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BMEfest: Behind the Scenes

BMEfest: Behind the Scenes

I apologize in advance for the extreme length of this experience, as well as its disjointedness. I'd definitely encourage other BBQ hosts to write similar stories, as well as attendees who can offer their viewpoints. I've broken this down into sections. If you just want to read about the BBQ itself, scroll down to "Part Three". Also, I should mention that many of the links in this experience will only work for IAM members — sorry! But I did make it so the pictures should work for all.

Looking for some underwater basket weaving

Part One: Planning and Preparation

Many of you reading this have come to the BBQs that I've hosted over the past four (wow!) years. On the whole, they have been just that — BBQs. Nothing more (not that there's anything wrong with friends hanging out in a back yard though). However, as time goes by they've escalated into larger and more complex events with a variety of entertainment and events. Since I see the same happening to other people's IAM/BME BBQs around the world, I thought it might be a good time to tell the story of BMEfest, which, not including the ModCons, is probably the most ambitious BBQ I've hosted yet.

That said, my brother used to host field parties when we were in highschool that would regularly have four hundred people, so maybe I'm just fifteen years behind the times. In any case, I'll start by talking about this BBQ, how it came about, and my experiences attending it, and then some general advice to those hosting larger BBQs.

All of my "big" BBQs (many in the 150+ people range, with July 1, 2001 being perhaps over 300) were held in downtown Toronto at my old place at Queen and Bathurst. That made it an ideal central location that was easy and cheap to get to, and stumbling distance from hotels. It really wasn't hard to draw people. Tweed on the other hand is two hours from Toronto, with two tiny hotels within ten minutes and then more a half hour away. We'd held two small BBQs here before; my birthday party and then "Trembling in Tweed", the New Year's celebration. The first drew perhaps twenty, and the latter thirty or forty, all driving of course, and almost all people that I already knew quite well and were "regulars".

Tweed

When I first started working on planning BMEfest it was going to be held in Toronto. I was thinking of seeing if I could get a park permit or something along those lines. Problem with that is that then I'd have to jump through hoops to get liquor allowed, and many of the normal (and safe and healthy) hijinks from suspension to Steve's patented naked cavorting would probably be cut short. In addition, we'd be subjected to far more police scrutiny, our options on selling shirts could be limited, and we'd have members of the general public wandering in and out (since it would be a public space).

Would it be a BBQ without this?

Not only that, but organizing an event in a city that you're not living in is most definitely not easy, so about two months before BMEfest, after talking to Rob and getting permission to use his land here, we shifted the location to Tweed. Now the problem would be how to drag people out into the middle of nowhere... First, the name. While it was just a BBQ, the name "BMEfest" implied something big I think. Another suggestion was "BMESTOCK". Of course, this also had the side effect of making people assume that there would be vendors, procedures, and so on, but I think on the whole it was a good "marketing decision".

I figured that the majority would drive, but, like many raves and outdoor festivals, running shuttle busses might make it easier for some people so I started calling the schoolbus companies to see what it would cost to run a bus from Toronto to Tweed and back. I'd already told people that it would cost $10 to $20 so I was extremely disturbed to find out that my bus cost was going to be several thousand dollars, putting me at a significant loss. Luckily, after a bit more calling around I found the Magic Bus Company who have a fleet of psychedelic-painted busses that do bar tours and so on — after finding out that was for BME, they offered me a cut-throat deal thanks in part to having known one of their drivers since high school.

The only mistake I think I made with the bus was not taking payment in advance (I tend to be too trusting). While I understand in a couple cases that the people had no choice, about ten people cancelled without letting me know even though they knew weeks beforehand that they wouldn't be using it. I don't know if they were just covering their bases or just didn't care, but it wasn't cool because (a) it screwed me over so I didn't break even on the bus, and (b) it screwed over the dozen people who wanted to ride the bus but were told it was full. I suppose at least now I have a short list of people who I can't "extend credit to" in the future.

As all this was being arranged, I was surprised to see that while there was a temporary drop in RSVPs after the location change was announced, it quickly rose to past 300 and then eventually to nearly 350 (although due to a bug in my software, some of those people were expired members and so on). I was about to be proven wrong, but up until the day of I believed we should expect 150 to 200 people.

For entertainment, I posed an open call to bands on my IAM page and was overwhelmed by the response; we got a number of younger bands (Teenage Junk, Monroe, Fetchez La Vache) and then several established bands as well (ill Scarlet, Organical, and of course The Legendary Klopeks). I have no idea what I'm doing as far as sound engineering, and was lucky to have Blake volunteer his experience, and with a few rentals that he made combined with rental of a PA system (cheap — $50!) from a local music store, we were set.

