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The Politics of Dancing
by Sobo 9/25/09

Many people already know that Syd Gris is a veteran of the dance music scene in SF.  Since 2002 when he starting DJing and started his Opel Productions, his events have been graced by thousands of SF revelers, and by extension of his participation in Burning Man through the legendary Opulent Temple camp he founded, his reach has been world-wide.  But many people probably don’t know that he is a licensed doctor, which is probably why he is able to deal with the psycho-analytics of dealing with so many politically diverse people.  And even many more people probably don’t know that Dr. Syd Gris also sits at the head of the LovEvolution float application committee (among the many other functions he heads for the producing organization putting on this massive event).  So whether he likes it or not he wields immense political control over the decisions that determine the lineup of floats that thousands will see at the LovEvolution parade.  This year many changes have been implemented:  from choosing many float producers from outside the Bay Area, to adding fees collected at the gate, and to the naming of the event itself since the last two incarnations treaded on a heated political and legal clash from competing event properties.  These changes have been made all in the name of “for the good of the people”; but, as with any endeavor of this magnitude, tough and politically-influenced decisions need to be made.

We got a chance to exclusively speak to Syd about the politics of dancing, and the challenges of a producing this beloved event, that was founded on the premise of true love and electronic music, and if there is a definite future for this event in San Francisco.

Sobo:  What is your title and list of responsibilities for LovEvolution?
Syd:  I'm one of 3 principal producers, along with John Wood, the Event Manager & Government Relations, and Terrance Allan, Beverage Coordinator.  I'm in charge of both Promotions & Marketing, and the Float and Parade Coordination.  (For what it's worth, all the decisions about what floats are accepted is a team decision, not mine).  

Sobo:  How many years have you been involved with this annual event and talk about the evolution of your role?
Syd:  I joined the team in 2003 when we were still working on bringing it as a 'Love Parade', licensed through the original Berlin event, which of course finally happened in 2004.  At that point I was in more of a board member advisory role as a (only somewhat at that point) experienced event producer and someone with their ear to the ground in the local dance music scene.  I led the float team starting in 2005 and took on a greater role after some team changes after the '05 event.  It’s grown every year since.

Sobo:  How do you feel about this year’s lineup of DJs and Floats?
Syd:  Excited of course !  It was the toughest year yet to make decisions about the floats, because for many reasons, much to do with our yearly negotiations with the police, we had to reduce the number of floats while we had more floats apps than ever.  We wanted to honor the crews who've been with us from the start while making room for some new blood to get a chance to be in the mix.  I think there's good diversity of crews, music, and scenes.

Sobo:  Stories have been written about the City and how hard, and costly they have made it for all the major events and festivals in SF.  What has been the biggest challenge or obstacle in getting the green light this year?  
Syd:  There’s many.  Just to be able to shut down the heart of a major city and have a parade blasting dance music while people party in the streets is not something we can take for granted, and is truly an ‘Only in San Francisco’ event.  Then to move into the main city plaza, take over City Hall (and this year the Asian Art Museum), it’s really special.  John and Terrance deserve much of the credit for that as they’ve built up trust and relationships over the years through their work with the SF Late Night Coalition.  That said, the national, state and local economy has caused the city to jack the prices of everything related to an event like ours.  We pay 100% of the costs to the city associated with the event, unlike, for example the Gay Pride parade, which is partly subsidized.  So, obviously, this is where the need for an admission came in, or we simply could not have the event.  

Sobo:  What is the one thing you wish that the general public knew about the challenges or issues in getting this event set?  
Syd:  I guess that would be an extension of my last comment, that we are blessed by the ability to have this huge open celebration in which the ‘ravers’ get to take over the heart of the city, and let’s not take it for granted, or get too cranky about having to pay $10 to get in the festival site where 25 stages featuring a world class line up awaits.  

Sobo:  How do you thing the public is going to deal with the many changes that have been made to the event especially the gate fee?
Syd:  I think most that take the time to get the back story will understand and support.  It’s worth mentioning, if we had a better ratio of people that donated as we’ve always asked for in years past, we might be able to get by.  (On average the last few years, 2-3 out of every 10 gave anything at the gates). If you’ve come to our event and never donated at the gate, we hope you think about all that goes into giving you this fun, and chipping in to make it happen is fair.  Of course, some will be ruffled, and we’re sorry for that.  We will be adding production value as well with a new fixed stage featuring live Electronic Music and performance, as well as lowering drink prices, already way low compared to other festivals.

