photo credit: Brady Cooling
As he gets ready for the 10th annual Domefest, Jeremy Schon is constantly fielding phone calls and emails about issues big and small. “Without organization, you end up with Fyre Fest,” laughs the Pigeons Playing Ping Pong guitarist who founded Domefest in 2010 as a one-day event near the University of Maryland, the band’s alma mater.
Through the years, PPPP has ushered Domefest into its current three-day format, including five of their own headlining sets and 20 other bands. “Obviously, we’ve expanded beyond the small College Park music scene,” Schon explains. “But the community vibe has stayed and grown stronger year by year.”
Domefest is scheduled for May 16-18 and with its new location at Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia, PPPP is expecting around 2,500 fans aka Flockers.
“My favorite part about Domefest is when we get on stage and it all comes together Where it all pays off and we get to play for the amazing community we’ve built up,” Schon says.
Toss in the brand new, festival-closing “Domefest All-Stars” set and its sure to be a memorable year for Domefest veterans and rookies alike. Below, the guitarist and festival founder tells fans what they can expect from Domefest 2019.
You’re on tour with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and you’re also organizing Domefest. How do you keep that balance?
It’s exhausting at times, but I’m definitely used to it at this point. It’s the 10th year so I’ve done this a few times. When we’re on tour, basically from when the time I wake up until soundcheck is my office hours and then I switch into show mode. We soundcheck, write a setlist, warm-up, play a show, go to sleep and do the same thing. Fortunately, right now we’re traveling in a bandwagon, which is a small bus. In the past, I would just sit in the van, make calls and work on spreadsheets until we get to the venue.
A lot of bands have their own festivals, but you’re the founder, the lead guitarist, you book the talent and oversee most aspects of the event. Last year, you were even helping park cars.
A big thing with Domefest is since day one we have been super involved. The first few years, with a small team, I handled every single aspect of the festival. Over the years we’ve delegated more and more. Domefest works because of our team and the patrons that help us make everything a reality. So if something needs to be done, I’m not going to be like, ‘Go tell someone else to do it,’ I’m going to do it with them if I can. We’re all in this together and we try to lead by example.
Were there any times you’ve surprised yourself with your willingness to jump in and do something?
Every single year. Countless occasions. Going up ladders, dumping trash, everything.
You switched locations this year to Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia. Did you vet a bunch of different places and see which you liked it the best? I imagine almost like a House Hunters scenario…
Well, our new tv show Festival Property Hunters airs in June. Really excited about that. [Laughs.] Seriously, I probably went through my list of 88, or so, festival properties that we considered. But Marvin’s was a no-brainer. The layout was perfect, even for something small like what we’re doing. Immediately, I saw so many different opportunities there for booking and layout. It’s really a great site and we have history in Preston County. We had Domefest at Trips Farm in Preston County from 2013-2015, and it was great working in West Virginia. I really enjoyed it. Built a good relationship with some of the county people, and it was nice. I enjoyed having our home there, and we’re so excited to be moving back to West Virginia. It’s sort of where the festival started to take form from being in someone’s backyard with 400 people.