It really wouldn't be a big BBQ without a suspension show, and we were going to have members up from many suspension groups, including (but definitely not limited to) TSD (including Allen Falkner from Texas), iHung, and of course Rites of Passage and iWasCured who have been instrumental at making nearly every BME BBQ I've hosted a success in that department. Since I'd seen it done at events hosted by other groups, I thought that rather than going to the expense and effort of building a suspension tower here I'd see if I could get a crane. To my surprise, this is how the conversation went with the very first operator I called:

Me: I have sort of an odd request... Crane: Ok... Me: How would you feel about renting your crane for a suspension performance? Crane: What, like bungee jumping? We've done that before. Me: Sort of... I'm talking about flesh hook suspension — you might have seen us on TLC before? Crane: Oh yeah, we saw that a little while back. Was that you? Me: Yeah, that was us. How much would it cost and are you available on July 1st? Crane: Yes, we're available, and the price would be $80 an hour (US). Since we haven't worked with you before you'd have to pay up front though. Me: Excellent, I'll be by later with a cheque.

I have to admit that I was expecting to be shot down over and over until eventually finding some shady character that would probably not be safe. Not wanting to have it slip away, I shot down to their office with cheque in hand. I'd previously talked to the owner's wife, now I'd have to talk to him directly. When we pulled up it was clear that he was dramatically more nervous and less enthusiastic than she was, and he definitely was looking us up and down suspiciously. I think the flash car (2001 Porsche Carrera) at least helped us to look at least a little more legit.

Crane: So what exactly is it that you guys are doing? Me: Body suspensions... I think your wife mentioned you'd seen us on TLC? Crane: Yeah... but that stuff's illegal so I could get in a lot of trouble. Me: But suspensions aren't illegal — we do them all the time and we've* used cranes before. Crane: Well... Me: We're flying in experts from Texas. They're very experienced and we'll have riggers that know what they're doing and full safety gear. Crane: Are you going to be filming this? Me: There might be some filming. Crane: You can't show me or my name; I don't want to lose my license. Me: Done deal!

  • Sometimes I use "we" in the larger "family of man" sense.

And it really was that easy. I did get a call the day before telling me he'd been contracted for a big steel job and wanted to know if he could either shift the day or move it to later (we'd originally booked for 4PM) — we shifted the plan to 6PM and, after sending him a liability release ensuring that we accepted full responsibility for all injuries and would be responsible for guaranteeing safety and so on we were set.

Next was figuring out what we were going to use for a stage and tent — I know it may come as a shock to some people, but Canada gets very very hot in the summer, often hotter than many parts of the US, at least around here. I called up places that did rentals for weddings and outdoor parties and booked a truly gigantic 30' x 30' tent (that's 900 square feet!) as well as a 16'x20' stage with an 8" rise. Because I wasn't sure whether I was going to have line power available (we were near a powered barn, but it hadn't been used in a decade) I also rented a 5000 watt generator. Oh, and five 8' tables and fifty chairs.

The nice thing about dealing with these guys was that they did everything. As long as I was handing them a cheque that cleared, they'd deliver it the day before, set it up, and then break it down for me the day after. The problem though was that it wasn't cheap — although the stage was the real killer financially, actually costing 30% more than the tent due to the labor involved in installing it I suppose. In any case, the tent and stage was the most costly aspect of the event from my point of view, but it turned out to be absolutely worth it.

Next I had to figure out what I would do about food. People knew it was a BYOB event (I don't think I could even legally sell beer without jumping through hoops), so I was pretty sure they'd be covered in that department (although I try and buy a little extra so I can give it away to friends). We did have a grill set up for people to cook on, but dragging food all the way here from the day before (the BBQ was hosted on Canada Day, a holiday) wasn't going to be easy, so Rachel came up with a brilliant plan: a chip truck. (For those that don't know what that is, it's basically a cube van that's been converted to sell french fries, onion rings, burgers and so on).

It was really as simple as driving into town, stopping at a chip truck and explaining the event to them. They were a little dubious that we were really going to have over two hundred people for them to feed (to make it worth their while; after all, on Canada Day they could easily just hang out at a provincial park), but they agreed to come. They didn't have veggie burgers or dogs, but they told us that if we wanted to supply them they'd be glad to sell them and reimburse us for any costs, so we bought a few bulk backs and that was also set with relatively minimal effort.

At previous BBQs we've always just used the washrooms at our house. People have always been very cool and there's never been a problem, but to be honest the downstairs toilet here just doesn't work that well and it would be a pain to have that many people traipsing through here. Porta-potties turned out to be cheap to rent, and again, it was as simple as calling the place that pumps our septic tanks. I'll get more into this later, but for big events, finding places that can do the work for you is worth every dime.

