Since its inception in 2015, Northern Invasion has been the festival that I’ve looked forward to the most each year. Since its inaugural date, the festival has hosted almost a hundred thousand fans, and just under 60 bands. After the festival’s third outing this year, that band number will be pushed close to 100, and the attending numbers could easily double.
I have been to dozens and dozens of festivals over the past 20 years. None of them have come close to comparing to the sense of community that is Northern Invasion. The festival’s promoters continue to find the perfect balance between the many sub-genres of the rock and metal, and prove that their main concern is giving those of us who attend a weekend reprieve from our daily grind.
I recently had the chance to chat with Gary Spivack, Northern Invasion co-executive producer for Danny Wimmer Presents, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about my favorite festival and the expectations for 2017 and beyond.
Branding a music festival year after year is kind of like building a winning sports team. Hard to win the Super Bowl in year one or two of your franchise, ya know? But over time, you tweak and fix things–make this a little better and that a little bigger. We are constantly tweaking, and truly feel we have Northern Invasion in a place we can be proud of in year 3.
2. Fans of the rock and metal genres can be very fickle. Who’s popular in August, may not be in December, who’s to say May of the following year. How far in advance are the bands contacted to be part of Northern Invasion?
Booking, curating and putting together the Northern Invasion is a 365 day siege. We are constantly turning over every stone, every nook to find the best talent and the ones that can hit at the right time. It’s a good question, and we want bands at Invasion to be at the top of their game come this May 13-14.
(Above: tens of thousands of fans watching KORN shred the Main Stage in 2016)
3. What do you take into consideration when putting together a 2 day festival? What are the logistics behind putting an event this size together?
It truly does take a village. It’s a big family that basically puts together a living, breathing city for a full weekend. It’s about the music first and foremost, but we also take into account picking the right food, the right beverages, making sure parking, the campsites and the VIP experience is completely top level and ready to roll.
4. Without a doubt our country is politically divided now. Were you expecting such backlash from the fans after announcing Kid Rock as one of the headliners? How would you use his performance to further unite the rock and metal community?
At the end of day, Kid Rock does not disappoint. He puts on a very entertaining and highly visual live performance. A full on party. He adds something to the overall Invasion lineup that other acts don’t. Just how a band such as The Struts or on the other side a band like Gojira brings something fresh to the Invasion. It is not about just one act. I repeat, this is not a Kid Rock show. It’s the Northern Invasion, and Kid Rock happens to be one act, albeit a big one, that is part of the overall festival experience. This country is divided like never before – this is true – and we want rock ‘n’ roll and the Northern Invasion to be a weekend of fun, partying and some serious good time rock music. Come out and be with us. Part of the beauty of rock music is to escape from the daily grind. Use us!! We give you permission at Invasion to be part of this beautiful madness.
5. A good portion of the bands playing Northern Invasion 2017 have great underground fan bases, but are not what would be considered “commercial radio” successes. Were you concerned it would be a deterrent for ticket sales to have lesser known bands on the line-up?
At its core, Northern Invasion is a rock festival. Not a metal fest. Not a punk fest. A rock ‘n’ roll festival. We hate square pegs for square holes. We want to cast a wider net and help expand this awesome thing we all call rock music. You have bands from Soundgarden, Bush and The Offspring all the way to Amon Amarth and Dillinger Escape Plan with bands such as Papa Roach and Alter Bridge in between them. Again, Northern Invasion wants to cast the wider net. We want to make sure we have something for every rock fan…something for all.
6. Three of the bands on the current line-up (Starset, Motionless In White, The Pretty Reckless), played 2015. What was the deciding factor to bring them back for 2017?
Those 3 bands you mention have a nice growth to them. A solid evolution to their musical and artistic arc. We want to honor that. Having said that, it’s good to point out that out of some 40+ bands only 3 have played Northern Invasion before. That’s a pretty damn good batting average of not repeating things. We want to keep the festival fresh for the fans. We want those Invaders to come back and party with us year after year after year. We want Invasion to be their home come every May!
(Above: Deryck Whibley of SUM 41)
7. How does it feel when fans search surrounding festival line-ups and concert dates around Somerset from NI artists before Northern Invasion’s final date/time announcement to determine which bands will be playing which dates? (Basically, fans figure out which day of Invasion a band is playing before it’s announced.)
Proving the fact that rock fans really are savvy, alert, smart and they care. We love it! Keeps us on our toes. Like the previous question. Only 3 bands out of over 40 have played the festival. Some 37 bands are first timers. Not bad, man!
8. What’s the process of determining which bands play which dates and their specific time slots?
We want Northern Invasion to be something for everyone. So it was important to get a band like Soundgarden, then grab a Kid Rock, then a Godsmack and then lifestyle bands from In Flames to Pierce The Veil. Again, something for everyone. Then it comes down to putting the right bands next to each other on the right stages at the right slots. Not an easy task. Not at all!!
9. Since Northern Invasion’s inception, which bands have been the most difficult to secure?
We are so excited to have the iconic Soundgarden grace our stage. That was 3 years in the making. Having Bush, The Offspring is also great. Then convincing unique bands such as Opeth and even a band like The Story So Far to join the party. Bands get comfortable sometimes in the little tailor made genres too. We like to mix it up, break it up. Again, after all, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll to us. Gotta be outside the box.
10. Lastly, which artists have you wanted to be at Northern Invasion, but their tour route wouldn’t allow it to happen?
Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, Aerosmith…I kid. I will tell you, we are already looking into Invasion 2018 as we continue to raise the bar to what we do…but also can’t wait to see everyone this May 13-14 at the 3rd annual Northern Invasion.
Tickets are still available for Northern Invasion 2017. Weekend passes and single day tickets are going fast though. And if you plan on utilizing the festival’s campgrounds, get your reservations now. Campground slots sell out fast!
Hit up www.northerninvasion.com for ticket sales and all the details for the midwest’s largest rock festival!