It’s the day before the H.O.R.D.E. Festival kicks
off its 1998 summer tour season and, surprisingly, all is quite
The approximately 14 buses and 12 trucks hauling the equipment
and people involved in the tour began rolling into Alpine
Valley Music Center in East Troy, Wis., late Wednesday
night and early Thursday morning. Members of the festival’s core
69-person traveling crew spent all day Thursday tuning instruments,
hanging backdrops, constructing lighting towers and checking sound.
Many of the bands who were supposed to show up Thursday were
delayed in other parts of the country tending to various
commitments, so techies took their places during the full day of
Atop the large hill at Alpine, the H.O.R.D.E’s vast concourse —
comprising two smaller stages, a “future” technology area and
numerous vending tents, including an Aware Records
CD store featuring music from all the acts on this year’s tour —
was busy being assembled. And backstage, the tour’s organizers made
sure all ran smoothly.
The beginning of any festival appears a little chaotic, but the
H.O.R.D.E. — now in its seventh season — has been in the works
for nearly 10 months, Heidi Kelso, the festival’s
tour director, told JAMTV
backstage between production meetings.Although the bulk of the
planning kicked in during the last five months, today is when all
the magic takes form.
“It gets progressively busier from February on,” Kelso said.
“It’s been really hectic in a lot of ways, but everything does fall
into place. It always does.”
H.O.R.D.E. has run more or less the same since its inception in
1992, but little things change from year to year. And with each
season, new lessons are learned. “We don’t have any real blueprint
for this other than what does and doesn’t work from our
experiences,” Kelso said. “We’ll go in every year and do things a
little differently, but musically our basic philosophy has always
been the same: If the bands are good live, people are going to come
out and see a good show.”
And 1998 is no exception to that rule. This year’s bill
definitely fits the tour’s moniker — Horizons of Rock Developing
Everywhere. The first couple of years the H.O.R.D.E. hit the road,
many of the bands fell into the grass roots hippie arena. In 1998,
however, the lineup crosses many musical lines — from rock
(Smashing Pumpkins) and alternative
(Fastball) to jam (Gov’t Mule)
and pop (Barenaked Ladies). In 1998, it’s unlikely
a H.O.R.D.E. goer won’t find something to suit them.
The tour’s organizers aren’t worried if ticket sales aren’t high
prior to a show. “We have 42 shows and we can’t tell by looking at
the ticket counts what our day-of-show sales will be,” Kelso
admitted. “We have a really big walk-up crowd. A lot of our fans
know they’re going to the show, but they don’t necessarily run out
and buy their tickets. A lot of the reason why is our concourse —
fans know they can buy lawn tickets and run back and forth [between
the main stage] all day.”
This year’s concourse stages will feature artists like
Chris Stills, David Garza, Galactic, Robert Bradley’s
Blackwater Surprise and Marcy Playground.
Beginning July 11, Spin Doctors’ frontman
Chris Barron will host the “workshop stage”
throughout the remainder of the tour.
“Chris will assemble jam sessions with the various musicians out
on tour,” Kenny Deranleau, the festival’s main
stage production manager, said while sifting through a stack of
memos and faxes backstage. “He’ll also gather local people from any
given city he may know who are aware of the festival and may want
to play on the workshop stage. It’s all really a creative
In the past, the workshop stage has acted as a sort of
free-for-all gathering where big-name musicians like Neil
Young and John Popper could randomly show
up and play for a crowd of 50 lucky people. This year, Barron will
make sure it’s no different.
“We’ll have guest musicians from time to time — maybe some
festival alumni — but we’ll see who shows up,” Kelso said. “People
should just come check it out. It really is a fun day and a fun
The H.O.R.D.E. kicks off today (July 10) and runs for 42 dates
through Sept. 5 in Portland, Ore.