It is accepted wisdom that you learn little from success,because only failure provides real knowledge. This may not have been much comfort for Mammothfest promoter Steve Dickson, at the ill-fated culmination of months of hard work. Thanks to an inauspicious scheduling clash, Dickson’s plans for a regular large Brighton-centric event – which brought together local and international bands – were sent into a tailspin. Ozzy Osbourne’s travelling festival Ozfest, was visiting London’s O2 the same day, prompting a sharp decline in interest for Mammothfest’s South Coast event.
From this experience, Dickson realised the best way to build the festival he envisaged was to evolve his contacts, PR and media presence, then nurture the music scene he adored. “The ethos of Mammothfest is to create a platform for underground bands,” Dickson tells me, over a few beers with some of his team. “Every now and then you go and see an act, and no-one leaves the room. They’re that good!” By adopting a new attitude to promotion, one that builds a grassroots network of promoters, Mammothfest is giving the local rock/metal scene a sustainable boost. Nationwide tours and joint promotions with regional promoters further raise awareness of the Festival and its philosophy.
Working on the idea that emerging acts with experience of playing with international acts can use it as leverage with promoters, they look for local bands to pair with their established bookings. The most interesting prospective bands are those releasing EPs, touring, putting shows together on their own and striving to make themselves heard. They want those bands to hear about the shows, come down and love it. “Then they’ll work at getting the bill for the next event. If they perform well enough, they’ll get booked for a larger show or a sponsored tour, which might then catch the attention of the larger acts booked to play.”
Ostensibly Dickson and his team are massive music fans themselves, all of them playing in, or managing, bands already. They also expect the same level of fervour and dedication from acts hoping to join their bills. This burgeoning grassroots movement doesn’t just reach out to music fans and bands though. It aims to connect with anyone that wishes to work on their scene. Bookers, bands, artists, web designers or graphic artists, all of them can benefit from the exposure of this solid and visible network.
Since the emergence of global communications and networking, music acts from anywhere in the world can now go to another city and play to a crowd of established fans. But with this boom in social media, come opportunities for unscrupulous artists to create a false sense of success. It’s even possible to buy ‘likes’ from profile farms in India. Dickson says it’s fairly easy to spot bands doing this. “Bands say: ‘we’ve just got 14k Likes in the last two weeks!’ Well, have you released anything recently? Nothing? Well, how did you do that?!” To counteract this, Mammothfest uses its contacts worldwide to find out what’s hot and connect directly with promoters who know their local scene inside out, so they can bring togetherthe best local and international acts.
Headliners are Savage Messiah and Martyr Defiled with main support from Meta-stasis and Ingested. The plan is to build on their recent successes, and the sub-culture they’re nurturing, by holding events at an open air venue just outside Brighton. Promoters nationwide are recognising the value of what Mammothfest are striving to achieve. Appreciating it’s harder to draw capacity audiences and raise awareness through unrealistically priced tickets, Dickson and co prefer to provide cheap events in local locations. This ensures fans no longer need travel for hours, or spend excessively, to see amazing bands. “Lower ticket prices mean a fuller venue and fans with more money to spend on band merchandise.” Many Mammothfest events charge a paltry £5 for ten bands, not that every fan appreciates why it’s so cheap. “Some people have actually come up to me and said: ’What’s wrong with it?’ I’m thinking I should put the price up, if it’s going to be more enticing,” Dickson jokes.
Mammothfest comes to Green Door Store, Brighton on Sat 30 – Sun 31 Aug
By Stuart Rolt