It is almost FESTIVAL SEASON!
After a long winter of avoiding the cold, rain, and snow, the weather is finally starting to warm up and the masses are gathering in celebration! I’ve taken a few months off writing for winter break, but it is finally time to get back on THE ROAD OF FLOW!
One of the first flow festivals of the season is FLAME in LaFayette, Georgia held at Cherokee Farms. FLAME is an acronym that stands for Flow Arts Movement Exchange. The event is only a two-hour drive from Atlanta and attracts hundreds of attendees. They choose their instructors from all over the world based on a voting system where anyone can submit classes and the top voted ones in each prop category are selected. This year they are also bringing in several “headliner” instructors to guarantee phenomenal workshops for every skill level and tool.
I had the extreme pleasure to talk with Matthew “SoSticky” Johnson who is on the organizer team for FLAME. He is also an admin for the double staff group on Facebook, part of the East Coast Burning Man group Party Liberation Front, the founder of Resplendent Flames, and a Ninja Pyrate representative as well as a phenomenal flow artist using poi, double staffs, and contact staff while focusing on geometric shapes and flowery mandalas. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview!
Hey Matthew! Thanks for talking with me today.
First let’s start with a little bit about you and your background in flow and fire arts. When did you start spinning and how did you get involved in the flow arts community?
Hey there Spades! Thanks for talking with me! I am so honored to be speaking with you.
I started spinning glow sticks in 2006 or so. Not long after, I got my first set of Flowtoys Glow poi and it was on. It was an obsession to say the least. I ended up picking up Contact Staff in 2008 but I haven’t really delved that deeply into that until recently. I started spinning Double Staff in 2009. Doubles has been my favorite method of making shapes ever since I learned how to make 6 petal flowers. This would be why I focus so heavily on flowers.
I first came into contact with a large fire community in Richmond, VA at Gallery 5. They hold a large first Friday event where they shut down a street and do a large fire show for the passersby. This is also where I met many of the people I now call my family, The Party Liberation Front. Mr. Conway Jennings is a huge inspiration of mine. He is the one who let me spin fire for the first time, at Gallery 5, no less. He is also the person who consistently invited me along to events like PEX Summer Festival, where I just so happened to run into Chad Bennett, who was managing Wildfire at the time. He invited me up to teach some workshops at Wildfire in 2010, I believe, and that would be where I was introduced to how large our wonderful community actually is. It was really eye opening to say the least.
That’s really amazing to have that much community support. Did you first start teaching at Wildfire?
Well, that’s kinda hard to say. It was not long after I picked them up that I was teaching albeit not formally. My first real workshop happened at the Wildfire event mentioned above. I have been teaching at festivals, spin jams, and other events ever since. I have recently started doing 1 on 1 Skype Lessons as well.
Where do you plan on teaching this year?
I plan on teaching at FLAME, Kinetic, Fahrenheit, Fabulodge, and a few other events that I will not mention until I am confirmed.
How did you get the nickname SoSticky?
I like to let people figure that one out.
With six years experience, performing professionally and founding Resplendent Flames in Virginia it seems you are definitely a great choice to help organize a flow festival. How did you get involved with FLAME?
After attending 2014’s event, I was really inspired to engage the community a lot more. I saw all of the effort that was being put forth on so many fronts. It was something that I really wanted to be a part of, so I just kept bothering Nick Garcia about it, until it was made so.
What are your primary duties for the festival?
I am ½ of the Public Relations Organizational Team. My partner in crime is Bryce Willard Smithe (Metatron), who I will admit is a bit more experienced than myself in promoting an event. So this has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to serve the community.
We have been coordinating our Official FLAME Street Team, The FLAME Stokers. With our team, we have been holding spin jams in our respective regions to help generate enthusiasm toward the event and the flow art community at large. I believe that when people see that you love something enough to put in the effort to throw an event of any size, it inspires more people to do the same.
I believe that if you have the power to make a difference, you should.
In addition to this, members of our street teams help build the buzz for the event by posting online as well as engaging local events outside of our immediate community. It has been a huge help in getting the information out there to the right people.
You travel to dozens of flow festivals and events around the US. What do you feel makes FLAME stand out?
Aside from being the kick off to many folk’s flow festival season, FLAME most certainly stands out because of its voting system. I believe it is a very progressive system. While it may have its flaws, I feel that this event in particular is showing a great amount of respect by allowing its attendees to choose a large portion of the workshops that would be available.
FLAME is the only flow festival I know of that has a voting system to decide what workshops will be there. How do you personally feel the voting system for instructors has been working for FLAME?
Personally, I love the concept. There have proven to be a few trouble spots to iron out but I feel like we have good thing here. I think that this is the most democratic approach to selecting flow festival instructors that there is. I feel like it gives the attendees a real chance to shape what their event will look like.
How is the system different this year from last year?
The largest and most significant change is having headlining instructors for each of the props. This is to make sure that a larger portion of our attending community is better served.
