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Last week, OnMilwaukee.com peered behind the scenes at Summerfest to see how the big names get booked for the Big Gig.
As the 11-day music blowout was about to get underway, we caught up with the Big Gig's associate booking director Scott Ziel to learn a bit more.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us about how long you've been at Summerfest and what you do there.
Scott Ziel: I've been a consultant to the entertainment department for over 20 years. I work for Bob Babisch and Vic Thomas in helping plan which artists to book, negotiating and contracting the bands and the help troubleshoot the event when it's happening.
OMC: How has your job evolved over the years?
SZ: Bob and Vic have put their trust in me help choose the headliners on the grounds stages.
OMC: What's the biggest challenge you face each year as you work to create the lineup?
SZ: There are a couple challenges. The European festivals like Glastonbury happen right during Summerfest, and they get many of the acts we want. For instance Florence & The Machine, Alt-J, Alabama Shakes and George Ezra are just some of the acts that we tried for and would love to have at Summerfest.
OMC: What's the booking that you're most pleased about this year.
SZ: I'm excited about a couple of unique act s for us: Santigold, Failure, The Faint, Con Brio, Mavis Staples, Delta Spirit, Braid and more.
OMC: What is your life like during the run of the festival?
SZ: You just get used to not getting much sleep.
OMC: How do you survive it, especially as the dad of young kids.
SZ: Last year my little boy would wake me at 6:30-7 a.m. every morning after getting home at 1-2 a.m. normally. It's important to eat non-festival deep fried food and drink lots of water.
It's a marathon so you pace yourself.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.