Last weekend saw the 12th annual Decibel Festival, a Seattle-based electronic music festival aiming to expose attendees to leading-edge multimedia art from around the globe. We had a chance to catch up with Gabe Schubiner, one of the all-volunteer staff that works behind the scenes to make DB Fest a reality, about how he came to work on the festival, the history behind it, and how it has changed over the past 12 years.
How would you describe Decibel fest in one tweet?
A vibrant, thriving community bound by passion for electronic music, art and education.
I initially got involved with Decibel when I first moved to Seattle in 2012. I’d worked with VIA Festival the two years prior as that festival was starting, so I had community connections with Decibel and worked as a volunteer driver with the Decibel transportation team the week after arriving in Seattle. I remember going to the volunteer meeting and asking if anyone had any open rooms to rent, which didn’t pan out to anything then, but still marks the beginning of my involvement in this community which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
How has the festival grown since you joined?
The festival was already very well-established by the time I got involved, but I think that the festival has shown a great deal of growth in the focus on creating a positive environment for our attendees to enjoy the experience of the festival. This is exemplified both by this year’s focus on Seattle-based artists, which brings more diverse communities into the festival and offers a more uniquely local experience, as well as our focus on making sure that the festival events are Safe Spaces, where people can feel comfortable dancing and enjoying themselves without fear of harassment.
What was your “starstruck moment”?
Well, while I have a huge amount of respect for the artists that we bring in for the festival, I mostly avoid associating the respect I have for their music with the artists’ ‘stardom.’ I will say though, that the first year I worked with Decibel, I spent a day driving Carl Craig around, which was a big deal for me, since I grew up in Detroit and respect Carl Craig not only for his immense contributions as an artist, but for the energy and time he has put into Detroit arts communities.
If you were to have a chance to travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
Well, for music events, the first that comes to mind is Unsound in Krakow, Poland. I have a huge respect for the curation of that event, as well as the way that the curators focus on creating unique spatial experiences. Personally, though, I would have to say Angkor Wat. The architecture and types of spaces there are fascinating to me, and I would love to experience it in person.
What’s your favorite part about working with the Decibel Team?
My favorite part of working with the Decibel team is getting to see how much time and energy we all pour into this event on a volunteer basis. It takes a ton of work to organize something of this scale, and everyone involved does it out of passion. There’s a huge power to sharing that passion and intensity amongst the team of directors.
What is the most challenging thing about organizing the festival?
I think the most challenging thing about organizing the festival is communication and information management. Everyone involved is very dedicated, but also works day-jobs, has different time restrictions, and has different styles of communication and information management. Some bit of information not getting sent to the right person is the root cause of most of the issues that come up.
What was an OMG moment at this years festival?
I had a ton of OMG moments during the festival, ranging from “Oh my god, I’m not going to make it to record this set!” to “Oh my god, how is it possible that I’ve been able to be involved in creating something at this scale.” Some of the best moments were the chances I got to see my friends perform at the second nature, Motor, and Discwoman showcases, which I think marks a coming out point for many of them who have been superstars of the Seattle underground for some time, but got the chance for greater exposure through Decibel.
How did the Onyx help your team communicate?
The Orion Labs’ Onyx device was a huge help for both our production team and our transportation team. Having instant communication across the many venues we need to manage every night of the festival helped us keep all of the venue managers in communication around issues and equipment needs so that the production back-line equipment supply team could coordinate effectively and responsively around unforeseen needs. The transportation team made great use of the communication aspects of the device to check in with drivers and update them on traffic conditions, as well as the map and location tracking features, which allowed the transportation coordinators to give accurate ETAs to artists awaiting transport.