I think one of the other keys to a BBQ is to make sure that there's decent music playing, so in my spare time I also made up about twelve hours of mix CDs. I tried to fill them with mostly "happy music" to try and set a good tone, with a bit of fun stuff like old-school Run DMC and stuff like that which people always get a kick out of.

Finally, the BBQ t-shirts. I like doing shirts for BBQs because I can get a bit silly and make shirts that would not otherwise sell via BMEshop (and I encourage everyone to do the same). First I did a back design; basically a rock-tour or festival idea following in the style of the September 2002 BBQ backing (the one with the tiki on the front), and then designed two backs. First, a fun take-off on Mr. Bean with implants, piercings, and tattoos ("Mr. BeanME"), as well as a highly narcissistic parody of a Clockwork Orange movie poster ("A Clockwork BME") but with Alex holding a piercing needle and the Korova milk bar girl having the same tattoo that I had. The tagline read "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are suspension, ultra-piercing, and the Misfits" and the title reading "Shann on Larratt's BMEfest".

After all that was done, it was really just a matter of rampant promotion both through my IAM page, the BME events section, and buttons for everyone that was coming to put on their IAM pages. Once the ball started rolling, more people came forward to volunteer — some people made stickers to give out, others offered fire-blowing experience, and so on. I think that sort of sums up the communal nature of the BME BBQs in general. While there's certainly a central organizer on any given event, ultimately it's a group effort, and it's definitely the group that makes it happen.

Part Two: The day before

Two porta-potties had already arrived several days before, and first thing in the morning of the day before the tent arrived. A large truck/transport pulled up and after being let know where to go, three guys started assembling the framework. Raising the tent — which turned out to be truly enormous (a lot bigger than I'd expected, but in the end, exactly the right size) — can't have taken them more than about twenty minutes, and everything, including building the stage, unloading the tables, and so on, was done within the hour.

L-R: Porta-potties, the Big Tent

While the tent was being set up, a police cruiser pulled into the BBQ area. An officer got out and started asking me questions about the event. I told him it was a private BBQ that would be just friends of mine, and he replied something along the lines of "that's not what they say on the Internet", which sort of confused me but then I remembered why that could be.

"Let me guess," I asked. "Someone's been calling you and telling you that I'd be encouraging underage drinking, that we'd be doing surgery back here, and that there'd be all sorts of child endangerment?"

"Yeah, that's about right," the cop said, asking me to explain how I knew (I think he was starting to realize that he was getting played by someone who just wanted to wreck the BBQ).

Some time ago a piercer in Winnipeg had become angry at me because, among other things, I opposed some misguided regulations that he was trying to force through, not in my opinion to better the industry, but simply to hurt his competition. After attempting (and failing) to use BME to dredge up dirt on everyone he wanted to hurt, he was eventually kicked off the site. After a brief period of freaking out and threatening to fabricate various charges against me (all of which I documented of course), he used a fake name and wrote a fake experience about himself (ie. praising his own shop) and snuck onto the site again.

Not long afterwards (he was too stupid to hide his identity particularly well) he also lost that account and went back to freaking out and threatening me. Then he pretended to be a reporter (same IP address so he was easy to spot) and asked me all sorts of strange leading questions about how BME was a cult, and how BMEfest would be putting kids at risk. Anyway, going by what the police told me, he'd been calling or emailing them with all sorts of lies about BMEfest...

That said, the police really don't like being used like this, and after asking me a few questions about suspension and being told that it was a private show by experienced performers in full safety gear they realized that we were just nice people doing some odd stuff. The officer told me about his niece's navel piercing, asked me a couple tattoo questions, commented on the Porsches (I explained to him how you can own sports cars on a low budget), and then was on his way a moment later.

Oh, and I also made sure to give him my full contact details — then if for some reason he had to return the next day he'd know exactly who to talk to... but from our conversation earlier I figured that they'd do at most a cursory stop-in:

Cop: What if you have thousands of people show up, like this guy is telling us? (Showing me a printout of emails that they'd been sent) Me: Look, I'm expecting about 200 people. If thousands show up, I don't know them, and I'LL be calling you! Cop: Oh no, don't do that — there's only three of us, and we have to do highway patrol tomorrow. Me: Um, ok... Cop: At most you've got a bylaw violation here, and we don't enforce that stuff anyway.

Oh, and the RSVP list was continuing to grow. The porta-potty guys had told us that each one was probably good for about a hundred people using it all day, so we called them and they dropped off two more — running out of porta-potties is probably the worst thing that could have happened to us so we decided to play it safe.

Anyway, some friends had arrived a day early to help do any needed set up, but to be honest, short of rolling back some barrels for garbage cans there wasn't a whole lot to do. However, some time in the mid-afternoon we discovered that a lightning strike the night before had taken out half the power to the house and it wasn't safe to run just one half. Ontario Hydro was called and at about five o'clock got an emergency crew out and replaced the transformer.

