Interview w/ Front of House and Business Manager of Pitchfork Music Fest: David Rempis
David Rempis is probably best known as a ferocious saxaphone player and organizer of Umbrella Music. But even if you haven’t heard him play (and you really should,) there is a good chance that you been to, or at least heard of, Pitchfork Music Fesitval at Union Park. Rempis and a few others basically run the entire thing, so Homeroom thought it might be interesting to hear about his experiences.
1. How did you originally get involved in the Pitchfork Music Festival?
My good friend, and now boss, Mike Reed started the festival in 2005…the first year it was called the “Intonation Music Festival” and was curated by Pitchfork Media, who we continue to work with today. I knew Mike as a fellow musician, and the organizer of the Sunday night Transmission Series at the Hungry Brain, which I’d played on regularly since they started in 2001. He and I were both bartenders as well – I was working at the Park West, Riviera, and occasionally the Vic Theaters for Jam Productions at the time, as well as Goose Island Brewpub. I’d also worked alot of Jam’s outdoor events including the Radiohead show they did in Hutchinson Field in 2001, as well as some of their street fests – Randolph St., etc. Knowing this, Mike asked me to oversee the entire concession operation (beer, water, etc.) for the first year of the fest.
After that, he split up with his partners on the event, and asked me to come in full time as one of the organizers of the whole thing. Since then I’ve been basically the business manager of the festival, and the onsite Front-of-House manager. I deal with city permits, insurance, hiring, accounting, security, ticketing, our volunteer program, etc. etc.
Photo by John Pham. Read the rest below.
2. What’s been the biggest challenge in organizing the festival?
On the front end, it’s always navigating the city bureaucracy that’s required to obtain the mountain of necessary permits. I’ve spent at a lot of time at City Hall at this point, and calling it Kafka-esque is no exaggeration….but welcome to the “city that works.”
3. What has been your most positive experience or memory?
There’s no one thing that stands out, it’s more a combined feeling of exhilaration and pride that we’re able to produce a world-class festival with basically an extended network of friends. The talented Chicago artists, musicians, chefs, bartenders, etc. etc. who staff our festival are incredible people and do such a great job. It makes me really proud that we’re a Chicago-based event, and not a spaceship owned by some huge corporation that lands in Union Park each year and leaves the neighborhood behind after a week. This extends to our relationships with the Union Park staff, kids, neighbors, etc. etc. It really is a community-oriented event that celebrates all of the incredible talent in this city, and I’m extremely proud of everyone who’s a a part of it.
4. What place do you think the festival occupies in Chicago’s cultural landscape?
I think it’s the cultural equivalent of the organically produced, locally raised food that you find at a good restaurant in town.
5. While I’m sure you’re too busy to stop and listen to much of the music, what act have you been most excited to have at Pitchfork during it’s time?
Boban Markovic – the Serbian trumpet player who leads an incredible brass band. I’m normally running around the entire weekend, and rarely spend any time on the stages (unless there’s a security problem to deal with……) However, each year I choose a five minute window to just breathe and take advantage of my All Access pass to stand on the side of the stage while someone’s playing. In 2008 it was these guys – some of the most incredible brass musicians on the planet. Since then I’ve become good friends with their manager, who also organizes jazz concerts and a festival in Belgrade every spring. I’ve been lucky enough to play there twice, although still waiting to meet Boban…..
And although I’ve never been a huge hip-hop fan, I have to say that De La Soul killed it in 2008 as well. Having bartended at hundreds of rock concerts over the years, you get used to just ignoring the music much of the time. When something pops out at you that reminds you “Oh, I’m at a CONCERT!” it feels like a big deal. And De La Soul really did that.