Our headliner instructors are as follows, Chris Kelly, Lux Luminous, Steve Bags, Valentina Martin, Marvin Ong, Doodle, Corey White, You (Spades), and myself, (Sticky)
You can get a more in depth explanation from Drex, here > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3KGrJZajJY&feature=youtu.be
Since FLAME started in 2011 with 50 attendees the event has grown substantially. How many people do you expect to come this year?
We have done better than we have in previous years. We are expecting an excellent turnout. I fully expect that tickets will sell out, so to anyone wanting to go, I would say make sure to get your tickets as soon as you can.
How big is Cherokee Farms and what can you tell me about the venue?
The area itself is massive and gorgeous. They hold the regional burn “Alchemy” there. The land can hold 7-8000 people comfortably. I feel safe saying that there is no possible way for us to use even half of the space. There are plentiful trees to block out sunlight and about an equal amount of space is open grassland space with plenty of sun.
The lake is most certainly not fit for swimming. Although, you will have to sign a waiver to enter the premises. I imagine you could go for a swim, if you really, really wanted to.
The event is outdoors, you have to know that you need to prepare for the occasional spider or itchy bug bite. Bug spray and repellents are a great idea. If you know that you are particularly allergic, please prepare accordingly, and make a point to keep any emergency medications readily available just in case.
We will have a first aid kit on site from EMS or Fire Fighters. There is a hospital nearby for more serious emergencies.
FLAME Festival consists of four days of workshops with three nights of fire dancing. Are attendees able to camp with their cars by their tents?
We are still ironing out some details but I believe that you should be able to drop off your equipment by your campsite, but I would bet like most camping festivals you won’t be able to leave your car at your campsite. It would be a safe bet to say that you should be prepared to park your car away for the duration of the event. That being said, parking is not too far of a walk from the camping area.
It is hard for me to wake up early for workshops without a good cup of coffee. Is everyone expected to bring in all their food, water, and drinks for the weekend or will there be food vendors?
There will be no food or drink vendors on site. As with most camping events, it is wise to bring what you require with you to the event.
I love spinning fire to great music. How late do you play music at night and what type of music can people expect?
FLAME prides itself in offering a variety of music, but we do tend to favor the electronic type over acoustic. That being said, you can definitely expect some surprises.
A big part of what our Music Department is trying to do this year is to only bring in DJs that are also spinners. We feel that this will be beneficial because they will understand the types of music that a spinner would like, not that we are all the same but this is a step in the right direction.
You can expect drums and amplified sound to get shutdown at Midnight on Thursday and Friday. Although, on Saturday music will go all night!
I know you’re not a weatherman, but for those not familiar with Georgia what weather can attendees expect?
This time of year in Georgia, it is usually cold at night and really hot during the day.
If you plan on being in the fire circle you have nothing to worry about. There will also be places to escape the heat as well.
Check out the Almanac for the area for a better idea > http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KCHA/2015/4/11/MonthlyCalendar.html?locid=30728&reqdb.zip=&reqdb.magic=&reqdb.wmo=
The Workshops are the main draw to the event. How many instructors do you plan on hosting?
We have tried our best to get as many awesome instructors as we can to the event but we can’t accept all of the applications. We will have 39 instructors on site. Of course, I am certain that renegade workshops will take place frequently as well.
Will you be teaching this year?
I am actually; I am the featured Double Staff instructor for the event. I will be teaching a series of classes geared toward reel spun patterns.
Do you have any instructors you are particularly excited to learn from?
Oh, of course. I am definitely excited to learn from Sennyo Senn, Jonah Digirolamo, Timbo Slice, Gonzo, Drex, Casey Houle, and Mr. Tyler Spades. By the way, can you show me how to do that one thing?
I am also very excited to meet new and upcoming spinners.
I love all of the new ideas and growth that has been taking place the last few years.
It has been really inspirational to me. I am also very excited to reconnect with many of the awesome people that I have met in the last year since FLAME. This is going to kick off the festival season for this year and we intend on doing it right!
Haha I’d be happy to show you that move. It’s super cool and I put it in all my routines. Speaking of which, is there a gala show at FLAME and does it include fire?
There is definitely going to be a showcase.
Last year’s event had a few Flow case entries like Juan Guardiola’s puppy hammer routine as well as Cassie McKenney and Brian Thompson’s mini hoops routine.
As for there being fire, you are going to have to be there for yourself to see.
There were so many awesome performances last year; I am very excited to see what is in store for us this time around.
Do you have any last comments about the festival?
I am so excited about getting to reconnect with so many friends at once. It is like returning home even though I have only been to the event once. I am very much looking forward to seeing my past students and how much they have grown. It will be a wonderful time for all involved. The entire FLAME organizational team has been working very hard to bring to you the best event possible.
You can find out more about the event at the links below:
Check out our website >
you can get tickets here >
Thank you so much for your time! I can’t wait to come see Georgia for my first time and experience this amazing event for myself! And I can’t wait to play with you in the fire circle!
I hope this interview has gotten you excited to kick off the festival season in style! Feel free to comment bellow with the festivals you plan to attend and let me know if there are any in particular you would like to see an article about!
See you soon on The Road of Flow!