INTERVIEW: WMNF’s program director Randy Wind talks White Stripes at Tropical Heatwave (almost) and what the festival means to him
Holy hell. Heatwave is already 31-years-old. That makes the music festival older than at least half of the SubAp! staff, and while new Tampa Bay-based festivals like Summer Jam are Antiwarpt busy carving out a special niches of their own, WMNF Community Radio’s annual celebration of some of the nation’s most eclectic and best music still stands as the gold standard for what can happen when a community dreams big, bands together, and makes good things happen.
As a part of our Heatwave 2012 preview, WMNF Station Manager Randy Wind took a few minutes to chat about his involvement with the soiree (26 years!), what bands he almost booked (White Stripes, Uncle Tupelo), and whether or not Heatwave can sustain itself and a new, younger generation of listener-sponsors. Have a look at our full chat below.
SubAp!: How do we officially spell your name? How old are you, and what is your official title at the station?
WMNF’s Randy Wind: Randy Wind, ageless Program Director.
At 31-years-old, Heatwave has been around longer than I’ve been alive. Have you been involved every year?
RW: I have been involved since 1986: I missed the first five Heatwaves. I have not missed a Heatwave since.
How long do you think that Heatwave can continue? What are the crucial things that WMNF and the community at large will have to do to make sure that the event is a Bay area tradition for decades and decades to come?
Heatwave gets bigger every year. I hope it can continue for another 31 years. But as it becomes bigger it becomes a bigger financial risk for WMNF and if there is ever a year that does not succeed, there might not be a next year. Up to now, every Heatwave has made money for WMNF.
The festival was once a Cuban Club only event and has since expanded to include a slew of other venues (ie: Crowbar, New World Brewery). How did this year’s new venues come about, and how will including them give longtime Heatwave apostles a new experience?
As Heatwave has come to dominate Ybor City for one night, other venues have asked to be involved. Adding the Ritz is a major new venue which brings Heatwave to Ybor’s main drag Seventh Avenue and gives us a third stage for major acts (in addition to The Cuban Club Courtyard and El Pasaje Plaza) and also gives insurance (as a large indoor venue) in the event of rain. .
Who picks Heatwave bands?
I book many of the bands upon recommendation of programmers or listeners (we call them talent scouts) who have seen bands in their travels or at festivals or local club appearances. Everybody understands that a good Heatwave band is an exceptional live act, often fun or wild and often visually stimulating. We use Sonic Bids to find some bands, and for the past two years Phil Benito and Sean O’Brien of Brokenmold Entertainment have contributed to the Heatwave booking.
What does the band list look like when you start seeing who you’d like to play the event? What the hardest thing about getting a band into the final line up (routing, cost?)?
For bands outside the region we need to get bands who are willing to book a tour in our direction. We usually don’t pay enough for a one-off or fly-in show. This rules out some bands we would like. But we seem to get a lot of great bands from Texas, New Orleans and Atlanta who are willing to drive.
What is the biggest/best band that almost played Heatwave, but never made the final lineup?
The two I most regret not nailing down are The White Stripes and Uncle Tupelo, both early in their careers.
Do you have a Heatwave bucket list? Any bands you’d like to book or overall visions for the festival that you’d like to see happen before the baton gets passed on?
I’d like to see Heatwave become a two-night festival.
Who are your Top 5 must-see bands at Heatwave this year?
Hard to limit…Heatwave is about discovery and I’m going to name 5 bands I have not seen but I will be excited to check out: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound; He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister; Barons of Tang; The Growlers; and Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra. Somebody else will pick five different bands and be just as right on.
I see a lot of the WMNF staffers out and about at shows all the time. In your opinion, which local band (or bands) has the most promise right now?
Have Gun, Will Travel is already breaking. Amber Lynn Nicol &The Swingin’ Papas have an accessible, professional sound that could easily break out. The Groves have impressive talent. There are many bands with promise and it is always exciting for local music fans at Heatwave to see local bands matching up against national bands.
Here is a non-Heatwave related question: WMNF has been serving listeners since 1979. That’s 33 years or listener-supported radio. With a new demographic hopefully entering the financial situation to be able to help sustain the station, how does WMNF get into the ears of potential members and create a new base to help fund the station? How do you show how important of an asset WMNF really is?
Heatwave is a good start. In recent years Heatwave has been attracting a younger crowd and it serves to introduce some young live music fans to the station. We have more young people involved in the station than at any time in the past twenty years and hopefully that will lead to younger listeners. I’m not sure how much I trust Arbitron research but the numbers we recently received showed the 25-34 age group a fairly strong demographic for the station.
Have you ever pictured a world without WMNF?
Tampa would be a lonely town without WMNF.
Lastly, what should a first-time Heatwave attendee expect in 2012?
Don’t just listen to bands you already know. Open your ears to new bands and styles of music you don’t usually listen to. Most of all, it’s overwhelming fun.