The first ever FuMP Fest (FuMP: The Funny Music Project) launched on June 20-22 in Wheeling, Illinois, produced and choreographed by Devo Spice. Given the massive amount of effort that goes into such an event, we decided to ask Devo a few questions about how this event came to pass and what he learned from the adventure. He was wonderfully forthcoming with his answers!
If YOU have questions for Devo about FuMP fest, his next planned project, his creative process, or his favorite beer, hop down to the comments after reading the interview and ASK. Devo is a madly fun guy to talk to, and he’s super helpful when it comes to helping newbies succeed!
* When did you first come up with the idea of FuMPfest? Did any particular event or person prompt the concept?
We talked about doing a FuMP Convention or even a tour early on in the FuMP’s existence. However, I had been burned in the past with the Oddfest shows I had tried to produce. The first Oddfest I did in 2003 had 17 people show up.
The second Oddfest in 2006 is my standard example for when I have to explain why I use the phrase “God hates comedy musicians.” On the day of the event US and British authorities intercepted a plot by terrorists to blow up planes as they flew across the Atlantic Ocean. So planes were grounded. Everyone was on high alert and most people stayed home. Then right before the show the biggest thunderstorm I have ever seen ripped through Manhattan and the streets cleared. Nobody showed up to the show. Literally, 0 people showed up. We performed for the 7 very confused individuals who happened to be in the restaurant that night. So I wasn’t keen on doing a FuMP convention.
Then in 2012 Luke Ski did a Kickstarter and announced that if he reached his stretch goal he would throw a weekend long party called LukeSkiCon. It was only open to the Kickstarter backers but he still had 75 people show up. I realized that if we kept it small and simple we could do it every year and call it FuMPFest.
Over a year. A month or two before LukeSkiCon, when it became apparent that that event was going to succeed, I approached the guys about a yearly FuMPFest convention. They were all for it, as long as they didn’t have to do any work.
* What are some of the unexpected difficulties you ran into while developing your early plans for this event? How about the unexpectedly easy bits–stuff you thought would be hard but wasn’t?
Finding a hotel that would fit all of our needs proved to be difficult. The one was settled on for this year was great but there were some things about it we didn’t like so we’re looking around for another hotel for next year. If we can’t find a better one we’ll use this one again because it worked. But the main sticking point is this hotel doesn’t have an airport shuttle which proved to be a very large issue for our attendees.
Originally I wasn’t planning to do a dealer room and the con suite was going to be very simple. It was just going to be some simple, pre-packaged food, light snack type stuff, that would be replenished as necessary. However, one of my volunteers wanted to run a dealer room and wanted to serve hot food for a small price, so I let him run with that and stayed hands-off.
* How in the world did you sign Dr. Demento as the GoH? Did that prompt a massive geeky shriek of joy, or did you already know him well enough from previous meetings to be like “oh, that’s cool, next…” ? Ditto for the other guests, of course…
I still do a massive geek shriek of joy whenever Dr. Demento comments on one of my Facebook statuses. It’s very surreal. But the reality is Dr. Demento has been playing my music on his show since 1990 and I was the most requested artist of the year on multiple occasions, so he has known who I am for some time. We met for the first time in 1999 when he called me up on stage to perform during his Festival of Dementia. We’ve done that several times since. I was even interviewed on his show in 2005, which was done in his living room. And when we launched The FuMP in 2007 he was one of our biggest supporters. So getting him on board for the convention really wasn’t that difficult. I basically emailed him with what we had planned. He said it sounded like fun and put me in touch with his manager to finalize the details.
It was great having him at the event. And once we got him I approached the Meep Morp Studios guys about coming out to talk about their documentary, film some of the event, show some early footage, which was also a great thing to have at the con.
* About how much, if you don’t mind saying, did FuMPfest cost, from conception to final execution? Are you going to do it again?
We’re definitely going to do it again. I don’t want to give out numbers but I can tell you we made a good deal with the hotel. We basically guaranteed them X number of reservations and if we met that number then the meeting space was free. In the end we did 175% of that guaranteed number, so the hotel was very happy with us.
* What changes will you make to your approach next year? Why?
There are some things we need to tweak, but things ran so smoothly this year they really are minor. We’re going to try to find a hotel with an airport shuttle. And if we do end up at the same hotel, I think we’ll forego the dealer room and put dealer tables in the main event room itself. That was my original plan but I was talked out of it, which I think was a mistake.
I’d also like to get some long audio cables so we can have the sound system controls in the back of the room. A lot of times Shoebox (of Worm Quartet) would make an adjustment to the levels then run to the back of the room to see how it sounded, then run back to the front to tweak things.
* Have you already set your sights on what guests you’re hoping to sign for next year? Are you able to talk about who they are?
We have someone in mind, and originally it looked like we were going to be able to get her, but now I’m not so sure, due to some professional commitments that may come up. So things are a bit up in the air at the moment.
* What was the best part of the actual convention for you, personally? The worst?
The most exciting part was when we approached Opening Ceremonies and things appeared to be ready. We had about 45 minutes to kill and everything was a go. I was beside myself.
The other awesome moment was at the end of Friday night when the volunteers at the registration table handed me a big wad of $20s from the at-the-door registrations.
[Note from Leona: The FuMP CDs are consecutively numbered. There are, yes, 44 FuMP albums out to date, all available through the FuMP web store–along with LOTS of other music from the various FuMP musicians!]
The worst part was probably the drive back on Monday knowing that the con was over.
* How did the hotel handle the convention? Were they exceptionally cool, or vastly unprepared, or just generally unnerved–etc.?
They were excited to have us back next year. That opinion may have changed after Seamonkey‘s messy performance, though. They were mostly indifferent to the con. It was just another event to them.
* What was the most popular event at the convention, as far as you can currently tell? The least?
Probably Dr. Demento’s Festival of Dementia on Friday night. The least popular was probably the Future of the FuMP panel, but I knew that would only attract the hardcore FuMP fans so I scheduled it accordingly. It was a good panel and I’m happy to report that the plans that I revealed were very well received by the fans.
* What other projects do you personally have launching in the near future? What convention or event will they launch at?
My next big project is the FuMP’s web site overhaul, which is long overdue. I don’t have a timeframe for when that will happen, though. It’s a lot of work; I have a lot of user interface issues with the new features to work out.
Thanks, Devo! That was a great set of answers. And now I’ll close this out with a direct quote from Devo’s web site, because is it so true:
“When you surround yourself with awesome people awesome things happen. “
Pro Tip (as Steven Savage would say): If you’re interested in supporting comedy musicians, or if you’re a comedy musician yourself, take a moment to check out the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards: “created in 2011 to recognize outstanding work in comedy music and to pay tribute to Logan Whitehurst—a funny and very talented musician who passed away in 2006 at the age of 29.”
For more information about Devo, please visit his web site; stalk him on Facebook and Twitter; check out this really cool Dr. Who tribute album video; best of all, go to one of his concerts. There are videos of his live shows on YouTube, of course, but they really do not do the magic justice (do they ever?)–if you like geeky comedy music, Devo’s music is definitely best experienced live….