Written by Evan Cudworth
Matt Fong is a 29 year old front-end dev at an energy efficiency startup. He’s also decided to use his youthful energy efficiently and plans to attend 30 festivals this year to celebrate his 30th birthday in July.
Ambitious but optimistic, Matt is no stranger to the festival scene. Thanks to his Jamaican roots, he recalls memories of reggae/dancehall festivals like Best of the Best and Carnival at an early age. While studying abroad in Europe, he hopped from Primavera Sound and Zaragoza Ciudad in Spain, to Hove Festival in Norway.
He says the idea came to him while at Dirty Bird BBQ last year, and “once you put an idea like this out there in the universe, you gotta do it.” He also didn’t want to limit himself to just music. The true joy of a festival is the celebration of shared experience. That includes film, art, and culture.
While Matt is keen on keeping a flexible schedule ( important attribute of any festival maven), he has about 26 dates planned. So far he’s been to SF Sketchfest, Sundance, Noise Pop, SF Indiefest, and Okeechobee Fest. This weekend he’ll be kicking off the (unofficial) start to festival season… Coachella (Matt’s a 7th time to Indio).
Asked to comment on the boom of US festivals, Matt was honest but optimistic:
“You can really see the impact of business in the US festivals this year with the homogeneous lineups. They could probably combine most of the US festivals into one umbrella and just go on tour from city to city. The festivals with a personality… offering something more to their fans will survive. Everyone else who just offers the same thing you can get at any other trendy festival will be in trouble.
But, at the same, it’s exposing a whole lot of new people to the magic of festivals and they might turn into true fans contributing to your next festival experience, so you can’t be mad at it. To each their own.”
When I asked Matt if his friends and family were worried about him—was this some sort of quarter life crisis? He told me they were, “surprisedly supportive. I guess nobody was surprised… festivals are kinda my thing.” They’re our thing too, Matt! And we can’t wait to see where this journey takes you. We’ll be sure to touch base again this fall to see how you’re feeling!
You can follow along with Matt’s journey on twitter @matthewfong #30for30festivals
Where Matt’s Been (So far):
SF Sketchfest in San Francisco, CA – http://sfsketchfest.com/
Berlin & Beyond Film Festival in San Francisco, CA – http://berlinbeyond.com/
Sundance in Park City, UT – http://www.sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival/
Super City 50 in Oakland, CA – http://supercity50.com/
SF IndieFest in San Francisco, CA – http://sfindie.com/festivals/sf-indiefest/
Noise Pop in San Francisco, CA – http://sfindie.com/festivals/sf-indiefest/
Okeechobee Fest in Okeechobee, FL – http://okeechobeefest.com/
Disposable Film Festival in San Francisco, CA – http://disposablefilm.com/Disposable-Film-Fest-2016.html
Where Matt’s Going For Sure (So Far):
Coachella in Indio, CA – https://www.coachella.com/
SF International Film Festival in San Francisco, CA – http://www.sffs.org/sfiff59
BottleRock in Napa, CA – http://www.bottlerocknapavalley.com/
Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville, CA – http://www.snwmf.com/
Electric Forest in Rothbury, MI – http://www.electricforestfestival.com/
Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL – http://www.lollapalooza.com/
Outside Lands in San Francisco, CA – http://www.sfoutsidelands.com/
Telluride Film Festival in Telluride, CO – http://www.telluridefilmfestival.org/
1. Who are you? (Occupation, where you live, etc.)
I’m a front end engineer living where most web developers live, San Francisco. I work for a start-up dealing with energy data trying to make the world a better place through smarter energy consumption. We believe in clean, abundant, and affordable power and we’re making it easier for companies to deal with a historically complicated industry.
2. What is your festival history–do you have a moment (or moment) that you fell in love with music?
It’s become harder and harder to keep track of my festival history. I’ve been going throughout my entire life. I’m Jamaican and music is a pretty prominent part of our culture so I remember going to Reggae/Dancehall festivals like Best if the Best and carnival from an early age. I really started venturing out on my own to various festivals when I studied abroad in Europe. I was in this great program in Barcelona where we either had a 4 day weekend or a 10 day weekend (classes 2 weeks at a time and I never had class on a Friday) so I had ample opportunity to Festival hop. I remember going to Sonar, Primavera Sound, Zaragoza Ciudad in Spain and then venturing out to smaller festivals like Festinuch, the circus festival in chalons de champain. Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czeck Republic (dubbed Cannes of the East). and the very first edition of Hove Festival in Norway where I got to see Amy Winehouse in a crowd of maybe 100 people.
Moving do the west coast made it easier for me to go to festivals like Coachella, EDC, Lightning in a Bottle, Burning Man, Comic-Con, etc.
When did I fall in love? I don’t know if there’s an answer to that… I’m still falling in love with new experiences. The one moment I remember vividly is watching the crowd at Hove when Arcade Fire started to play. A bunch of girls… maybe a dozen or so got on top of people shoulders and pointed in unison in one direction. And then after a while… pointed somewhere ended together. I couldn’t figure out if it was part of the show, or a group of friends, or something totally random and I thought that was just magic. There was also a drunk midget being carried around on a plank of plywood over the crowd but that could’ve been another set.
3. Where are you going to be festing? Do you have all 30 planned out already?
I have an idea but nothing is ever set in stone. For example, I got lazy last month (i blame the rain which is pretty rare in SF) and missed 2 local film festivals I originally had on my list so now I need to find replacements. Also, my tentative list is only at 26 atm…I want to leave room for spontaneity. So far I’ve been to the SF Sketchfest, Sundance, Noise Pop, SF Indiefest, and Okeechobee Fest. Next weekend I’ll be at the (unofficial) start to festival season (imo) Coachella…it’ll be my 7th year in a row
4. When did you decide to undertake this adventure?
Dirtybird BBQ last year. I’ve been toying with the idea before that but I remember dancing to the music and turning to my friend and telling him what I was gonna do. Once you stop thinking about it and put it out there in the universe, you gotta do it.
5. Who else is going with you?
I want everybody to come! I put out an open invitation to all my friends to join me wherever they can, if they can. My girlfriend is doing a great amount with me but I can’t expect anyone to do this… it’s literally two and a half festivals a month!
6. What do your family/friends think about this whole thing?
Surprisedly supportive. I guess nobody was surprised… festivals are kind of my thing, I probably go to about a dozen a year normally…I really good write them all down and see for sure.
7. Why do you think festivals are so popular right now?
Right now, it’s the EDM craze for sure. But finally that bubble is popping and hopefully the good parts of festivals will prevail and the crowds/insane ticket prices will go down. People always talk about festivals in the US perspective but Europeans have been doing it so much better for so much longer. The US saw the $$$ opportunity and exploited it. That’s generally not a bad thing, festival goers got to experience the spoils of huge investments but now we’ll see how that isn’t sustainable and things should level out in the end.
You can really see the impact of business in the US festivals this year with the homogeneous lineups. They could probably combine most of the US festivals into one umbrella and just go on tour from city to city. The festivals with a personality… offering something more to their fans will survive. Everyone one else who just offers the same thing you can get at any other trendy festival will be in trouble. But this is also the fault of the audiences who don’t really care about the festival and just want to do what everybody else is doing/seeing.
Various groups find different things in festivals and now (mainly music festivals) have become the cool thing to do for some types of people. Are they in it for the festival? or even the music? probably not… they’re just there because that’s where they think they should be… what the cool kids do. Those people will move on to the next fad when the time comes. But, at the same, it’s exposing a whole lot of new people to the magic of festivals and they might turn into true fans contributing to your next festival experience, so you can’t be mad at it. To each their own.