Until then we'd figured that since the beer was getting warm, we'd better drink it before it was too warm to drink and were fairly intoxicated by early evening. One carload of people showed up with a tent — people we didn't really recognize, but we were in a friendly state and told them to just head back and set up. I probably should have wondered about it more, since they were particularly trashy looking and were already totally drunk and parading around in crotchless jeans.

Part Three: BMEfest itself

In the morning I looked up the one IAM name of the group that I could remember and it turned out to be a fake account that had been set up only two days before. The page was totally blank with absolutely nothing on it. The night before the guy had been telling people how he was a regular contributor to BME, and his friend was boasting about how he was a CoBM minister (which I do not believe is true, and was not confirmed by the CoBM website). However, after some searching, I could find no submissions at all from that person. We were made additionally nervous because during the night one of the trucks appeared to have been rifled through.

We'd set up a table at the end of the driveway to get everyone to sign in at with both their real name (taking ID so we could tag people who could legally drink) and their IAM name, so we went back and asked them to come and sign in. All but one or two wrote down their IAM names, although one awkwardly talked about once having been on IAM but not any more; he told me he was writing his former IAM name. They also wrote in red marker on all their nametags the name of the tattoo shop they worked at, saying it was important to "promote" or something. After this they went back to their tent and I went in to confirm what they'd written.

Of the IAM names they listed, only one (the fake one) actually existed. None of the others existed on the site, nor had they ever — they'd actually had the gall to just make up names. Not only that, but the guy who'd claimed to be listing a former IAM name (clad in biker attire and claiming to be a CoBM minister) didn't exist either, nor had he ever under any variation of that name. Upon looking up the homepage of the tattoo "studio", it turned out to be a bottom of the barrel scratcher with an overly patriotic web site (who I vaguely remember having been TOSsed off of IAM, but I honestly can't remember the details clearly).

The weird thing is that they could have just said "new to IAM, really like it... These are my friends and they're not on the site yet but they will be soon" or something like that and we wouldn't have thought twice about it.

In any case, giving fake names and so on made it clear that they were crashing the party, so we decided we should ask them to leave. Luckily Kilean and Orbax were there so I had muscle to help back me up if need be. We went back, and they'd already packed up their tent, as if they knew what was going to happen. I told them that it was an IAM event and that since they weren't IAM members ("but he is" — "yeah, but for one day and he has a blank page") they were going to have to leave. And they just said "ok" and headed off. It was really quite bizarre.

We were a bit paranoid that they'd planted something, but nothing came of it. I still don't know if they were coming to cause problems, or if they were just exceptionally dumb, or if someone had fed them a bunch of fake information about the event and they'd been screwed over as well... But the fact that they gave false identities suggests that at least something was up.

At that point I was starting to feel pretty apprehensive. I mean, we'd already had one guy doing everything he could to trick the legal system into hassling us, and then a disturbing encounter with some party crashers. Thankfully at about noon familiar faces started rolling in and I started to feel much more at ea se. I won't name everyone, but it was wonderful to see so many old and new friends again — including many that I was meeting for the first time (I could go on forever, but there's not enough room). I guess that's what makes the BBQs worthwhile, really... And I feel that just as much a s any first-timer attendee.

Blake arrived with a big pile of gear (a big mixer and a pair of amps) and we started to setting up the sound system. Not long into that we made the horrible discovery that his amp appeared to be blown. We managed to get at best a tinny sound out of it that didn't seem to be much more than what you'd get out of a pair of overdriven headphones. We shifted over to my slightly less powerful amp and couldn't get any sound out of it at all either... After both receiving significant shocks off the ungrounded bodies of the amps, the only thing we could think was that perhaps somehow the generator was putting off "bad power" and had blown our amps (although it was consistently powering four 500 watt lights without difficulty).

We shifted over onto barn (line) power, and still couldn't get those amps to work. We had one left, the backup we'd planned to power the monitors, and miraculously we were able to get perfect sound out of that, and after some fiddling Blake was doing the sound check for the first band (Teenage Junk, a young band out of Toronto if I remember right).

Oh, and I'll briefly mention as well that I found out at this point that everyone who'd made reservations at the "Sunrise Motel" down the street was being turned away by the owner just for having piercings — because some people had stayed there in the past and left sharps and biohazard lying around, he's put a permanent ban on anyone he thinks is associated with BME.

At about the same time, the chip truck pulled up. I introduced myself to the grey-haired guy that was running it and set him up with a place to park. He definitely looked very very nervous at that point and I think wasn't quite sure what he'd set himself up for. However, everyone was really nice and polite with him and by the end of the day he seemed very happy and was having a good time (although I'm sure he must have thought it was totally freaky). Plus his food was fried in peanut oil so they were the best fries I've had in long time!

