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The ins and outs of planning a festival, with Perimeter Road Sound Recordings: Music: Smile Politely

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If you didn’t know, Parkland College has a killer record label: Perimeter Road Sound Recordings. Made up of students, the goal is to work with local and emerging bands to create professional recordings and promote the bands, as well as the label. The label also organizes the annual Perimeter Road Music Festival. This year’s festival is Saturday, April 30 at 12 p.m.

The majority of students are media production majors, which are part of the communications program. The major gives students the opportunity to work in radio, music recording, video, as well as more traditional communication courses. I sat down on Zoom with the members of Perimeter Road Sound Recordings to discuss the upcoming music festival and the hard work and planning that goes into a festival like this. The group consists of Deane Geiken, Adam Porter, Eli Bruker, Micah Wurthmann, Joseph Debusky, Robert Goode, Chuck Mingee, Jarod Lake and Maggie O’Brien.





Smile politely: So can you tell me a bit about Perimeter Road? What is it and what are you doing?

Eli Brucker: Perimeter Road is a student-run label where we take what we’ve learned from classes and apply that to signing record deals and distributing them for streaming or physical release.

Maggie O’Brien: We have also been in the production of creating a music festival. This is the second year that we will do this. Like Eli said, we were basically trying to find as many musical talents as possible and bring them together and do a music festival, and do our best to make it the rockiest thing ever.

Adam Porter: I would also like to add that the main objective of the label is to give these students the opportunity to branch out beyond courses and class projects and do something more tangible and real. We call it an after-school band in the sense that, like Eli said, they take things they learn to say in recording classes and then apply them to real projects that are going to be released around the world. They can put it on their resume, get real engineering experience, real event planning experience, etc.

Image taken from the Perimeter Road Facebook page.

SP: How did the festival come about?

To carry: It’s been a while since the first festival. None of the students here were part of the label when we organized the first music festival. The first festival was in 2019, then we unfortunately had to cancel in 2020 and 2021.

The idea with the first festival was really that we had done what I envisioned mainly for the label, which was to sign some great local talent, uh, work with them for two semesters on the recording of an album, then a second semester of mixing, mastering and actually releasing and promoting that album. But I found there were a couple of things the students were interested in that they hadn’t gained experience with as part of the label and the big thing that stood out was live music. It’s one of the first entry points for an engineer or someone who wants to get into the world of sound and we weren’t really giving them the ability to do anything with live sound. So that was one of the catalysts that was in my mind.

The group we had was super excited about having a live festival and connecting with the community. So that was the other big part – a lot of people in Champaign-Urbana don’t really know what’s going on here in Parkland. They don’t even realize that we have a studio or a label, and it’s kind of like shining a light on that by bringing all these incredibly talented bands to campus and potentially bringing their fan base with them.

SP: When planning the festival, do you all share equal responsibility, or are the roles divided among the students who like, say, the booking or the finances, or the promotion, and so on. ?

Deane Geiken: We work together to choose the bands, but once we got the bands, it was sort of my job to get them confirmed. After that, we kind of tracked each student’s strength for social media and radio promotion and stuff like that.

O’Brien: We all worked separately together in the direction. Like I said, I’ve done a lot of stuff on social media. I had a lot of promotions on Facebook, designing posters for the festival. Jarod worked on doing most of the interviews for a lot of people who will be playing for us.

Lake Jarod: I contacted each of the artists. See if I can get them to make a call with me or even come to the studio with me and do an interview that we can put on the radio station for people to get to know them.

Geiken: And then each of them will be a roadie, so to speak [everyone laughs].

Chuck Mingee: Me and a few others are filming it and then we’re going to air it on Parkland Television. So I got this job and then I found out that I would be a roadie too. There’s a few other things in there too, but I was on my 8-10 radio show on Monday, pushing the festival.

Robert Good: I might add that even though I haven’t been very involved with the label and just because I was busy and stuff like that, I definitely jumped in to volunteer because I worked at truck stops , doing exactly what we are doing here . I have tons of experience as a roadie, running these scenes and changing to bands and stuff. So, again, it all comes down to individual strengths.

Image taken from the Perimeter Road Facebook page.

SP: What was the hardest part of organizing the festival?

O’Brien: Tape confirmation. It was really difficult trying to find enough people to come and do the show. Like we already had so many names on the list, and we picked so many people, but we were like, are they going to commit? Will they come? Will they want to do the show?

SP: If you don’t mind, do you pay the artists or do they perform voluntarily?

To carry: We do. Fortunately, we also had the support of the college and the radio station, which allowed us to pay the artists presented at the festival. I think it’s super important to do that and not say, ‘oh, we’re going to give you a promotion.’ Making sure students are part of the right way, where we are going to look after the groups, have everything they need and also compensate them for their time.

SP: What was the easiest part of the festival – if there was an easy part?

Lake: I love the amount of interview experience I have on air. I had an interview that I had never done on the air before that, now I have three, I push to do four more.

O’Brien: I actually love the social media experience that I get in terms of promoting artists and working with them and just being able to incorporate that into my repertoire.

Micah Wurthmann: It hasn’t happened yet, but what I’m most looking forward to is setting up the festival, making the sound and running like crazy – that’s what I enjoy the most .

Geiken: It’s cool is that MMS rentals, who we have a contract with for the stage and the equipment, will come and teach them all how to use the board. The students will also do live mixing, they will each have a chance to do so. So it’s something you wouldn’t normally be able to do in any other environment.

Image taken from the Perimeter Road Facebook page.

SP: What kind of things do you keep in mind when booking numbers?

O’Brien: I think the first thing we had in mind was to keep the roster diverse in terms of styles and genres of music. So we’ve got everything from hip-hop, to alternative, to rock and rockabilly, to blues – yeah, we’ve got a lot of cool stuff, but I think that was one of the main focuses of this particular festival.

To carry: A lot of times the question would come up about a band and the students would be like, ‘this really sounds like that other band’, and that was also taken into account, even after we had our bands, like in what order should we put them in? What styles and genres could fit in well with the next one?

SP: What do you hope people take away from the festival?

Mingee: That there are students here, that there are many things that can be done. We’ll show them how to do it, you know, just show up, enjoy the gig, and then we’ll show you how much fun it is to learn how to do it all. Without help from the colleges it’s going to be tough, but if we can get more students involved and bring more people to Parkland who want to learn and do this stuff, that’s what I hope we can make the community understand.

Good : It’s something very visible, it’s what you can do through Parkland, through these classes, through this organization. We want people to be able to come in and say, “Hey, they’re having a full music festival and that’s pretty cool.

Geiken: I think it’s going to be a great day. We have three very different food trucks showing up to supply us all, and as Maggie said, the diversity of sound is going to be something you’re going to want to stick around all day to hear.

The Perimeter Road Music Festival takes place on Saturday, April 30 and runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a new act each year. The festival is located outdoors in the B1 car park at Parkland College. For the full lineup, check out Perimeter Road Music Festival on Facebook.

Top image by Sean Wilkinson.