When Tierro Lee and a few friends set out to create another music festival — deep in a time when they were cropping up like weeds do between cracks in a sidewalk — the future of it was unknown. Many like it failed. However, in just a short time, the co-founder and producer of ARISE Music Festival has built something special tucked away at Sunrise Ranch outside of Loveland, Colorado. Each year, thousands attend his event in hopes of breaking away from the monotony of the outside world, joining like-minded folks through an exploration of not only musicians on stage, but events outside in the crowd that include mini yoga retreats, meditation, crafts, art and everything in between.
This year, the weekend of August 3-5 will play host to yet another year of ARISE. Beforehand, Tierro sat down with Rooster Magazine to discuss the triumphs (and difficulties) of putting on the event.
You're coming up quick on go-time — what are some of the last things that fall into place before the event?
Issuing tickets and reviewing all the staff lists. ARISE has well over 1000 people that are there to care for and ensure the attendees have a great time; so one of my jobs is to make sure those 1000 plus people are well cared for and well versed in how to fulfill their roles. It is a lot of fun.
When in the initial planning stage, exactly how many people told you it couldn't be done?
Oddly enough none! I have been hosting events for so long that the people I know have all been attending my events for years. Many said it was 'crazy' and it was a 'big idea,' but not one insinuated that I could not accomplish what I was setting out to do. Looking back I guess that was odd.
'Festie' culture as a whole seems to be dropping off from its peak a few years ago; what do you think ARISE does differently to be able to continue?
ARISE is more than a festival — it is the creative result of thousands of people who are interested in an experience outside of the routines of everyday life. We invite people to contribute on many levels so the event keeps morphing along with what our culture is interested in at the time. I think this helps explain the continued growth of ARISE.
What are some of the biggest challenges you all face trying to put this thing together every year?
[laughs] There are so many. It really is a difficult task. It's like climbing Mount Everest — it may become familiar the more you do it but it never gets easy. The biggest one is staffing and staying within the budget. I wish I could hire an army to do all the work required, but we just don’t have the budget, so a lot of the work sits on the shoulder of just a few people (often just 2 or 3) and we use a bigger staff just when it's absolutely necessary.
What's one thing you want to do every year but haven't made possible yet?
I want to lay the campgrounds out in the shape of a spiral and have the people camping in their tents literally be part of the largest living art installation we have ever seen!
When choosing artists for the lineup, is there often disagreement between the team on who gets picked? How does it get resolved (if so)?
We are methodical and very careful. We use every means of information possible and especially input from our attendees (we value attendee feedback in all areas of the festival). If we don’t agree on an act than it usualy is the wrong act.
Overall, how would you say the crowd handles themselves at ARISE?
The people make the place and the colorful people make ARISE the place to be. They are beyond supportive and respectful of one another. They have created a community that shines. I love the people of ARISE.
Are there any big plans for the future of ARISE you want readers to know about?
Every year we will grow and morph just like our community does. And you can expect ARISE to raise the bar every year. We care deeply that this type of experience is available to people and will continue to work hard so it may thrive for years to come.