The chip truck

Teenage Junk went on and while they definitely are still inexperienced had a few great numbers and I have to admit that I have a weakness for songs that include oldschool tapped metal solos — that song was a combination of "excellent" and "hilarious". The crowd was starting to fill out and I walked back up to the check in area that Rachel was running and saw that there was already a rather gigantic line of cars. A lot of people had told us about passing the Magic Bus on the highway (with some mooning of course) and not long after it arrived with its load of passengers.

L-R: Teenage Junk, Car Lineup, The Magic Bus

It was great to see the driver again — he reminded me of some of our (long since reformed) childhood indiscretions including making paperwork for false charities and stealing money from churches. Yeah, we're definitely going to hell for that one! Oh, I later found out that he went totally above-and-beyond on the return trip, basically dropping off everyone at their apartments and hotels. I would absolutely recommend the Magic Bus Company to anyone in the area.

As I walked back to see the next band that was playing (I think Fetchez), I saw some friends sitting in the grass of the laneway smoking pot and chilling out. Before you freak out, let me remind you that Ontario recently decriminalized personal possession, so this was totally legal. I sat down and joined them for a while and had a really nice time just sitting and talking (although I was slowly nursing a beer so I didn't smoke anything). Then I heard ill Scarlet go on and put on a great show — drawn by their music I caught the last half of their excellent performance (check them out if they're in your area).

Ill Scarlet

The crowd was pretty full at this point — my best guess at the time was that it was around 200, but it's hard to guess with such a large area. I later found out from counting the names on the sign in list that we had a confirmed 320 people (and I'm sure the actual number must have been a little higher). Everyone was asking me "when's the crane coming, when's the crane coming?" and at about six o'clock it pulled up.

Now that's a big crane!

I ran up to the front gates and opened it up, and we parked the beast — a 140 foot crane is really quite gigantic. The driver was most definitely looking a bit spooked, but after talking to John (iWasCured's primary rigger who absolutely exudes competence) and Allen (not a kid any more, and without a doubt one of the most experienced suspension artists on the planet — and the webmaster of suspension.org) he seemed a bit more comfortable (well, part of me thinks he was just hypnotized by Masuimi) and after securing the crane's legs, John began rigging the crane's hook to accept our suspension rigging (although the crane operator did emphasize that he wasn't going to be raising us to the full height).

L-R: Masuimi, Rigging the crane

The first suspension was Luke and Emrys (who as a point of trivia had been quoted on the Howard Stern show that morning regarding tongue splitting) on a spinning beam (a horizontal bar hooked in the middle, with one of them at each end). They were both wearing safety harnesses as well — climbing harnesses that were rigged (with slack) to the beam, so if hooks tore or anything like that they'd drop a foot and then be saved by the harness.

The spinning beam

The operator was willing to take them up about ten feet off the ground I'm guessing (that is, their feet were about ten feet off the ground), but it still was great to see — and I have to admit it was kind of funny to see them desperately gripping their safety lines, as if it was all that was holding them up. For the subsequent suspensions we decided to work without safeties since we were low enough that they were probably not needed.

Next was a three-person spinning beam with Phil on the heavy end and Rachel and (I'm sorry, I've totally forgotten who) on the other end. While they were spinning and bouncing around, unbeknownst to us, the bolt that was holding Rachel's rig in place was slowly unscrewing itself and at the apex of their show Rachel suddenly dropped to the ground and the rig became unbalanced. I — and probably everyone else there — assumed that Rachel had blown out her hooks, but she just kind of looked confused since her rigging was in place and so were all her hooks! The bolt had just finally come undone and popped out of the bar.

Double spinning beam

A number of us instantly looked up at the crane operator who luckily didn't appear too shaken. He just kind of shook his head in a "you crazy kids" kind of way and let us proceed.

L-R: Marc on the crane, Stacked suspension

Other acts included a solo suspension by Marc, a three man stack (two on top, with naked Bena from Sweden hooked to Kilean and Brian), and a suspended fire blowing act by Monstar.

Monstar's fire act

For me though, the high point of the crane act was Craig's blood show.

Craig's blood act

He got tied up by his feet and the crane pulled him up to about eight feet off the ground. Shunts were placed in his arms, and he began to geiser blood all over the place (the crowd had been moved a safe distance back). It was literally shooting out like a fountain from each arm as he rotated, and then he began to spasm — blood was spraying everywhere and he was splashing it all over himself. Covered head to toe in thick blood, once he started to quiver his support team signaled for the crane to bring him back down. After a few moments of lying on the ground recovering — I don't know if he was hamming it up for the performance, but it was intense to watch — we got him cleaned up and were on to the next act.

