Interview: TRNSMT promoter Geoff Ellis

Geoff Ellis at the TRNMT site
Geoff Ellis at the TRNMT site

Glasgow Green is temporarily transformed. There are walls and walkways, picnic benches, food stalls, five stages – ready for a procession of musicians. Glasgow is the real city of festivals. We do it well. The latest is TRNSMT, introduced to fill a T in the Park shaped hole in this summer’s event roster and looking to establish its own distinct destiny.

We visited the site yesterday. Things were coming together. Plenty of space to roam. Long bars ready for a busy weekend.

Even the hint of sunshine. As the final touches were being put into place, we found Geoff Ellis sitting close to the main stage, which is set up beside the People’s Palace.

The Chief Executive of DF Concerts, Geoff leads the team that promotes Scotland’s biggest gigs. The new arrival, TRNSMT begins tomorrow and continues over the weekend with performances from 109 acts in front of around 100,000 fans in the centre of Glasgow. We asked Geoff some questions.

The TRNSMT site beside the People's Palace

The TRNSMT site beside the People’s Palace

How did your planning for TRNSMT start when you were looking at the music you wanted to introduce what the festival is all about?

I think the first artist and the key artist for me was Radiohead. Not just because I’m a massive fan, but I think when you tell people that Radiohead are going to be playing our new festival, people can see what scale it’s going to at. They know that you can have big production, it’s going to be a big stage. And it’s easy to get other artists in to play because, when you have Radiohead, then you go and see Kasabian, Biffy Clyro. You can say you’re headlining and Radiohead is headlining the other day.

We want to be part of that. And then you go to bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen and The 1975. You know, Catfish are a band that I’ve been booking them from a small tent in T in the Park to their that position at T in the Park last year. I knew that they were on a meteoric rise. So again, let’s put them in with Kasabian, it’s great.

Although, the two bands are different the audience will definitely compliment each other. Just like The 1975 and Biffy on Sunday. Then you go to bands like Two Door Cinema Club and they are actually third on the bill.

Bands always want to be higher up the bill. Once they see George Ezra as a third on your bill then they are fine with it.

You can see some of them are quite low down the bill, but then you look at who’s above them. You got The Kooks who can sell a five, six thousand ticket show of their own in Glasgow. Then you got London Grammar who are fantastic and you don’t see very often playing in Glasgow.

Belle and Sebastian don’t play very often either. Suddenly you’ve got a great line-up and then booking the other bands on the bill is easy, they want to be part of that line up.

From the point that the doors open, it’s game-on in terms of the music, there’s no filler, it’s very much an all-day event isn’t it?

I think that is the difference between having a gig with some support and a headliner and having a festival. When I did Big Day Out at the Green here, it was a similar model in a way. I’ve put things on here before. I made sure for that day we had Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, PJ Harvey, Electric Six. So that was a full day out. Again, we want people to show up at one o’clock in the afternoon or twelve o’clock in the afternoon and be here all day.

That is why we have great cocktail bars here and plenty of places so they can eat nice food. We’ve got Perthshire farmers coming down, who did some healthy food at tea in the park, we’ve got Babu Bombay Street Kitchen, lots of different street food. We want that kind of experience with the stages and the Smirnoff area with DJs and Jack Daniels stage and there’s the King Tut’s Utilita stage with bands like Honne and The Lafontaines. It’s going to have a great festival feel.

But, hey, if you want to just come in a bit later or if you want to just come to the main stage they you’ll find it. For the festival kind of environment then come down and spend the three days. If you just want to come down on Friday and see Radiohead and show up at 8 o’clock then the ticket price is cheaper than if they were doing their own arena show. I think the value for money is good as well and you get a discount on three day tickets on sale.

The 1975

The 1975

How does it feel to be back in Glasgow Green watching everything coming together?

I love it in Glasgow Green. I love Bellahouston Park as well. We’ve produced some amazing shows, we’ve had Radiohead here three times. We’ve done lots of sold out shows and memorable shows. It’s a great place to run.

It’s a great feeling to be in the heart of the city centre and you are at a music festival. If you are leaving here you can walk to the train station. The audience can come can go. It’s a bit different if you live in Aberdeen but at night visitors can take over the places to stay nearby.

When you do something like this in Glasgow, the events spin off across the whole of the Merchant City and out towards the West End.

Even around the Barrowlands now there’s A’Challtainn and Saint Luke’s. The guys who work here, they are going to those kinds of places. There’s a really good economic impact for the city I think. Particularly late night, there might be a trickle of people coming to them in the afternoon but afterwards there will be after-parties at venues all over.

What’s going to be your festival moment as a music fan?

I will be out front watching Radiohead. I love Radiohead, the coverage of their set at Glastonbury was fantastic. They’ll be playing for nearly two and a half hours so it’s going to be an awesome sound.
I want to feel the energy of the crowd and be out for Stormzy. That’s going to be a great moment. For me though it will be Radiohead, I’ll be telling everyone I’m going out there and they can come find me if they need me but I’m going to enjoy this one.