Backstage Pass

Jan 8, 2002
Outside Magazine

Fill 'er up: three gallons down, 24,997 to go.

August 15, 2002 So what happens when the summer's biggest tour lands in the New York City? Concertgoers cut loose, the trials bikers reinvent their show, and someone gets engaged on stage. It's just a typical day at the Jeep World Outside Festival, but it's always exciting— especially for the lucky few who get to see what goes on behind the scenes.

The Adventure Village, a mini circus in itself, requires eight hours to set up and tear down each day if everything goes as planned—something that rarely happens.

With more than eight semi trucks, four buses, four power generators, five bands, a portable stage, a rolling rock wall, and a mobile ski jump, the Adventure Village can be a logistical nightmare.

Front of House production manager Bobby Allen, the ringmaster charged with the smooth operation of the village, says at first it seemed like an almost impossible undertaking, but things quickly worked out.

"I thought it was an aggressive effort," he says. "But everyone quickly learned their territory and made their foot prints." Alan faces additional challenges each day as every venue offers different layout options and limitations according to the amount of open space, accessibility, and terrain.

"You can't plan any of it in advance," he says. "You have to wait until you arrive and have your feet in the soil"

Every morning at 7 A.M., an army of electricians, stagehands, audio technicians, forklift operators, and carpenters spill out of the buses and swarm the site to begin building the village. But just getting the pieces into their proper places can take hours. Once the attractions are in place the massive construction effort begins as workers race to beat the clock and have the village ready when the first concert goers arrive at 3 P.M. The kayak and SCUBA pools, some of the most popular village attractions, can make or break the day.

Bob House, pools crew chief, says that filling the 25,000-gallon pools can take from two hours and 45 minutes to six hours, depending on water pressure, accessibility of outlets, the number of hoses, and water quality.

Once the gates open, the workers fade into the background until 8 P.M., when they return in force to disassemble everything they built that day. Thirty-foot towers are reduced to ruble in minutes and the imposing ski jump transforms back into an innocuous trailer.

Again, the pools pose a challenge. Dumping 50,000 gallons of water inside a venue is rarely an option. Most nights the water must be pumped out of the venue to a storm drain or ditch. This process can take hours depending on the distance the water has to travel.

A lack of crowd control, darkness, or a shortage of workers can also hamper the evening side of the effort.

Still, Allen maintains that the breakdown is much easier.

"We get it done in a hurry," he says. "Everyone wants to go home."

With so much going on behind the scenes it seems like a luxury to simply watch the show.

There are only a couple more chances to experience the action. The Jeep World Outside Festival heads next to Philadelphia before finishing in Boston on August 17.

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