Allen also did a short aborted suspension. When I say aborted, I mean aborted by severe injury. Some of you may remember when I tore a hook from my forearm, making quite the mess of myself at the August 2001 SusCon in Toronto, but Allen attempted the same. That said, he had the sense to use a big Sea Demon hook in his elbow, which in theory should have been able to hold him — if he stayed still. However, once off the ground he kicked around a bit, and within ten seconds with a horrible loud popping noise the enormous Sea Demon hook tore through his flesh and Allen dropped to the ground.

The people closer to him in the crowd were freaked... "I can see his bone" someone said, with full honesty — an enormous flap of skin had been torn open. Allen started to go into shock, and my recommendation was to get hospital care and get it professionally cleaned up, but he quickly came out of shock and insisted he just wanted it dealt with there. Lots of people had full emergency first aid and CPR knowledge and so on, so after some cleaning, Blair stitched him up and he appeared to be fine.

L-R: Allen's elbow, Triage area

One of the problems that I've had with suspension shows is gaps. You'll have one act go up, then a long pause as the next one is prepped — which isn't really that fun for the audience. To compensate for this issue, in between suspensions The Great ORBAX ran a sideshow act on the main stage (based on, among other things, a pilot he'd shot for the Discovery Channel illustrating science through sideshow — he's a physics PhD student — watch for it this fall) including an absolutely hilarious broken glass act. I think that without his help and his brilliant stand-up this part of the show wouldn't have gone as well as it did.

L-R: Orbax's act, Throat Pull

In any case, I wish we'd been able to convince the operator to give us more height to play with, but to be honest he stayed through a lot more than I think most would have and he deserves enormous credit for that. I think (and hope) he had a good time though — when he left he was smiling and waving. Orbax's carny-promotion of the "man of steel" crane operator was classic and I think was probably a lot of fun for the operator.

At this point I may start getting the order of events wrong — I'm not sure if another band played first, but then we bridged into the "Pain Olympics". The concept behind this was a round-robin play piercing tournament with increasingly difficult challenges. To be honest, I think this is the one part of the show that bombed — although we cut it short so I hope most people wouldn't agree with me on that. I think we had about a half dozen or more people on stage doing play piercings through their arms, necks, and so on (the piercings were done by Joan, Monte, and Sean). It turned out to be hard to do speed-wise, and most of all because it was very difficult to control contamination we cut it short for safety concerns.

If I was going to do it again, I'd first get more support staff (both piercers and "fluffers" for doing cleaning), and a slightly larger area. In addition, for the audience's benefit, I believe this is an event that would need a video projection screen so that they could see what was going on — and I think the bands and ALL of the performances could have benefitted from a screen, so I think that'll definitely be on my list of things to make sure to rent for the next one.

Some shots of the crowd and people at BMEfest

During the Pain Olympics a guy (who as far as I know is a really nice guy "in real life") who'd had far far too much to drink jumped onto stage and started pulling needles out of the arm of one of the contestants. He then stumbled back to his tent. Earlier that day he'd also been harassing one of the pregnant girls (really freaking her out by aggressively poking her belly and making some very offensive comments), and had also kept letting the dogs off leash. A number of people had run-ins with him, so Kilean and I approached him and told him that he'd have to leave.

To be honest, he was totally out of it and I really don't think he knew what he was doing. He wasn't able to leave because he was the driver... His friends (very nice guys) apologized and promised to take care of him and keep him out of the main area. He chilled out in his tent (probably woke up with a huge headache) and there weren't any other problems — I'm glad it blew over without having to kick him out in hindsight.

Drunk :*)

The only other "drunk incident" was someone who came fairly early and started pounding them back fairly hard — and I think that people were giving each other shots of strong alcohol, so some people very quickly moved past their limit. Anyway, the sun was very hot, and he got up out of his chair and promptly fell over the three people sitting next to him. He managed to get up again, and then immediately crashed forward onto his face and vomited on himself. It turned out fine though; a table was quickly converted into a stretcher and he was carried to an impromptu triage area in the shade of a tree. A number of people took care of him and within a couple hours I saw him back on his feet and having a good time.

Monroe played as well, either right before or right after the Pain Olympics. I don't think I got to hear much of their show — I'm pretty sure I was chilling out with the stoners again. I have to admit that pot being legal is really nice; there's definitely something to be said about relaxing under trees with music and friends (versus being "trashed").

As the evening rolled on we realized it was starting to get late and we'd have to start wrapping things up, pulling the plug on the sound system at around 11PM — although the amount of noise coming from our BBQ was definitely less annoying than my neighbors yappy dogs that I have to listen to all day and all night every day of the year. Organical put on a great show — although because the fire was starting to be blown so I think they felt a little under-appreciated since their crowd was enjoying their music a little farther away from the stage so they could catch both acts at once.

