The fifth annual Otis Mountain Get Down festival will be this Sept. 8-10 and it’s already gearing up to be one of it’s best! The festival is known for bringing in acts that are only on the cusp of making waves, thus giving its festival-goers not only a pleasant musical experience, but also enlightening them to what’s going to be blowing up in the underground music scene next!

The festival seems best suited for underground music fanatics, music connoisseurs, and musicians looking for new perspectives (or just people who appreciate music and the breathtaking mountain air!). Last year they had great up-and-coming acts such as Ron Gallo, Vundabar, and Gymshorts—who have all previously been featured on BTRtoday (so you know they’re good)!

The festival provides ample music of all genres for three days straight, and also hosts many other experiences including local vendors, painters, dancers, you name it!

The initial line-up will be announced in mid-April, with the full line-up coming out in mid-May—so keep an eye out and make sure to grab your tickets now!

What initially began as a couple of friends getting together to utilize the beautiful surrounding land, Otis Mountain Get Down has grown from just several hundred people to thousands. BTRtoday chatted with some of the team that helps put together this beautiful indie festival.

Photo by Peter Cirilli.

BTRtoday (BTR): Give me a quick origin story of Otis.

Quillan George (QG): The story of Otis goes much further back than any of our individual involvement. Otis has been a ski hill since the ’50s and has been through multiple revitalizations since then. In terms of history relating to music at the mountain, this is technically the 12th year of music at Otis.

Before our tenure, there was an annual festival focused strictly on bluegrass at the mountain. That lasted from 2002 – 2008.

Fast forward to 2013. I had just graduated college and moved into a house that later became known as “The Range.” It hosted a rotating cast of anywhere from 7-10 roommates at any given time, one of which was Zach Allott (Zach’s family owns the property at Otis). We had a great basement space for hosting bands, and throughout the summer threw quite a few house shows.

One day Zach and I took a trip to Upstate NY to go swim at some watering holes, and we stopped at Otis. After visiting the property, we instantly got into a discussion about hosting an event there. Given the shows we were doing at The Range, it only seemed natural to progress to something at Otis. We reached out to friends, built our team, and the Otis Mountain Get Down was born in 2013.

Casey Joseph (CJ): To our surprise, 700 people showed up and we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve even built a new stage and named it after the house where it all started.

BTR: What’s something about Otis that you are most proud of?

CJ: I’m proud of the community that we have built, and that we’ve managed to improve the experience every year while keeping Otis affordable and accessible without the help of corporate sponsors.

QG: I take a lot of pride in the fact that we’ve built this event, keeping people in mind first. It’s never been about margins, it’s always been about doing our best to provide authentic memories and experiences to others.

BTR: What’s one of your best memories from any of the Otis festivals?

CJ: My favorite memory has to be performing with DJ POTHEAD last year at The Range.

QG: Watching Khruangbin from the top of the mountain in 2016. They were the last band on, which is when I finally relax. The atmosphere of their music, watching the crowd from above, in that environmental setting is something that I will never forget.

Photo by Malcolm Watts.

BTR: Tell me a little about how it’s been putting together this upcoming Otis.

CJ: Things are going great. Quillan has been slaying the booking game! Number five is shaping up to be our best one yet.

QG: At this point, the production side of Otis is becoming a system, and each year we are finding ways to be more productive. We’ve been able to free up a lot of our time through efficiency, which allows us to focus more energy on how to improve the experience.

Because of this, the event is coming along better than ever! We have an incredible team that cares. When people care they always aim to improve, and everyone is doing that in their departments. I’m really excited to be working with more visual artists this year as well as throwing in more unannounced surprises. The line up is coming along incredibly well, which you will know more about April 11.

BTR: Are you doing anything different this year than any previous years?

CJ: We’re always looking to make each year better and more sustainable than the last, but other than that I’m not looking to give away any surprises–you’ll have to come find out for yourself!

BTR: What are you looking forward to the most this year?

QG: Seeing everyone back at the mountain! I live in Portland, OR now, so just being at Otis is such a privilege. It’s become a reunion for a lot us. Seeing so many familiar and new faces in such a special place makes it worth it every year.

CJ: Double what Quillan said! I’m looking forward to having all my friends together during the best weekend of the year at my favorite place on Earth.

BTR: How do you see Otis changing in years to come?

QG: A big part of our focus has always been on the local community and the community that the festival brings in. I think in the years to come we’ll see more of the two becoming one. I think what we’re doing provides a good opportunity to expose younger folks to what Upstate NY really has to offer. I’d like to see our efforts having a positive, lasting effect on the surrounding area year round.

BTR: What kind of bands do you look for to put on the bill?

CJ: We book artists based on three criteria: quality, diversity, and spirit. It’s not necessarily about which bands are the most popular, but more so about which bands seem like the most fun or which bands are going to leave people saying “Holy crap, I can’t believe I didn’t know about them before,” or, “I didn’t even know I liked that kind of music,” etc. We put a lot of effort and intention into our lineup to keep it surprising every year and to make sure that all different tastes are catered to.

BTR: How do you go about finding bands?

QG: Bands come from all over! Here are a few ways we go about it:

– I book and work with multiple venues and festivals across the country. I come across a lot of bands through those experiences.

– Everyone on our team has a different taste in music and we have meetings as a team where people bring bands to the table they would like to see at Otis.

– At the end of each year I send feedback requests to every band that plays the festival. Part of this feedback form asks artists who they think would be a fit/would like to see at the mountain. As a rule, good musicians typically know more good musicians, so we take their recommendations and feedback very seriously.

– I do my best to read, listen, and respond to every inquiry we get. We’ve found a lot of great artists by them simply reaching out.

– The Internet is a crazy place, have you tried digging in it?

Photo by Jake Sporn.

BTR: Tell me a little about everyone on the Otis team.

CJ: Quillan George is our Talent Buyer, Marketing Director, and Music Production Director. He wears a lot of hats and is a big part of making it all happen. Zach Allott is our humble President and Creative Director; he works alongside designer Ryan Forde (aka DJ Four-D) to bring to life the visual identity of our brand. Colby Sears is our Event Production Manager, he handles the logistics of the festival and keeps things running smoothly before, during, and after the event. Austin Garrett, our Facilities Coordinator is Colby’s right hand man on the operational side of things and deals heavily with our vendors. Patrick Dodge is our handsome Merchandise Manager–he’s behind all of the fine Otis wares that are available at each year’s Get Down.

Leanne Galletly is our Secretary, Archivist, and Administrative Coordinator; she keeps us all organized and is one of the first faces you’ll see upon entering Otis. Tommy Lyga is our Street Team Coordinator; hit him up if you’re interested in helping us spread the word in NYC! Joe Fortugno is our Chief Financial Officer and Music Production Manager, he’s a good dude and one hell of a drummer. Colin Frost is our Volunteer Coordinator; send him an email at volunteer@otismountain.com if you’re looking to lend a hand at this year’s fest!

Evan Litsios is our favorite Copywriter and Marketing/PR support staff, some of his best work lives on our website under the “Otis Live” tab. Brian Somers is our Sustainability Coordinator, his efforts ensure that we don’t trash the place and proactively take steps to minimize the environmental impacts of our 2,500 person party in the woods. George Watts is our Videographer and Media Director, he’s the man to thank for all of our great “Otis Live” and recap videos. I’m Casey, our PR and Social Media Coordinator. My job is to spread the word far and wide about how great Otis is and why you should come get down with us on Sept. 8-10 at Otis Mountain.

Tickets to the 2017 Otis Mountain Get Down are available.