Interstellar Rodeo Festival: Building a Green Room.

From the wilderness to the urban jungle, this past week has been a different sort of an adventure: Adrienne Shum and I built and ran the Green Room at the Interstellar Rodeo festival here in Winnipeg.  This entailed transforming a concrete bunker tucked away backstage into a functional kitchen and cozy lounge for the festival artists.  Lighting, refrigerators, furniture, food…we had to bring all that in, alongside a team of hard working volunteers, to help us magically turn the piles of ingredients into the delicious food described on the menu we created.  Needless to say, we’d been working at this for months and it was wonderful to see the ideas percolating in our minds come to life!

This opportunity was different than my usual festival involvements, which tend to be more on the photography/media/social media side of things.  As such, photos were secondary, but I did capture some snapshots to trigger personal memories that threatened to be lost amidst the blur of busyness.  During the constant bustle of festival work the memory gets saturated, and photos such as these bring moments and details back to mind; also they are useful for reflecting and building upon our setup and workflow in subsequent years.

I receive lots of inquiries into the behind-the-scenes details of things like this, so I decided to share a photoessay here expounding on some of these points of interest.

Aside: I’ve taken a more experimental method of processing for these photos.  Since getting my most recent digital camera, I’ve come to the realization that the quality of digital has finally surpassed that which I can eek out of my medium format film camera, with the added benefit of a simplified workflow and convenience.  A lead bag of film still sits in the bottom of my fridge, but the rolls have all rolled past their expiry dates at this point.

Some days I still miss the aesthetic of my favourite films though – the colors, contrast, and grain.  With these characteristics in mind, I’ve been peripherally working to develop my own method of processing digital files to mimic my favourite films.  This series of images was shot entirely on my iPhone, and processed using my best effort to resemble the results I miss from Kodak Portra 160 after being push processed in the dark room.  This is the first time I’ve released something like this into the wild.  I hope you enjoy!

Loads of groceries

Cooking for hundreds of people over a weekend takes a lot of raw ingredients.

Cycling to The Forks with a full load

One of the best features of this festival is that it’s centrally located at the heart of Winnipeg: The Forks.  As such, it’s conveniently accessible by bike, foot, or bus.  In our classic style, we moved the piles of gear from our home to the backstage bunker by pedal power.

The empty bunker

The empty bunker.  I see potential in this bare space.

Building a green room

Two long days of work later, we sit quietly anticipating the action that this space will see in a mere 24 hours.

Adrienne finishes some final prep work

Adrienne finishes some final prep work in the calm before the festival.

Little Sister Coffee Maker - bicycle pickup

Every morning, one of my tasks was to pop over to Little Sister Coffee Maker and pick up coffee for the production crew (and any artists on site joining us for breakfast).  Four boxes of coffee each morning helped 50 of us perk up to get our work done.  Needless to say, as the weekend continued the daily cheers from increasingly tired crew members got more enthusiastic when they saw me rolling up with the morning coffee.

Interstellar Rodeo - Early festival site

The gates open and people begin to make their way into the natural amphitheatre that is the festival site.

Interstellar - view from side stage

Amongst the first artists to take to the stage are The Strumbellas.

Backstage outdoor lounge

Backstage the barbecue is fired up and food service is in full swing.

Welcome to the Green Room

Welcome to the Green Room. How may we serve you?

The Green Room menu

The menu we put together was almost entirely vegan and gluten free, so as to satisfy most dietary restrictions and needs.  Everything was made from scratch, including the condiments  Thinking back to times when I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, fresh food is hard to come by when travelling – our menu scratches that itch.

Green Room food plate

Fresh, colorful, and delicious, this is what a plate full of our fixings looks like.  We tried to source ingredients locally whenever possible.  For instance, the honey mustard on the left was made with local honey, harvested by Beeproject Apiaries.  The sausage was made fresh for us by De Luca Grocery, and the Manitoban quinoa in our tabbouleh was sourced from Tamarack Farms.

Wilco - view from the crowd at Interstellar Rodeo

Backstage duties meant I didn’t get to see much of the music this time around, but after closing up the Green Room Saturday evening I did make a point of getting into the crowd to catch the Wilco set.  I’ve been a fan ever since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and after a storm chased them off the stage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival last year it was long overdue; as Jeff Tweedy put it, “We owe you one, Winnipeg!”

Lounging on the grass with a beer

Another great thing about this festival is that there isn’t a bad seat in the place.  Between bleachers, grassy hills, and picnic tables, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure kind of festival, and there really isn’t a bad choice.
A special shoutout to Half Pints for brewing a special wheat beer for the weekend, of which I enjoyed a fair few.  Winnipeg is lucky to have you!

Interstellar Rodeo Winnipeg - Stage against Canadian Museum for Human Rights

A wide perspective shot of the festival during a performance by returning favourites, Whitehorse.  That iconic building behind the stage is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Backstage lights

The sun sets on the final few performances of the festival.  Backstage we have already begun shutting things down.  The day after the festival we will have packed everything up and The Forks will have returned to its natural state.  It will appear as if nothing ever happened, but we will always have our memories.

Adrienne and David catering portrait

Food service shut down, our tired smiles say it all: “We pulled it off!”