the holding company did change the timing and flow of how they normally did, but with the changes came awesome new opportunities, viewpoints, and new family members.
“…You know there are many elements that have to come together to put such a big festival together. Marketing, sales, accreditation, artist bookings, bar management – we all sit in on a monthly status meeting so that we each understand overall what’s going on, but these elements are pulled under the microscope by the festival director George Avakian”
After receiving advice from industry professionals around ergonomics, sound, lighting and smaller components of the festival the challenging part was figuring out how and when exactly the different pieces of the puzzle has to come together so that not only time and money is saved but that the festival is put together in the most environmentally friendly manner to ensure they live up to their well-acclaimed ‘green festival’ that has received worldwide praise and recognition.
Straight after this year’s festival, they would be doing the breakdown, debrief and conversation about what worked, what didn’t what could be improved and how to enhance the festival goers experience even further till the end of October or mid-November. Their team would then take a well-deserved three or four week holiday before getting right back into thing around January.
Last year saw the handover of the festival from Seed Experiences to Steyn Entertainment, this year would be the first year of the new festival owners would take charge. They kept only a handful of staff from previous years but also formed new relationships and partnerships with contractors and suppliers all whom of which share the same vision and passion in the music industry which makes the festival the biggest trendsetter in the South African music industry.
“The biggest challenge was to pick up such size project when there isn’t much of a recorded system and procedures. This is all based on people. If you change the person, the job description is nonexistent. We spent the majority of the time this year putting the template and system in place. From then on, things became a lot easier.”
In my past years with working with the festival on a blogging point of view as well as assisting backstage, I’ve come to realize that the Rocking The Daisies team rely on many artists in different fields of work. I asked Eliav how they found these unique individuals and why they chose to branch out and ask them to add to what they present to us as festival goers each year.
“[Looking at this year] on the creative side there are a few new faces as opposed to the guys who used to do the art installations, some familiar faces because we love to work with them and we know what to expect from them. My other side of my freelancing work is building art installations across the world and by doing this I come in contact with creatives from all over who push the boundaries and this is just a perfect example of how we’re able to ensure that what we do stays cutting edge.”
Last year RTD took a bold step hosting the very first Hip Hop stage, many of the old RTD fans weren’t impressed expressing their dissatisfaction by pointing to the fact that the festival was called Rocking The Daisies, but in the end, the stage was a massive success.
Gaining the power of being South Africa’s biggest festival comes with great responsibility but excitement to set the trends within the South African music industry and I wondered how the team stayed one step ahead:
“I think as a collective who is formed by a bunch of individuals, I think working overseas on other projects and George as a festival director, always going to conferences for A&R, [we’re all able to stay a leader within our individual roles]. You either got it or you don’t.”
I put Eliav on the spot when I asked him about George, because although he was being watched by many older promoters and industry people I’ve come to notice that most of the people who have had the honor of working with him think highly of him.
“George has been one hell of a director, the kind of person you can call and ask for direction. That is echoing within our marketing strategy, our artist & line-up as you might know he was the initiator of the hip-hop stage last year and this year we all together decided to take it to the next level and give it the respectable stage and space it deserved.”
It seems like the newer and younger team has been able to give each individual space and freedom to express their ideas no matter how dumb or unrealistic it might sound.
“Either you’ll be chirped and be told you had a kak idea or everyone would be like, shit this is great – how can we make it reality”
This year’s festival sees the biggest changes of layout and design with some of the biggest changes in the past five years and coming from a production background the layout alone has created much excitement for me, the changes have been made to tighten the crowds and enhance the movements and flow. I asked Eliav what the thoughts behind changing the stage layouts as well as camping and more specifically the bathrooms and shower area (previously known as the Daisy Den).
“We went in with the approach to tuck everything in. It’s a big festival and a lot of lands as it is, you know it’s already a 15-20min hike from the bottom to the right at the top and this is without factoring in the distractions and meeting people along the way.
It was a concise decision to move the ablution blocks and showers down to the very bottom of the campsite, last year you would have showers scattered all over and the problem wasn’t the showers it’s pipes and water supply but actually capturing and storing all the gray water. Our biggest goal on the green front is not to leave a devastating mark on the land and unfortunately, gray water is our biggest challenge. We realized that if a person wants to shower, they’ll get their stuff together and mission to wherever they showers are.”
I tried to get some inside info from Eliav about some other new production elements and surprises after mentioning that I heard a rumor that Flume’s international lighting and production rig has been brought in for his performance, he laughed and said that he didn’t deny or confirm the rumor but said the following about some of the surprises that are in store for us:
“So each and every one of the four stages has been closely looked at and how they speak to each other in the way of size, look and sound complimenting each other for what they are known and loved for. We tipped everything on its head and I think we did alright with what we have put together.
Besides the four stages, and this is a great thing, there is at least another four entertainment spaces, very small but unique in what they have to offer. We took the ideas of Lemon Tree, Headspaza, etc we mashed them up altogether and this year we’re going to have pop-up venues that dress up and appear differently throughout the day.”
This year’s festival seems to be something truly special and the passion, love, and dedication of each member of the Rocking The Daisies team flows through every aspect of the festival.
I can’t wait to be part and witness what seems to be another groundbreaking event in the South African music industrie’s history.