Live Preview: Rothbury Festival 2009

I wonder if Robert Plutchik was a live music fan?  And I wonder if he would’ve enjoyed going to Rothbury Music  Festival this weekend.

For the sake of this post I’m guessing he probably was a live music fan to some degree. 

And I’d also say that he would’ve loved to go Rothbury this weekend if  he had the chance.


Why would I assumed this?

Well, Plutchik was a psychologist who “developed the psychoevolutionary theory of emotion in which he considered there to be eight primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, curiosity, acceptance and joy.” So I’m pretty confident that he would have loved to be able to study all the emotions that will be running about the festival grounds this weekend in the hearts and minds of fans and artists. 

Now why the heck would I talk about a psychologist who died three years ago, at the age of 87, when I’m suppose to be  “previewing” Rothbury?

Two reasons:

 1. The summer musical festival is a fertile breading ground for expressing and observing human emotion.

2. This past year I’ve traveled all the way around and through the complexity of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion as I’ve followed the story of Rothbury 2009.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion
Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion


Cycling through a full year of emotions

When I think back to my emotional experiences at Rothbury 2008 I’m amazed at how much can happen in a year emotionally. If I were to use Plutchik ‘s wheel to quickly recall and describe a few basic and complex emotional experiences, I would start with awe, joy, ecstasy, apprehension and curiosity.

Here’s why:


Awe was one of the very first emotions I experienced. As I walked on the main festival grounds spinning above me on a gigantic art sculpture were flying mechanical monkeys. They rattle, whizzed and girated strangely and fantastically above my head. And then the following day I stood in amazement gazing at a Guinness World Record-sized canned sculpture.  

Joy, ecstasy & apprehension

From Snoop Dogg  and Dave Matthews to Secret Machines and Atmosphere, the artist line up last year had me running around the grounds blissfully. But I remember moments (and this always happens) where I had to make hard choices (frustration, apprehension, annoyance) since I couldn’t be everywhere, even though I would have liked to.  (A word of advice to fans and other music writers covering large festivals. Don’t kill yourself trying to see everything.  You’ll make yourself sick and end up like those crazy spinning mechanical monkeys I mentioned earlier. It’s best to enjoy the Wheel of Emotions one  emotion at a time if possible.)


Rothbury’s greening initiatives had me extra curious during the behind-the-scenes tour as I talked with volunteers and with festival organizers during the media round-table discussions. (See Live Fix Daily Wrap Ups: Day  1, Day 2 , Day 3)

The fear, anxiety & uncertainty of Rothbury 2009

Beside giving me insight into my own personal emotional journey, following the story of Rothbury 2009  has given me an idea of how dramatic and uncertain things can be for festival promoters. And I imagine everyone on the Rothbury crew and staff (and the rest of the concert industry this year) has felt, or is in the process of feeling, varying degrees of fear, anxiety, sadness and anger. 

I became aware of the situation when I read a news story last Fall telling me that Rothbury 2009 might not  happen. And if it were to happen, the festival organizers would have to overcome serious legal issues involving the owners of the Double JJ Ranch and their lease of the festival’s site . 

Then in January, thanks to a deal approved by a federal Bankruptcy court Judge between AEG Live and Rothbury’s Madison House Publicity, Rothbury 2009 lived on. 

A new revolution of emotions has begun for Rothbury

362 days later, I’m still curious because of what I read in the above Bankruptcy stories. And my level of anticipation has begun to rise again as I look forward to my second behind-the-scenes greening tour, more media discussions, and of course, the new line up of artists including The Dead, Bob Dylan and others.  

And then Muskegon Chronicle reported Monday:

“An army of 1,140 volunteers — about 80 more than last year — already has started flooding festival grounds, with most arriving mid-week. Many will work on the festival’s “Green Team,” helping concertgoers properly recycle containers and other litter at the four-day event, according to Madison House Publicity, which is overseeing communications and public relations…”

“Communications could be a big deal: More than 400 reporters and media representatives from across the country will attend, including writers from Rolling Stone, SPIN and USA Today.”

Let’s spin that Wheel

I’m expecting a weekend full of emotions and I look forward to talking with more fans and festival organizers to get their emotional perspective.

And as I mentioned on Sunday, I’m going to pay attention to see how Michael Jackson’s death impacts our collective  live concert emotional experience.  

Been to Bonaroo, Coachella, Sasquatch  or other music festivals already this summer?

Where have you traveled on the Wheel of Emotion?

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