“She’s a go-getter. And she’s getting.” That’s how Bluesfest festival director Peter Noble characterises his award-winning colleague Kimberley Galceran, who’s been getting all the big shows of late.

Galceran is Bluesfest’s Head of Touring, which in recent years toured Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt and Patti Smith, the last of those taking out the Helpmann Award in 2017 for Best International Concert. If you figured you were under the pump, check yourself.

Galceran heads up a small team which, during a two-week stretch over the upcoming Easter period, will produce 21 tours in total including runs for Iggy Pop, David Gray and Ray LaMontagne.

Prior to joining Bluesfest Touring in 2016, Galceran served as Venue Manager and booker for FBi Social in Kings Cross for four years and worked for FBi Radio for several years as Office Manager and on the Music Programming team.

A bass guitarist and DJ, Galceran also ran underground events label Octopus Pi in Sydney and notched up several award nominations for her work as a radio host.

TIO caught up with Galceran for a glimpse at the machinery of Bluesfest Touring in what’s shaping as another busy year.

This year is a huge one for Bluesfest, which celebrates its 30th anniversary. What’s the vibe like at Bluesfest HQ right now?

It’s heads down bums up at the moment, we’re knitting together all of the pieces of the puzzle. It feels like just yesterday the last festival was wrapping up and we’re already on the door-step of the next one.

Peter Noble is our Festival Director and he does all of our curating and booking, he has been overseas looking at talent for 2020 and a possible surprise act or two for this festival.

Everyone in the team are massive music lovers but we all have our own interests and areas of expertise, we try to add our two cents on who we think is worth looking at for the year.

As Head of Touring I’m involved in the booking and negotiations process from the get-go for any artists we will be presenting around the country, and I definitely have my thoughts on good music.

How did Bluesfest Touring come about and how does it operate alongside the festival?

It’s often in a band’s best interests to do some headlining shows while they’re in the country; extra pocket money for them, plus their fans appreciate it.

Bluesfest Touring arose to present those headlining shows around the country and I typically organise between 15 and 25 tours of 50 to 80 shows per year for those acts. Everything from 2,500-capacity theatres to 300-capacity shows for emerging artists we’re trying to grow in the market.

I’ve been in the role of Head of Touring for going on three years now and have loved it, particularly working with Patti Smith, Robert Plant and this year, Iggy Pop. Biggest highlight so far was probably winning the 2017 Helpmann Award for Best International Concert for Patti Smith & Her Band’s Australian Tour.

And when she touched my necklace and said she liked it. Swoon.

bluesfest Patti Smith. Photographed by Peter Dovgan
Patti Smith. Photographed by Peter Dovgan

Does Bluesfest Touring only book bands that would sit on the Bluesfest bill?

We organise a handful of tours outside of the festival season – just finished up Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson and looking at a few more later this year.

Typically, the agent will reach out to Peter to ask Bluesfest Touring to present the tour. If he is interested, myself and Alexis our Contracts Manager will work on dates and budgets to secure the artist.

Organising tours outside of festival is much easier because they’re standalone, whereas this year I’ll have 21 tours on the road in the space of three weeks. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.

I also have to promote all of those tours and shows at the one time so you can imagine it’s pretty fast-paced for a number of months juggling budgets and assets and ideas.

You recently announced 21 homegrown support acts. We talk often about the strength of the local music scene. What’s your take?

Every year it’s a really satisfying part of my job to pair some amazing local talent with our headliners. The local acts are all exceptional in their own right. And this is a great chance to get in front of a new audience, sometimes on a bigger stage than they’ve played previously and often to play alongside an act they’ve admired for years.

Australia is booming with talent right now, even in my time this seems to have grown, it’s a really exciting time where other countries are looking to us for fresh sounds.

Patti Smith

How do you compete with the likes of Live Nation, Frontier and Dainty/TEG?

They’re the big guns no-doubt, they’ve been in the market for longer and have extensive connections to popular artists; Live Nation and Dainty have international backing and Frontier has a bigger team.

At Bluesfest Touring I’m essentially the marketing, ticketing, finance and logistics team rolled into one. Our Touring Assistant Melanie is an incredible asset. Mary our Communications & Publicity Manager nails our interviews and social channels.

Alexis manages our artists contracts and budgets. Rusty juggles some of our radio marketing, our Production Team Ben, Sammy Jo, Jess, Peter and Justin are fantastic when they come on board; and the rest of the team at large is a huge support.

But — bar myself and Melanie — everyone’s main focus is the festival. We’re a small team achieving really big things.

Stuart Coupe’s excellent book ‘The Promoters’ addresses the dearth of female promoters. Are you confident this space is changing as the likes of Holly Rankin and others make an impact?

You have to just laugh sometimes. I was on the Roger Hodgson tour this past week and Rusty our wonderful festival Marketing Manager was along for the ride.

Patrons kept shaking his hand and thanking him for the show, oblivious to the fact that I — standing next to him — actually organised and promoted it. They would have just assumed I was his much younger partner or assistant.

You can’t really help those things but it is frustrating. It can be intimidating and cause insecurity to be on the road with crew and management; you just have to be strong in yourself, know what you’ve achieved and own it.

I think things certainly are changing for the better but there are so many assumptions and stereotypes we need to shake loose. I think following generations will have it a bit better with more female soundies, road crew, musicians, managers and promoters stepping up and the old guard stepping down, it’ll just take time.

How do we get more women represented in concert promoting?

Maybe someone reading this will feel inspired?

The culture needs to change but people need to be fearless and believe in their capabilities as well. I’d really encourage self-starting. If you love music, organise a small gig for friends and build from there.

You don’t need any training, you’ll learn as you go. That was probably some of he best advice I ever received.

Have you see the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix. As a festival organiser, what did you make of it?

Yes! Probably an occasion where the advice above was taken but the scale of the goal was totally unrealistic. Billy McFarland should have started with a backyard gig!

It’s taken for granted how many minds and hands it actually takes to put something large-scale on. Each person plays a small part in the big picture. I really felt for all of the professionals who got wrapped up in the mess despite their best efforts.

It just shows how ego and too much money can snowball into a nightmare.

And staying with that theme, what advice would you give to novices who wanted to create their own live music experience?

If you love music and know a few bands start putting on small shows and try to gather a good crew and scene around you.

You’ll get the feel of ticketing, promotion, venues, artist research and booking, sound and lighting production, budgeting and all of the other intricacies that pull it together. These days people don’t just want a few bands on a stage they want something distinctive and original; atmosphere and ‘feels’ are important.

It’s a really wonderful way to express creativity and support the music and arts community around you, you’ll probably never look back.