Deebs Days Countdown: An Interview with Alex Cape of Big Friendly Productions August 16, 2022 18:38
Photo via Big Friendly Productions
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat today, Alex. Let's start by talking a little history. How did you get started in the world of production, and what led you to start Big Friendly Productions and build it into the company it is today?
Alex: Well, I started the company in 2014. I was working at Zydeco for Layne (Flournoy), and I was finishing my two-year assistantship duties. I was trying to find a way to fit into the Birmingham music market. I had been running shows for Layne, and I'd seen that the production was a bit dated. There was definitely a need for someone to help out there without stepping on many toes.
I started by saving up a couple thousand dollars and buying a small setup that could work for a crowd of up to 250 people. That first year, all I did was weddings, tailgate parties for fraternities, and nothing much bigger than that. In year two, I doubled the rig and kept putting money back into it. In 2016, we bought our first line array PA system. In 2017, we bought our first video wall.
Then from there, we continued to grow. I put every penny that I could back into it until COVID hit. We had our share of COVID pivots, and fortunately, we landed here. I started managing bands in 2015, too. That's definitely a big part of our history. Winston Ramble was the first band that I started working with. We currently manage two acts, Winston Ramble and Trey Lewis. I played in a band in college. I ran all of our sound and booked most of our gigs. When Ramble asked me to work with them, I had that experience to build on. They were a really great band to get started with.
I couldn't agree more. They're such a great band. I know you have built on and provided production for just about every size show at this point. You've produced many of your own events. How did the idea for Deebs Days come about, and how did y'all ultimately bring it to life?
Alex: Deebs Days comes from wanting to produce our own festival. We've worked for a lot of really great promoters and some not-so-great promoters in the past. We wanted to take the experiences from those doing it the right way and avoid the pitfalls of what we've seen other promoters do in the past. The concept of us promoting our own shows was born out of COVID.
Promoters would book shows during COVID and cancel them a few days before for one reason or another. We decided that we'd put on shows with artists we believed in. We wanted to make decisions ourselves and put the artists and attendants first. A promoter is trying to make as much money in the middle as possible. We're in a unique position to not have to do that because we own our own production. We don't have to feed someone in the middle.
CBDB approached us about wanting to produce their own festival, and we told them we were looking to do the same thing. We decided after doing close to 100 shows together over the years, it would be a good fit to team up and try to produce our first festival.
Photo by Thomas Diasio
It seems like a perfect fit to me. I know both Big Friendly and CBDB have plenty of history with Avondale Brewery. Tell me a little about the decision to bring this to Avondale and some of the unique things y'all have in store for the weekend.
Alex: Avondale is definitely home base these days. The people at the top there really care about the concert experience, and everyone that works there feeds off that energy. They have welcomed us with open arms since 2019. In that time, we were helping with their local and regional shows. When COVID hit, we were some of the first in the country to start doing shows again. Our first one back was the "Live at Last" series with Winston Ramble & Little Raine Band in June 2020.
They were down to do safe, responsible shows. We couldn't afford to sit on the sidelines, but we also didn't want to be negligent. They came to us and proposed that we figure out a way to have safe, outdoor shows for ~500 socially distanced fans. We did that for a lot of COVID. They've always had our back and welcomed us.
They've been open to all of the crazy ideas we've had for Deebs Days. You want to bring in a second stage? No problem. You want to build a 40 foot castle? No problem. They're always down to be creative and do fun things.
I'm not surprised to hear that at all. It's got to be a huge plus to bring an event of this nature to a place where you have such strong relationships in place.
Alex: For sure. Coming off of The World Games, where we produced two stages (and were paid in full for it), we're definitely feeling very fortunate to be doing what we love. We just want to make people happy, really. All of the work and effort is 100% worth it when people are enjoying themselves and making memories. That's what we do it for.
Amazing. Well before we wrap this up, I wanted to see what your thoughts were on the future of this event. CBDB announced this would be their last show before they go on hiatus. I know you wouldn't want to speak for them, but do you see this as something to build on for the future?
Alex: Well, it's definitely not going to be our last festival. It's very much open ended. I was definitely bummed to hear about CBDB going on hiatus. In any capacity that we do another Birmingham festival, CBDB will absolutely be welcome. Whether or not they will want to be a part of it as a host again, we shall see. I'd say everything is open-ended at this point, and we want to make sure this weekend goes smoothly before making any additional plans.
That sounds like the smartest way to look at it. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say "thank you" for all of the effort you guys have put in. It will all be worth it, and I'm looking forward to an amazing experience.
Alex: Thanks so much, Jordan!