Blowing fire

As I mentioned, Monstar and a number of others were blowing increasingly larger fireballs as the Organical show played, and then as they were wrapping up we began the fireworks show about fifty feet into the field. It went light and then revved up hard with seemingly dozens going off at once. The only mishap was a large volley which tipped on its side, hurling fireballs at the propane tanks of the chip truck and through the crowd. One person was hit in the chest with a fireball (unhurt), and another landed at the foot of the stage a few feet away from me.

Fire spinning

We distributed sparklers through the crowd and as the fireworks show wound down the Klopeks prepared for their groundshaking headline act. Seriously, we couldn't have worked with a cooler and more perfect finale act. For those that haven't seen The Legendary Klopeks live, be sure to — it's most definitely an experience (they do a high-energy punk show that bridges cross-dressing, ultra-violence, stand-up comedy, and a guy in a gorilla suit running amok).

Dressed in school girl outfits and playing bizarrely decorated instruments (the bass was covered in fun fur and flashing lights), songs tended to start with some horrible joke, then something along the lines of "I wrote this song for a guy I know in Toronto... It's called DIE FUCKER DIE!!!" followed by high volume high speed explosive punk and typically ending with the singer yelling "Fuck You" and being slammed over the head with a garbage can by the gorilla who spent the songs running through the crowd lauching fireworks.

It should be no surprise that Steve and others found themselves dancing naked on stage while the Klopeks played both their own material and the I think finished off with a blasting GG Allin cover. I'm seriously not doing them enough credit with what I'm writing here — they singlehandedly put the event over the top.

When they finished, we shifted the music to the nighttime mix (kind of like how they used Muzak in 1984's Suburbia to clear out the punk bar I guess) and things toned down. I went inside not long after and went to bed, but I hear things stayed crazy until about 4AM with several orgies, some watersports, and a bit of an on-stage sausage party. The bugs I think had come back by that point though so I'm hoping that the people itching themselves will be doing so on account of mosquitos, not some STD — at the next big BBQ I'll definitely have to have a giant bowl of condoms and lube to give out.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the police never did show up. They did call once to let us know that we should be careful about the parking (there were at least a hundred cars lined up along the road) but that we weren't in any violation. They had to come once with a tow-truck after Steve put his Prelude in the ditch trying to teach Jon how to drive a stick — all of which was captured on video and everyone is OK thankfully.

Anyway, I can't thank the bands and performers enough for putting on amazing show after show, and of course thank you to those who came as well since the event could not have existed without your support.

Part Four: The morning after

I was very sore the next morning. Not from drinking or anything like that (I'd really not had all that much), but just from being on my feet all day and running around (yeah, I'm out of shape, but I start at the gym this Friday). I chatted with the guy we'd almost asked to leave and he told me about how he'd also been chasing a guy in a chicken suit across the swamp (there's a marsh in front of the house here) and both him and Jason were covered head to toe in scratches. While few saw this giant chicken creature, they both swear that it tripped them... Perhaps it's Tweed's answer to bigfoot.

By the time I wandered back to the BBQ area, it was already almost spotless. People are always very cool about helping to clean up and all the refuse was moved to the bins and all I have to do is toss it all in the trailer and bring it to the dump. Thank you so much to those of you who took the initiative to do this, clean up the day after is pretty miserable (so all I was left with was the inside of the house which was mostly my mess anyway).

A couple things were forgotten (I think all of which have been ID'd by their owners), and a couple things were stolen — not much though. Someone stole Shawn's chocolate bars (yeah right, we all know he ate them) and his ModCon shirt — which to me seems like an odd thing to rip off since it's not like you can wear it anywhere without being identified as an asshat thief. That said, he told me that of all the big BBQs he's hosted, the only thing that ever got taken was a QOD shirt, another item that no one could ever show in public. All in all though, given the size of event and limited controls in place I think we did extremely well in the "problem" department and I haven't lost any trust in this community at all.

Later that morning a tree in the back yard was rigged for suspensions and two more people went up — Andy and Clive, although I didn't get too see them as I had to leave to return the rentals by 1 PM. The gear was all returned (surprisingly the amps worked perfectly at the stores) and, in theory, it was time to relax. For one year that is, until the next one.

Again, thank you to everyone who made it a success and my apologies to the dozens of people I've forgotten to specifically thank (like Ryan for bringing hilarious BMEfest stickers, or Dreadboy who got screwed over by his band but I hope still had a great time), and to all the folks who performed who I've forgotten and so on. I'm sure that I'll be kicking myself as I remember everything after submitting this to the site!

