Welcome to Week Three of our Live Music Shutdown Series! This week we are debuting writing from Kimberly Brian, Marketing and Media Director for OhWook! Productions, Inc. and Mile 0 Fest in the Florida Keys.
This particular piece she wrote really resonated with me. It’s visceral, honest, and relatable as hell. By the end of reading her words, I hope you get the same feeling of inclusivity and love from this music scene that I felt.
I WAS LUCKY
By Kimberly Brian
Mile 0 Fest 2020 ended on February 1st. I stayed in Key West for another few weeks. By the time I got home, I had been gone a month. When you’re in festival mode, you don’t pay attention to the outside world; couple that with being on an island that is closer to Cuba than to a Wal-Mart and you are really out of touch with the rest of the world. I flew back to Texas, turned on the news and BOOM! The world was quickly becoming a different place.
I am not an optimist, but I laughed at people that said we would be shut down. I just didn’t think it would happen. I believed, like so many people, we would all stay home for a couple of weeks, ‘slow the spread’, and then we would get back to life. Yeah… I was wrong.
I started this by saying, ‘I was lucky’. I was, I am. I didn’t miss a paycheck, and there aren’t many in this industry that can say that. I work for a truly phenomenal company that made sure we were okay. There was a huge sense of relief that came with that. However, there was also a lot of guilt.
I had to sit back and watch the industry that I love just die. Well— die isn’t the right word— more like hibernate. It wasn’t just the artists and musicians: it was the stage hands, the sound guys, my favorite rep at one of our vendors we contract. Almost overnight the industry went silent. Yes, I was getting paid, but for how long? We are a fairly young festival. 2020 was only our third year. 2021 was going to be OUR YEAR. We had most of the kinks worked out, we were getting great reviews; hell, we even sold out years two and three! The momentum was just getting really good. What happens if we have to skip a year? Will we even be able to come back?
Then they shut down the entire Florida Keys— Venues that host some of our shows, the hotels, the guest houses, the excursion companies. Key West was locked down. Only residents could come in. I think that is when it really started to hit me. An island that 80% of its economy is tourism had road blocks up and wasn’t letting anyone in. So much for that two weeks theory.
2020 was a waiting game for everyone. Sit and wait. I did what everybody else did. I watched Downton Abbey, the entire Grey’s Anatomy Series again, made candles, did one of those gem by numbers things that popped up on an Instagram ad, and waited.
What happened to our industry was horrible. Being deemed non-essential is terrifying. We are essential, that I know. Music is essential. Gathering with your friends is essential. We need it like we need water and air. God Bless the artists that found creative ways to come into our living rooms and give us life. Hydrate our thirsty souls. Day after day, night after night, they were there on a screen keeping us all going. It was like a promise that eventually we would get back to life. Sequestered Songwriters every week, Wade’s World, Hood Mornings, Drew Kennedy’s backyard shows, the Moonpies Facebook lives, Chance Anderson’s The Rona Tapes, the list could on and on. They were there waiting just like us. It was comforting and it was frustrating, because I (and I am sure most of you) was really sick of looking at a screen.
In June, we posted a simple photo/graphic on Facebook that said Mile 0 Fest 2021 with #itshappening. Truth be told, I posted it before our team was ready for me to do so. We weren’t sure exactly when: we had two sets of dates, a plan and a hell of a lot of hope. My boss is a very determined man and thank God. On September 14th, we announced the official dates. We were having a festival, but it would be four months later than normal. It would be HOT, and it would be the week before our other event Key West Songwriters Festival (that had to skip its official 25th year in 2020). Two weeks of festivals back to back. Months of little to no work then turned into 14 hour days, everything for both festivals and at basically the same time. No break. Add to that, we would then only have about eight months to put together 2022. But, we were back!
For a large number of Mile 0 Fest fans, 2020 was the last show they attended, and 2021 would be the first show since shutdown. No pressure. We were coming back but at reduced capacity and some pretty big changes to the festival. Almost all of our shows would be held outside; gone were the late night bar shows where people would pack in like sardines. Covid procedures were changing on an almost daily basis, and we had multiple artists cancel. Every step was met with an obstacle. It was tough, it was frustrating, but it was worth it. Man, was it worth it.
Mile 0 Fest 2021 won’t go down as my favorite year. It probably won’t go down as the best year; but it will go down as the most joyous year. Joy, pure joy from the artists and fans, to the stage crews and sound guys. Even my favorite rep that lost her job is back on the team. We were back. We have the best team, the best artists and the absolute best fans. You can’t beat them. All week it was just joy. From the pool parties and shows on the beach, to the live music sails and after parties at the Amp, joy. Mile 0 Fest has become a family reunion of strangers. You would have to come for that to make sense, but you would get it the moment you walked through the gate.
On Friday night at the Amphitheater we had “The Duets” show. Drew Kennedy and Courtney Patton were closing out the show with the classic “The Time of My Life.” Thanks to a backstage bet that involved Wade Bowen, Mike Harmier became Baby and Drew Kennedy was Johnny Castle for the famous lift. Now Mike didn’t have the pretty pink dress, but it was spectacular none-the-less. That moment made it all worth it to me. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time, but it was also just everything we had all missed in the past year. The camaraderie of the artists, the backstage bets and shenanigans, the ability of music to bring everyone together, the crowd singing along and going nuts— all of it right there in that moment.
We were one of the last to get to have an event in 2020, and we were one of the first to come back in 2021. We were lucky. I was lucky. I am lucky.
A huge thanks to Kim for participating in this series and her honesty in telling us about her 2020-2021 experience. She is correct: Mile 0 Fest is one of the most exhilarating festivals I have ever been to, and we at TMP are stoked for the years to come!
If you would like to be featured as a writer in this series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your industry credentials and topic you’d like to discuss in your piece.
See y’all next week for part four!
– Taylor Ashlynn