Sobo:   I heard there were some challenges in getting the Bill Graham for the afterparty.  Can you talk about that and the positive actions of the event organizers in getting Bill Graham to concede?
Syd:  Yeah that was another magic move from John and Terrance, utilizing their relationships with city officials to get them to make an exception for our event to happen in the midst of them supposed to being closed for re-modeling due to a new company taking over the lease.  It was very last minute, and Spundae & Skills put together a great eclectic line up on very short notice, because for a while, the word we being given was that Bill Graham was absolutely not available.    

Sobo:  City Hall has hosted the VIP area every year now.  Tell us about what the officials, especially Mayor Newsome, think of having these crazy “Fire Dancers” and DJ music in City Hall and in the Civic Center?
Syd:  Of the city officials I’ve heard about, they love it.  It’s another example of the remarkable character of the city.  

Sobo:  Are there any major concerns that the City has regarding the general public’s behavior that they need addressed, ie, littering or other safety concerns?
Syd:  Oh yes, we got a lot of feedback from the police and fire department that all the broken glass was a major safety hazard (which it was), and this was another reason to have a gated plaza, so we can have a safer event where outside bottles aren’t brought in, and potentially troublesome people who aren’t in the spirit of the event can be talked with.    

Sobo:  What is Opel doing for LovEvolution?
Syd:  We always do a float and after party and this year we’ll be in the mix again.  This year we’ll share our float with our playa sister community Opulent Temple, and our after party will be at Mission Rock with Lee Coombs, Zodiac Cartel and Will Bailey headlining.  

Sobo:  What did Opulent Temple do for Burning Man this year, how was it this year, and what new thing did you see at Burning Man that blew you away?  
Syd:  Yeah Opulent Temple is the camp I co-founded with Rich Martin in 2003, and it’s been amazing to see it grow over the years.  We had our best year yet with Armin Van Buuren, Infected Mushroom playing live, Carl Cox, Sharam, Christopher Lawrence, etc rocking the decks and of course playing for free as everyone does out there.  I was most blown away by Thursday night, seeing Armin & Infected go back to back was completely off the hook.  

Sobo:  Does LovEvolution have a permanent home in SF?
Syd:  We have a small office for meetings in the Tenderloin but we all work from home and of course none of us do this for a living, more like a side project. (that takes over your life in August and September)  

Sobo:  Will this year be the best year yet?
Syd:  Every year is the best year yet!

The Evolution of Love
by Sobo 9/11/09

First it was the Love Parade.  Then it was LoveFest.  And through yet another metamorphosis it is now:  LovEvolution.  The LovEvolution organizers have had to roll with the punches toward creating a permanent name for what has become one of the largest electronic music gathering in the United States but has solidified this annual event despite of all the changes.
LovEvolution will be held this October 3, 2009 with many of the same staple highlights—DJs from all over the world atop elaborately designed floats joined by costumed friends prancing through the city toward a massive gathering at the Civic Center—as well as some changes that will be sure to garner mixed feelings.  The event will still feature the traditional parade that will take the same route is has taken in years past:  starting on Minna Street, proceeding West on Market Street, and finally concluding in front of SF’s City Hall.  Many of the floats from years past will be featured in the parade again, but as a way to try to draw interest from out-of-towners, the event committee chose to accept float applications from first timers, and out-of-town crews, in hopes that fans will follow.
Also, there will be a $10 admission fee charged to all attendees.  The organizers have cited that they needed to move in this direction as a result of necessity due to increased upfront cash costs like permitting, security, and clean-up; but with the admission fee LovEvolution will be cheaper for guests at the food and bar tents, as well as for float producers who has seen their application fees eliminated.  Whether these new changes make for a “better” event will still be determined, but you can be sure that there will be plenty of LOVE that day!
Love and be loved! Member Contest

We have 2 pairs of tickets to the LovEvolution VIP Party + Afterparty on Saturday October 3rd, 2009.
Click Here for Contest Details and to Enter to Win!