Meet Will Rolfe, one of the POD masterminds behind Metropolis, Ireland's first indoor, winter festival
'The biggest struggle was explaining what the event was all about'
The sold out Metropolis Festival kicks off tomorrow at the RDS. It's in its third year but if you're still wondering what the hell it's all about, we spoke to booker Will Rolfe for the lowdown...
With a thousand festivals on offer, what's different about Metropolis?
"I've been involved with Metropolis since day one. The concept started back in winter of 2014...quite frankly we were bored, there isn't a huge amount to do in the wintertime in Ireland. We (POD) always try to be progressive in one way or another, trying to make festivals and experiences that people wouldn't usually expect. Either through using unique spaces, eclectic line-ups or bringing together different experiences in the same place.
"With Metropolis we tried to do nearly all of this at once - Ireland's first ever indoor festival and first ever winter festival. Gifted with a beautiful and historic venue in the RDS - which has had gigs before but never a multi-stage festival of this scale - we wanted to create a line-up across 6 stages which offered not just a music mix of urban, electronic & disco/soul, but also a place where live conversations around music and culture, in general, could take place - along with bespoke art installations and stage designs trying to offer more for the audience and enhance their experience.
"This idea of making the visual element important was not just at the festival for us but also in the design and feel of our poster, working with Irish designers and photographers to make something different and moving away from the norm... In three years our poster has gone from a pink balloon, blow up paddling pool to a piñata this year."
What are the main challenges that come with having an indoor music festival in the city?
"The biggest struggle which I think we're now past was explaining what the event was all about to the general public. Being the first indoor/winter festival it took time for people to trust in what we were doing. It's very hard to explain something that someone hasn't experienced before. The venue and authorities have been extremely supportive all the way along the way."
It's a pretty early finish time by festival standards - would you like to have it extended? Or do the afterparties fill that gap?
"The closing time debate is something that always gets brought up in Ireland, from clubs to festivals. For me, it's not an issue at all, we just need to go out earlier. Time isn't something that should affect your enjoyment of an event.
"Gates are at 4pm Saturday & 3pm Sunday, we have over 60 performances in a stunning space so people should just get in and enjoy themselves. Being winter it's dark by 5 o'clock, so time doesn't really make much of a difference.
"What the Metropolis afterparties do is provide an additional experience! Dublin is a city with some amazing small clubs. The afterparties give us the opportunity to put some of the big artists off the bill into these smaller spaces for much more intimate parties. For example, Laurent Garnier in the Button Factory Saturday night! These afterparties are for Metropolis Festival attendees. They can buy tickets for the afterparties in the festival itself, and when the doors to the RDS close, they can keep the party going!"
What have you learned between the first one and this one?
"Metropolis is the first festival I've worked on since day one, so I've learned the hard work and near obsession to bring it all together."
What's the ethos in terms of music?
"Mainly electronic based but we hope to always put together a line-up which has a eclectic mix of genres. We pride ourselves on giving up and coming Irish and International artists a platform to perform as well including established artists and household names."
With so many festivals is it difficult to achieve your wish list of acts?
"With the powers that be in the global music market it's obviously very hard to always work with the artists you want to, but what I've learned is that if the event is good enough and your heart/ear is in the right place, great artists will recognise that and will want to work with you. There is always the chance to work with new artists which for me is probably the most exciting prospect - we've given Irish festival debuts to the likes of Vince Staples, Mall Grab, Vic Mensa, Fatima Yamaha and hopefully much more to come."
If you had to pick three acts to see this year which would they be?
K A R Y Y N (Irish debut)
Bonzai (exciting Irish artist)
Leftfield Performing Leftism (Pioneer electronic act performing an iconic album)
Which aspect are you most excited about?
"This year we are working alongside RDS Visual Arts program who run a visual arts exhibition for graduate Irish Artists in RDS every year. We are incorporating this into this year's festival, so adding that experience to people alongside music and conversations is something that really excites us and also celebrates the talent of Irish Artists alongside Irish and international musicians. The exhibition will sit next to Red Bull Academy Conversations which allows people who are used to listening to their favourite artist's music the rare opportunity to hear them talk about making it, what influenced them and general culture.
"We are also delighted to work alongside Bulmers who are not just an Irish company, but also, like us want to support Irish talent and will be bringing the Bulmers Live Stage to Metropolis - where festival goers can catch some of the best and most interesting irish electronic and live artists!"
Any anecdotes/near disasters/artist related stories you can share?
"Every day is a different challenge, it just keeps you on your toes. I don't think you or anyone would believe any of them!"
Are you on site for the two days? Do you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour?
"I'm on site all weekend, I mainly try to experience the festival like a customer would, very little hiding backstage. I am always thinking about various things we can improve on for years to come. There is always some enjoyment (especially when things go as planned) so you have to take a step back and just take it all in."
What next for you?
"We are back in the RDS with The Future, a festival celebrating the best in design, advertising, art, media, and innovation taking place across 4 stages - November 3rd &and 4th. After that we start to look at 2018... We have a lot going on, and will continue trying to do something new and challenge the status quo."