It’s All Good with Tim Walther
- By Brandon Chiat
- Published on February 08, 2011
Talent-buyer, promoter and dedicated jam band fanatic, Tim Walther wears many hats when it comes to the music. The founder of Walther Productions, he's perhaps best known for spearheading West Virginia’s All Good Music Festival, now entering its 15th summer, and is a product of countless Grateful Dead parking lot tailgates.
And it’s those tailgates that seem to inspire Walther’s events, as his team recaptures the familial atmosphere at both concerts and festivals they put on.
[FOLLOW All Good on Facebook.]
Walther is largely responsible for the breadth of jam music in the mid-Atlantic, booking a diverse range of acts in some of the region’s most popular venues in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
But it’s All Good that is his most popular national event.
All Good’s key difference is its presentation. Walther has gone to great length to ensure that the picturesque Marvin’s Mountaintop setting cuts out frivolous distractions, focusing the fan’s attention and energy in one place. After a decade and a half, All Good remains true to its roots – intimate, family-friendly and most importantly, jam-centric.
Headstash Magazine recently chatted with Walther before the impending lineup announcement, discussing what goes into planning one of the country's most successful festivals, what he has in store for 2011 and what happens when the infamous Nitrous Mafia threaten All Good's tranquility.
Tim Walther: Right from the very beginning [in 1998 before it was even called All Good]. 2,500 people showed up to the first festival with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones headlining. After the success of the first one, we followed up the second year with String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon headlining – and we doubled our attendance with 5,000 people.
At that time the scene was just sort of emerging and gathering steam, we were right there in the middle of it all. The festival scene and setting is always the most fun. It captures the vibe of the parking lots before and after Grateful Dead shows. It’s all about capturing the sense of community and family that comes with the music. We wanted to give fans a reason to go on a summer pilgrimage – an alternative to the club scene of the fall and winter.
HM:. Where did the idea for the alternating stages come from?
TW: It’s been our concept since the beginning even way back in the day. Sometimes we’d use only one stage and split one side of the stage while the other was being flipped for the next band.
[FIND news, history and information about All Good 2011 on the official website.]
I feel that if a fan buys a ticket to a festival they should be able to see every single band on the bill. You shouldn’t have to chase the music like you have to at the mega-festivals with multiple stages. I love how the energy at All Good builds in one location, everyone gathers and starts vibing. The energy just grows and grows to the point where it’s ready to explode when the headliners come. That’s unique and exciting to All Good it’s definitely our signature flavor
HM: This is All Good’s 15th year – do you have anything special planned to celebrate?
TW: The talent this year is amazing. Last year was the most successful – the biggest. We kept the bad apples – the nitrous guys – out last year. We had a very peaceful setting.
The theme of the 15th year is celebration. We’re celebrating the music, bands and fans that brought us to this point. We feel honored that [All Good has] grown to the magnitude it has.
HM: What have you learned about the American festival culture in All Good’s 15-year history?
TW: I live in a box [Laughs.] I’m somewhat self-contained in the derivatives of the jam band scene, so I can really only speak for All Good. But it’s been great to see the scene grow and flourish and stay alive. It’s just impressive the amount of communal support.
HM: How do you see All Good playing into the American festival culture and music scene?
TW: All Good is potentially the strongest festival in the country in terms of numbers, reputation, operations and popularity. We have remained true to our jam band roots, whereas other events of this magnitude have branched out to other styles and genres of music. That’s cool, but that’s their thing.
All Good has never tried to be a multi-genre, blowout festival – we book the bands we feel will contribute best to the community.
TW: The process never stops. I take notes all year round, noting which bands are making moves on the scene, which bands have something special. There are times in June when I see a new band that really impresses me but the lineup is set, so I’ll think about booking them for the next year. By September, I’ll have a list of about 15 bands that I know I really want to go after.
HM: What role does your fanbase play in choosing which bands you book for the festival each year? Do you find it difficult trying to keep up with the expectations and continue to top yourself year after year?
TW: The fans play a huge role. We take several polls every year to gauge what worked, what didn’t and how we can improve All Good.
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Every year I’m challenged to piece together the jigsaw puzzle that is the All Good lineup. I book from the top down, and I book slot-by-slot. The lineup only works a certain way. The music must fit together. The whole event has to flow. It’s a four or five month of process to ensure the energy and vibe of the whole weekend flows like it should. It’s so challenging to keep producing strong lineups, because our last few lineups have been so powerful.
HM: From your role as talent buyer for various venues in the mid-Atlantic, you seem to have a good relationship with almost every band on the All Good lineup. Do you only book bands you’ve worked with before, and how does that play into the “family” vibe that All Good has developed?
TW: I’m open to any band that’s going to put on a killer show. When bands reach the caliber of being eligible to play All Good, it’s usually because they’ve been performing well in the mid-Atlantic region, while also touring nationally.
For the most part it works out that hot bands graduate from the club scene and play All Good. A great example of a band like this is Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. I had never worked with them before, but they were just blowing people away on the club circuit and it forced me to give them a shot. The same thing is true with a band like Greensky Bluegrass.
Continue reading to hear Tim’s dream booking and how he thinks the Nitrous Mafia are a “virus” to the scene.
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