The results are in from HullabaLOU: “... you guys nailed it! Every aspect was right on and we could not be more pleased…!”
In spite of record setting heat, the inaugural HullabaLOU Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky was a resounding success presenting a diverse lineup of rock, jazz, country and bluegrass acts that drew rave reviews. Studio10A and Atomic Design are proud to have been instrumental in helping Churchill Downs Entertainment, the event producers, pull it off.
The 3 day festival held on the infield of Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, is patterned after similar well known festivals such as Coachella and Jazzfest. Ryan Jordan, VP of Operations for CDE, approached us in January knowing of our work the previous year on the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Tournament and Atomic’s deep roots in the staging and touring concert industry. The event needed an identity, a cohesive look, and clear, logical signage to guide guests throughout the venue. After presenting a variety of concepts that ranged from the far-out super groovy to the simple but effective, we were awarded the gig!
Our predominant concern was to consider the overall experience of the guest. What can be done at the entrances to make a smooth transition into the venue? How might the 5 stages be easily identified and located? What elements can be added that are both functional and artistic? As such things are with fledgling events, the wish list for “super cool things” versus the “things we absolutely need” were worlds apart and budget necessitated some scaling back. Signage, of course, took the highest priority and this became our jumping off point to determine the look of the entire event.
HullabaLOU’s logo is festive, fair-like and suggestive of music. Expanding on that look, with the aid of Go Welsh Design and Atomic’s own graphics expert Jason Serfecz, we landed on a palette of colors and background patterns that would define every visual element of the event. Reflecting the logo’s funky vibe, we created backgrounds of up-beat overlapping shapes and colors… a subtle backdrop of music made visible. Variations of the background patterns and a unique color palette for each of the 5 stages’ PA scrims and headers gave the locations their own identity while maintaining a cohesive look throughout the infield. Similarly, all of the signage played off of the background patterns. Fortunately, Churchill Downs has a great deal of existing signage and we were able to apply our vinyl graphics over theirs—giving the rather formal building a colorful facelift. With over 300 signs this was a herculean task given the crushing heat… a huge shout out to Jason Serfecz, Mike Fasig, Dave King, and Kate Kopke, as well as Churchill Down’s own excellent graphics team.
With the addition of several large sculptural “icons” and a central marketplace, we aimed to create some easily identifiable landmarks around the grounds so guests could orient themselves and have places to congregate. Near each of the satellite stages we placed a truss tower supporting a printed fabric canopy—each one using the patterns and colors of the stage it was nearest. These “icons” also incorporated maps of the grounds and schedules of each of the stages. The bases of the truss provided seating—a prescient move as on opening day, within the first hour, all of the icons were full of people clustered under them seeking shade while remaining within good sight-lines of each stage!
Probably the 2 most arresting “wow” elements of the infield were the “twisty icon” art-piece and the marketplace. The festival still needed something arty to call its own. An early sketch of a sculpture representing a deconstructed g-clef gradually morphed into a truss tower supporting wildly twisting ribbons made of rolled pipe and printed styrene. These ribbons then became “directional arrows” pointing the way to the summer’s other major music festivals. Situated in the middle of the food court plaza, at 24’ high, it became yet another focal point and gathering place for guests. Atomic’s newly formed metal shop rose admirably to the occasion, custom rolling each portion of the curves by hand and matching my scrawny wire model perfectly!
The marketplace was created to showcase local artisans and craftsmen. About 40 tents were arranged to form a small bazaar and we erected a canopied promenade made of truss and printed mesh fabric. Again, a large pop of color against a sea of white tents and a crucial bit of shade drawing guests into the market and providing places to sit.
Louisville now has a major music festival it can call its own! By all accounts, HullabaLOU’s inaugural year was a huge success. In spite of the record high temperatures, attendance was very high, there were no issues with security, guests got around with apparent ease, and the diverse lineup drew rave reviews and offered something for all age brackets. From our backstage point of view, what could have been a brutal load-in came off remarkably smoothly, the local crew were first rate, and the staff of Churchill Downs and CDE exceptionally accommodating. Thank you Louisville… we look forward to seeing you next year!