#MTFScandi – Music Tech Fest Under The Midnight Sun

On June 10, 2015

The past week in Umeå was eye opening in true Music Tech Fest style. The combination of midnight landscapes, world class cocktails and a thriving music tech scene seemed like a perfect setting for our festival. And staring at a sky like this for most of the night is a weird but wonderful experience…

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Umeå

Umeå is a beautiful University city based in Västerbotten County,  Northern Sweden. It is home to the University of Umeå and Sliperiet – our base for #MTFScandi. Seated on the banks of the Ume River, we were treated to a fantastic location to eat, drink, sleep and come together under the MTF banner.

This was by far the most complicated and intense Music Tech Fest we have attempted. Umeå is now home territory for Music Tech Fest, so we pulled out all the stops for this one. 3 full days, 62 presenters, a hackathon, a kids hackathon, a jam camp, a trackathon, several installations and the launch of the MTF Research Network.

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Day one in Umeå was full of tech meetings and future planning for #MTFCentral led by Founder Michela Magas and Director Andrew Dubber. Many weeks and months of planning had happened through Google Hangouts and Slack, and this would be the first time I could get around a table with the whole #MTFScandi team. Working with our epic Production Manager Geoff Howse, we had to plan for over 60 presenters over three days as well as the many other active rooms happening around the building. Performances range from someone with just a mic and laptop to composers with a group of forty school kids spread throughout the main hall. The entire event is live streamed, so there is little room for changeovers and we have to take sound, lighting and camera ops into consideration for the 10 hours of active stage. The tech team needs to work with over 60 tech specs and general requests, aiming to build a schedule and stage plan that works for everyone.

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After a long day of tech meetings, we were treated to a night with Emil Seth Åreng at OpenClosed bar. Emil is one of the best bartenders in the world and it shows; his curated cocktail menu was the beginning of a weekend of mind blowing creations. Ever had a drink which tastes different depending on which side you drink it from? No? Go see Emil.

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Tech

Day two gave us a day to set up and get all the tech crew and equipment on the ground. The day was primarily spent installing the inside stage and checking kit in from hire companies. This festival saw us working once again with Tim Ottowitz from Streamhub, and also with Johan Tinnert from local company Ynk Productions, both of whom are dedicated to working on the streaming and video capture side of festival. The live streaming component of the festival is at its heart. The festival is a worldwide venture which has already been to London, Berlin and Paris in the last 12 months. The community is vast and constantly growing, and the streaming element allows the community to always remain involved no matter where we go.

The audio side of the indoor stage was all run off a Yamaha LM7, with the outdoor stage being controlled by two iPads connected to a Mackie DL32R rack mixer. The plan being for both my awesome partner in sound tech Linda Iro and I to have full control from anywhere. Both stages had L’Acoustic PA systems, which are always a pleasure to work with. The rest of the kit was a bag full of mics and a crate load of DI boxes. Oh, and a load of batteries for the wireless kit.

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Go, Go, Go

To say Music Tech Fest is intense is a serious understatement. It is a bombardment of creativity and ideas about music and technology that keeps you thinking while you’re working. From the moment we press go on the festival, all the crew are switched on and ready to turnover the many 12-30 minute slots. The mix of presenters, performers and bits of hacked tech keep us on our toes and certainly adds to the “festival” vibe of the event. The camaraderie and team ethic is something I’m waiting to discuss in another post, but without this the festival just isn’t the same.

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Along with the main stage, the whole of Sliperiet felt like a hub of music tech entertainment, and not just powerpoint presentations. From the largest MIDI controller in the world (above) to James Brewster’s Electroacoustic Cafe, the building was buzzing. As soon as you entered you were pulled into the activities. That’s one of the MTF goals – to make music technology accessible, welcoming and friendly. The kid’s hack is one of the highlights that shines a light on this goal. Enabled by Siobhan Ramsey from Sandbox Education, the kid’s hack introduces and engages a new generation to music technology and kit building.

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Over the next few weeks I plan to write more about the event and Music Tech Fest in general. I want to highlight some of the projects, the team and also talk about the research network emerging from the festival. This post is just an introduction :-)

Thank you to Festival Director Andrew Dubber for some of the extra photos. Find his Flickr here…

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