Some ideas are just too strange to ignore. At least that’s what local promoter Doug Gainey is hoping with Saturday’s inaugural Drift Jam Music Festival. Five artists with Carolina ties — Atlas Road Crew, The Reason Your Listening, Ricky Young, Weaving the Fate and an acoustic collaboration between members of Lefty at the Washout and The Movement — will perform on a floating stage on Lake Murray while spectators watch from their watercraft. It’s certainly unusual — but given the common flavors of rock and Americana favored by the bands, that’s probably a good thing. Free Times spoke with promoter Doug Gainey about the event’s origins and what he hopes it will achieve.
Free Times: Drift Jam sounds like it’s going to be a pretty unusual event. How did you decide that this was something you wanted to do?
What: Drift Jam Flotilla Music Festival
Where: Spence Island, Lake Murray
When: Saturday, July 19, 12-6 p.m.
More Info: facebook.com/driftjamfestival
Doug Gainey: I guess for the past few years, a lot of people have been telling me that I really needed to start my own promotions company. I had done promotions before for Ricky Young, who’s performing at Drift Jam, and I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts over the years. Having my own promotions business just played naturally into what I was already doing, and I just started thinking, you know, there’s a big demand for this kind of thing. I mean, there’s St. Pat’s in Five Points, Viva La Vista, and Rosewood has the Crawfish Festival, and I knew that I wanted to do one of my own. Over the course of planning it, I decided that something like this, something that’ll really grab people’s attention, would be a good way to start off my company with a bang. But I wanted to do something more than just a lake party — you know, something that could be a sort of counterbalance between your typical lake party and the music you’ll find in Columbia. I thought, I’ll just take it to the lake.
How did you go about choosing the lineup?
I’ve been around the Columbia nightlife scene for 14 or 15 years now, and I love live music. All of the bands that I picked to play are bands that I’ve seen perform live many times before, and over the years I’ve become friends with many of the guys in the bands or have become associated with them in some way. But they’re all bands I like personally. I like all types of music, but I can be kind of critical at the same time. I love live music, but if I don’t like a band I just won’t go see them. But these are all bands I really like. But I knew I wanted five bands, and I didn’t want it to be just a reggae festival or a funk festival or a rock festival. I wanted to kind of cover a broader spectrum of music and figured these five would be the ones who could do that. And I’m really grateful they all agreed to play.
How is it going to work, exactly? The bands are going to be out there on a floating raft?
It’s a floating stage, and I’m going to have it anchored down so the artists won’t be bouncing around. The way it’s going to be set up, the stage will be by the shoreline in a cove. I’m closing off the entire cove with buoys and there’s going to be a VIP parking area for boats, too. I’ll have vendors. We’re going to be selling barbeque. A DJ’s going to be playing during set changes, and I’ve got an artist coming out to do body painting.
Will the stage only be visible from the water?
That’s right. I’ve got big sponsor banners that are going up behind the stage, so it won’t be visible from the shore. You’ll watch the bands from your boat.
Was that your intention from the beginning?
No, not at first. [South Carolina Electric & Gas] owns the land, and they don’t like events like this going on on their property. Originally, that was a problem, but it turned out to really be a good thing. So at first the logistics of putting this on at the lake without being able to use the land was just a nightmare; but then, because of those limitations I was kind of forced to do it this way — on the water. And that just makes it more of a unique event. I looked all around and searched online, and I haven’t been able to find another event that is anything like this.
Purely from a business perspective, how do you plan to make money or at least break even from what must be a pretty costly event with no admission fee?
Sponsors, really. And like I said, there’s going to be a special VIP parking area you can pay to use, so that’ll bring in a little extra. I’ve got about forty sponsors on board.
So what’s the ultimate goal of the Drift Jam Music Festival?
Just to have a good time. It’s something fun to do that’s a little out of the ordinary. And hopefully I’ll be able to get my name out there as a promoter and build my brand. Even if I wind up losing a little bit of money, the advertisement and exposure will be well worth it. And really it’s just fun. I just like to do stuff like this.