WMC Fest Recap: From the Founder’s Perspective

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There’s a lot of recaps being posted around the net from those who attended the 2nd ever Weapons of Mass Creation Fest last weekend. And I love it. I love seeing their photos and their stories. I wanted to post a recap, but not like everyone else of course. I wanted to post a recap from my perspective, the organizer of such an event. Coming off what I’ve been calling the best weekend of my life, I think I’m finally ready to put it into words.

This won’t be a play-by-play of what happened and not a list of who did what. We have articles coming up that will be more in-depth, but for now, this is just my take as the organizer of WMC Fest.

The Raffle

But first, let me announce the winners of the raffle we had at WMC Fest. People stopping by the Go Media table in the gallery were able to buy tickets for the raffle. The winners are below:

Grand Prize: Adobe CS5 Master Collection
Winner: Michael Nilsen of Brecksville, OH

1st Prize: Ten Ton Training DVD Collection
Includes Ten Ton Photoshop, Ten Ton CSS, Ten Ton Dreamweaver, and Ten Ton Zen Cart
Winner: Tyler Powers of Ravenna, OH

2nd Prize: Thread’s Not Dead ebook by Jeff Finley
Winner: Alyssa Welch of Moken, IL

Congratulations to the winners! We will be in touch regarding your prize. For those of you who didn’t win, we’re sorry – maybe next time!

So let’s start form the beginning

Two years ago I had the entrepreneurial seizure to start a fest. A music fest at first, but after successfully throwing the Weapons of Mass Creation photo shoot party with some of our favorite artists, I decided to combine the two. Let’s bring back those artists, but add bands and call it Weapons of Mass Creation Fest. Thus the idea was born. Click that link if you want to dig deeper into the values and motives for starting the first one.

Here’s an interiew I did with Jay Delaney of Create the Map. This was taken during WMC Fest and describes a lot of what I’m going to say here. It’s quite long, at 26 minutes, so you might want to listen to it while you work.

Setbacks and Doubters

In May 2010, the first WMC Fest happened. While it was amazing we pulled it off, we had some pretty major setbacks. We had to overcome such obstacles as losing our venue with 30 days left, our keynote speaker canceling the day before, and people questioning how “DIY” I actually was by combining commercial art with some pretty staunch anti-capitalist bands and fans. I also had doubters here at Go Media as I spent lots of on-the-clock time putting on a fest that was largely my own brainchild and interests. It was not a fest that was dreamed up from the labs of Go Media, it was a pure passion project of my own that bled into Go Media. Of course, if we all checked our passions at the door, Go Media wouldn’t be where it is today. That’s one thing that makes Go Media great, we care about our employees’ passions and our company is structured in a way that allows for personal passion to bleed into the work day.

But the big question still remained. How can Go Media be a design firm AND also put on what people were describing as “Cleveland’s answer to SXSW?”. Seriously, this was hard! Talk about expectations.

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Community Involvement

The answer was outside help and community support. We wouldn’t have been able to put on WMC 2011 without incredible help from people OUTSIDE Go Media. Firstly, if we were going to make 2011 work, we had to divvy up the workload. We were passionate about art/design and we needed someone equally as passionate about music. That’s where I found Jesse Sloan. Jesse contacted me years ago about doing work for his band Bethesda and while we never actually did, we stayed in touch over the years. He wanted to get involved in WMC Fest and told me he had put on A.R.M. Fest (a diy music fest) in the past. He had experience in planning something like this and also shared a lot of the same interests in music. I got along great with him and trusted he would do the music portion right. In fact, he ended up doing it better than I ever could have!

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Teamwork. Collaboration. No joke.

If it wasn’t for Jesse taking the music portion of WMC Fest and treating it like his own baby, we wouldn’t have been able to book nearly half the bands we did this year. I had collaborated with some awesome members of the community for 2010, but this put it at a whole new level. I was unloading the entire workload of booking bands, paying bands, and dealing with all the stuff that goes along with it. That left me free to focus on booking speakers, curating the gallery show, and, well… everything else. It was still a lot of work, but I saw the vision and I just had to get there.

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Seeing it all Come Together

I’ll skip all the boring details and get into the payoff. The night before I was a mental wreck and not able to sleep. My wife Kim was stressing out as well thinking of things at the last minute. I got there to set up early the next day and Aaron Draplin rolls up early in his van and gives me a big ole bear hug. This was a great sign – my biggest speaker is here, and early! Fuck yes. My volunteers started showing up on time. Fuck yes. I explained the confusing-as-hell ticketing process, but they seemed to understand. I was so worried about this. But our first attendee showed up and I watched my volunteers get them in with ease. I was thinking “why did I imagine this would be so hard?” Everyone was smiling and excited, and even when there was a mess up, people didn’t care. They wanted things to work and were really forgiving! The volunteers were bright enough to figure things out when I wasn’t around, which to my delight made me able to enjoy the fest.

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The Experience

So like I said, I had such awesome volunteers – and thanks to my wife Kim for making sure I had all the positions covered! This allowed me to roam free and be where I WANTED to be, not where I NEEDED to be. I could sit down and watch the speakers that I worked so hard to bring in. And if I felt like it, I could roll over and watch bands play at the Happy Dog and feel insanely proud that Jesse was able to pull off his portion. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of it coming together. It’s like graduating high school – you work so hard, and this is the pay off.

So I watched some amazing speakers, to which our intern Raji Purcell will profile each one on this site. Stay tuned for that. And I got to see some bands that I never even heard of that were fascinating to see. One of the hidden benefits of letting someone else book the bands who has better taste and passion for it than you do, you get to see some amazing bands you never would have discovered otherwise. In fact, Pitchfork even listed WMC Fest on their summer calendar. Fuck yes I say.

The Design Gallery was ridiculous. So many awesome designers in one place – ok that’s not that new. Designers gather at conferences all over. But everyone here was buzzing because it felt like OUR OWN graphic design summer camp. We all did it together and it was like a big fat family reunion. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a fest!

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What to Expect Next

Like I said above, we’ve got some post fest articles coming your way. Profiling the speakers and their talks, the design gallery, and maybe the music portion. If you attended and took photos, please add them to our WMC Fest 2011 Flickr Pool.

Thanks for the Memories

About the Author, Jeff Finley

I'm a partner at Go Media, a Cleveland web design, branding, and design studio. I started Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and wrote the book Thread's Not Dead, teaching artists and designers how to start a clothing company. I'm also writing a new book called Wake Up: The Morning Routine That Will Change Your Life

Discover More by Jeff Finley

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