So tell us exactly what you do for Sled.
I’m the transport director. To be honest I share the position — I brought in a partner in crime this year and her name is Erin Nolan. She joined last year as driving co-ordinator and this year she’s stepped it up to help me out. Obviously the festival has grown over the last six years since we first started out and it’s a pretty big operation. We take care of all arrivals and departures between Calgary International Airport and the hotels between the hotels and venues for sound checks and shows and then there’s a whole bunch of movement of goods and people in between.
Sounds intense. How many drivers and vehicles do you use?
Yeah. Last year we executed probably 500 single-direction drives which is quite substantial. So this year we’ll be in the range of 600. We have 40 volunteers and we operate about 20 hours a day over a week — we start on Tuesday [the 19th] and go till about Tuesday [the 26th].
We actually have a fleet — we work with Driving Force and have four 15-passenger vans two SUVs and three cube vans.
Is it a logistical challenge/headache?
Yeah it gets quite interesting. A lot of the bands we have are coming from all over the world and obviously international flights change and venues change and bands want to go at different times…. Part of how we try and stay successful is having the driver co-ordinators come and sit in the office and they have maps in front of them and really make sure the drivers are on the ball and are fluid in situations — just keeping up with everything that comes in. But we’ve got really really good people. Part of the requirement we have for drivers is that they know the city — most of the drivers we use have a really good handle on where everything is and are connected to the music scene — they know where all the venues are.
And what’s your day-to-day look like during the festival?
I oversee the whole operation. As transport director there’s a whole ton of front-end work — working with the logistics co-ordinator working with the festival director and the staff here. Just huge amounts of Excel spreadsheets are in front of us at all times. All sorts of stuff comes up last minute that needs to be looked after and again just making sure that everyone’s happy.
Your days must have been pretty long before you had a co-director
Yeah. One of the challenges is that we operate from 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. It became gruelling because previously there was one phone number that went to me and so I basically had to be on call for 21 hours a day. It wasn’t feasible [anymore] given the growth of the festival so we’re kind of operating in two shifts so I can catch some nap time.
You must enjoy it — you’ve been doing it every year since Sled Island started right?
Since its inception. I grew up with [Sled founder] Zak Pashak. The first year we were doing a lot of the drives out of his own car and people borrowed cars. There was one year that I was away but I love Calgary a ton and this festival really exudes the kind of Calgary that I see and want to see expand and grow. It’s funny we talk about transportation and biking is such a big part of the festival — we actually have a transport bike that we use donated by Aviv Fried of the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. There’s a big focus on cycling and he lends us his bike and we have someone ripping around on that to promote more sustainable modes of transportation.
When you’re not stuck behind a spreadsheet do you even get a chance to see some shows?
This year I’m really excited to see Strange Boys. I’m not sure how I’m going to fit it in but part of Sled is that I’m in the office the whole time. In previous years I’ve been able to see snippets of shows but this year I’m hoping to spend some time checking out some music at all the great venues around town. Strange Boys especially I’m pumped for.
Ever get to drive around with anyone you particularly admire?
I got to cruise around with Sleep last year and they were really really cool guys. Also got to hang out with Wire last year. There’s been a ton of bands. Our drivers are really ambassadors for the festival because they’re the first people that the bands meet when they get off the flights and often the last ones to see them go. Every year we’ve had drivers getting handshakes from bands saying “we really love Calgary” and “this festival is really putting Calgary on the map musically.” And I like to think our drivers being good ambassadors for the festival has played a part in that.