Part Five: Reflections and Advice

Outsource as much as you can

Things like the chip truck made the event so much easier. So did all the rentals — if you're careful, it's easy to recoup the money with either voluntary donations or a cover charge. If you don't have the money to do it up front, I'd strongly recommend getting payment beforehand so you know people won't back out on you.

The same goes for the suspensions and other acts — don't try and do it all yourself. If you're the organizer you'll have enough to worry about without figuring out the specifics of every act. Find people who you can give a timeframe to and work out a hard hitting (but not too long) show.

Along the lines of outsourcing, for smaller BBQs (most of what I've written here is directed toward big ones), things like bowling alleys are excellent places to host as they'll do all the work for you.

Delegate

Don't be afraid to give jobs to people — helping out is part of the fun of these communal BBQs I think so it's no big deal to say, "Hey Phil, I have another mission for you" and get some back-up. You're not superman, so before the BBQ work out a list of responsible people who you can trust to take care of things for you as you need them.

Make a schedule

If the event is larger and has actual acts, make at least a rough schedule. This will make your life a million times easier. Also, because you've delegated most of the subtasks, it's essential for those people because then they know what time they need to be ready to go. In addition, at a larger BBQ you will probably have people coming and going, so being able to let them know when the parts they want to be there for is helpful.

Be prepped for the police

At a large event, or an event that neighbors may get upset over due to what's going on, you should expect the police to stop by — that's their job. Remember though, the police are there because they care about the public and are just trying to make the community run smoothly. They need to know that there's someone responsible in charge, and that you're not going to cause problems in the neighborhood. As long as they know that they should be cool with you.

Assuming you're on private property and have less attendees than whatever your local laws allow (here it is 250 so we were about 100 over), there's not a whole lot they can do to you. You may have to keep down the noise, so probably the only thing that could get you in trouble is underage drinking and stuff like that (which really shouldn't be happening anyway). Suspension and so on is fully legal in most areas.

Most importantly, just be sure that your guests know to be polite when the police show up (that goes a long way in how they treat you), and that they know to come and get you or whoever is in charge.

Arrange Security

While the hope is that you won't have any problems, at a large BBQ (100+ people) statistically the odds are you'll have at least minor issues like the ones I've described. Before the BBQ it's probably a good idea to find a couple bigger guys who you know will stay relatively sober throughout the day and can back you up should problems arise.

Along those lines, especially if you're having suspensions, pullings, or even play piercing (I'd strongly urge against having procedures like scarification or piercing simply because it's very difficult to properly prep a BBQ space for that), I'd strongly urge you to know who the people are that have first aid and CPR experience. Odds are you won't need it, but being prepared is best.

T-Shirts

In my experience one tends to sell about 1/2 to 2/3 of the t-shirts that get requested on the RSVP lists. Personally I think it's better to sell them all than to have some left over (and if you massively run out, you can always do a second run). The only case in which I'd do a full run is if you have people pre-pay — taking the loss on a hundred shirts where only half end up selling can be expensive.

That said, if you have left overs, you can usually trickle them out by putting them up for sale on your IAM page and so on. Let me know if you find yourself in that situation and I'll help you promo them.

I'll also mention that there are of course other less expensive options that are also fun — stickers (places like StickerGuy can make them very cheap) or postcards (which you can make for $0.50 at most film developing places at this point) are two obvious examples.

Getting the Word Out

My advice to people is to first informally talk to people and try and gauge what the interest level is in your area. If you think you want to do it and are willing to commit to it, add the event to the events section being sure to write a full description — remember, you're basically writing a press release so you should put effort into this step. Once it's approved, you can do a broadcast to people in your area letting them know about it (but don't spam!).

You can help it snowball by making e-buttons for people to put on their page — I made "I'm Going To BMEFEST" buttons — that link to the event or to the event forum, and you may want to even change your avatar to an ad for the event.

Gimicks are good!

Stupid gimick often equals fun, rather than lame! Perk900 went around the BBQ taking pictures of people holding goofy signs for example (he's also hosted BBQs at a mechanical bull bar).

Perk900's sign gag

Why

Believe in why you're holding the event. If you don't, it's not going to turn out. Understand why you're willing to go to the effort.

You might look this happy if you host a BBQ too!

Conclusion

Hosting BBQs is a lot of fun, very rewarding, and easier than you'd think (not that it's totally easy). All I can say is "go for it!" and if you have any questions, feel free to write me or check out the Event Hosts forum on my IAM page. Oh, and take lots of pictures!

Shannon shannon at bmezine dot com

Warning: The above is just my personal experience in hosting BBQs. For all I know I'm giving you horrible, horrible advice. Please learn from my experience, but don't take it as gospel truth!

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 05 July 2003
in Ritual

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