Normally advertising agencies don’t get involved in live event production, but here at Spring we’re open to trying new things. So when Tourism Burnaby hired us to promote the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival we thought it would be really cool to get some local bands to play free concerts around town, and stage them ourselves. And it was really cool, but man, it was a lot of work.
We called them ‘pop-up concerts’, 20-30 minute sets played on the back of a flatbed truck, at various locations around the Lower Mainland. With a very minimal set up, running off a generator, we could ‘band bomb’ several locations in one day, bringing live music to the people while handing out flyers and branded guitar picks to promote the festival. Over the weekend of August 6 – 7 we staged our mini-concerts in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Port Moody, featuring roots rocker Joseph Blood and his band, and DB Buxton, a one-man blues explosion.
Just like in real estate, location soon became our biggest issue. We needed to find spots where people would be hanging out during the day, but accessible enough that we could drive in a 25-foot flatbed truck and park it for 45 minutes without ruffling too many feathers. After narrowing down our list of choices we finally settled on eight locations – near the Roundhouse in Yaletown, the Farmer’s Market at Trout Lake, Kits Beach, English Bay, the Totem Poles in Stanley Park, Burnaby Village Museum, Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby, and Rocky Point Park in Port Moody. In the end we hit all of them, except for Stanley Park, as traffic proved to be a nightmare.
The beaches were definitely the best locations. With summer finally arriving in Vancouver Kits Beach and English Bay were packed with people so we were never without an audience. Rocky Point Park in Port Moody was also great, as we had a large number of families in the nearby children’s water park and we barely got hassled for our less-than-legal parking spot. Both Barnet Marine Park and Burnaby Village Museum were less obvious venues but the folks in attendance certainly appreciated the experimental blues guitar stylings of DB Buxton.
The weekend was not without a few surprises, like our generator cacking out repeatedly during the Kits Beach concert. We managed to pull it apart and get it working again before the next set. And another big surprise was how much we got hassled at the Trout Lake Farmer’s Market. Who knew that organic, free-range farmers would be so militant about our fun, free-range little concert happening near their turf? Well, now we know.
All of the concerts happened while the truck was parked, but for the end of Joseph Blood’s sets at Trout Lake and English Bay the band played Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” while the truck slowly rolled down the street, which definitely attracted some attention. And at English Bay, some plainclothes VPD. They asked about permits, we said, “We’re done for the day!” They agreed, and we gave them some guitar picks just to be safe.
All in all the weekend was a big success. Big thanks to our sound guy Benn McGuire, our musicians Joseph Blood, Carmen Lethbridge, Tim Huston, and DB Buxton, Robert Filbry the fearless truck driver, Patrick Weir, who filmed the whole thing, Miles Chic and Liz Johnston, our promo crew, Spring intern Jeff Wright, and Norrie Zaplatynsky, Spring’s account executive who coordinated everything amazingly well despite never having produced anything like this before.
Will we do this again next year? Who knows, but don’t be surprised if you hear a bandwagon rolling through your neighbourhood next summer. Rock on Vancouver, rock on Burnaby!
– Matt Mitchell