Célyne Spills the Hospitali-Tea

Célyne and Sara at Up Here 4. Photo by Lindsay Duncan.

Célyne and Sara at Up Here 4. Photo by Lindsay Duncan.

I got a chance to sit down with Up Here’s artist hospitality co-lead, and we talk first loves, walk-by feedings, and American ciggies. 

How long have you been with the festival? 

Since year three, so this will be my third year. 

What got you in to hospitality? 

I initially signed up as a general volunteer—Danielle, the volunteer coordinator, called me about a week later, we had just met the week prior and she said that she and Christian thought that I would be a natural fit as the second hospitality coordinator and asked me if I’d be interested in doing it, and at the time I was up for any kind of adventure. The fact that they picked me out to do it gave me the confidence to say yes and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life.

The love! So what were they wearing, you know, when you met your first love?

My first love was WHOOP-Szo. They were driving a real rad old van that was just my style and pulled up outside of The Grand, and that was the end (or the beginning) of that.* Now that I think of that, that van has since been put to rest (sadly!) and from what I remember, it was painted half red and half black. I remember walking out of the building, and hearing the door slide open, and all of these complete strangers piling out of the van. Savannah was seven or eight months pregnant at the time ,and instantly I remember asking myself: “Who are these beautiful souls?” The realization of this is what I’m meant to do in life struck me then and there. We’ve since become like family and they are definitely in my heart. Between them and Danielle, they are the reason that I’m pursuing the career that I am.

As you mentioned, this isn’t your first rodeo. Nor is it the only festival you do this for anymore. Are there specific things you’ve learned along the way?

That’s correct! This year I also got a chance to work for River & Sky and I’ve been lucky enough to land gigs with JUNOfest (thanks to Savy, and Sturge from WHOOP-Szo) and NOMFA both as venue manager, which just feels like an extension to my hospitality work really. But to go back to my first year, it was definitely a learning curve. I was partnered up with Felix that year so a lot of it, in my mind, was an “I’m here to give it my all” and I was more or less a support person to what he thought we would need and let him direct me to what and where I should be. Having practiced as a massage therapist for 16 years, meeting complete strangers and just having that desire to make them feel instantly comfortable and welcomed is just part of who I am. So the learning curve part was more geared towards the budgets and the technical side of artist hospitality which aren’t necessarily my biggest fortes in life. The rest of it was really just accepting and being myself, and that being myself makes me a good match in hospitality. Once I accepted the fact that it’s second nature to me and part of who I am to want to provide comfort, and that I was chosen for the role for a reason, that’s where everything started to fall in to place and first year sort of became a breeze.

Is there anything that you now, with your experiences, would want to say to that first year you?

Oooohhhh that’s a good one! I’d have a few words starting with : DO NOT be afraid to delegate as much as possible! People are volunteering because they want to help. Another big one, because I’m my own worst enemy, would be to not stress out when little things don’t come together as you imagined they would; for the most part touring bands are thrilled with any thoughtful home away from home touches and they had no idea what your original grand vision was anyway! Lastly, and a follow up on that one: don’t forego sleep and stay up until 5 a.m. the night before the festival making hard boiled eggs for a band’s rider wish of egg salad sandwiches. Just get the damn pre-cooked Costco eggs and take them out of the gross plastic package. They’ll never know your standards of quality and they will still get their sandwiches (mostly) freshly made.

What would you say is your favourite part of doing artist hospitality? 

Hands down—the comfort level  and the joy on artists’ faces that are here for the very first time, you know, those who have never experienced Up Here or Sudbury for that matter. For them to come in and to be able to watch them take it all in and look around in amazement at this wild little community that we have, this festival that we’ve put so much of our hearts and souls into, and having them truly appreciate what it is that we’re offering here in Sudbury and enjoying it for the experience that it is. My biggest source of pride is when the artists who come to perform on the first night fall face first into love and just don’t want to leave. This is what happened with WHOOP-Szo. There’s no better feeling than that for me. They end up staying for the entire weekend and you can see them taking in the other shows, going on the mural tour, coming in to their own here, and leaving telling you they can’t wait to make their way back. That for me, as the coordinator, is the epitome of what I do and my biggest source of pride. 

Do you have a rider (the list of creature comforts some artists send ahead of time) memory that was really strange or noteworthy? 

People ask me this often, but I have yet to get a crazy rider, you know like a what the fuck—pardon my language. I haven’t hit that yet. The one that provided me the most drive, mind you, was last year with Daniel Lanois. He requested a specific brand of cigarettes that are American. It was full of asterisked side notes, and I knew that some of the stuff was going to need a little extra work to provide ... but the way that it was worded and the approach of his management team made it a “hell yes, I’m going to find this stuff!” and I made it a little bit of a challenge for myself. I set out on a search to find American cigarettes, and it turns out that Marlboros are called Rooftops in Canada. For anyone out there who’s looking, the more you know. I called three or four different convenience stores until I found the damn things and drove out to pick them up. Sitting those cigarettes in his dressing room that night brought on such a sense of accomplishment, and I thought to myself “When he comes down here later tonight, he’s going to be so happy!” We ended up having the best chat, he’s a swell dude by the way, about his career path and his life down in LA. He was super appreciative with everything our team brought. That moment stands out to me for sure, I haven’t really run in to too much else. But I guess time will tell.

Do you have any personal festival must-haves? 

Honestly? This is going to sound really cheesy, but it’s the love and support of our core team. The Up Here team that first year … Well I was in a chapter in my life where I was a little bit lost and feeling a little bit alone, and meeting this group of people gave me a sense of community and a sense of family again. Without them, without the moments of it is 3 o’clock and we’re all stressed out lets huddle at HQ and talk it out and hug it out and cry it out—if I didn’t have that core group of team members and moments, I don’t know, some days would definitely be harder than others. But just knowing that we have each other to check in with and to really understand that we’re all sometimes on the verge of rolling up in a ball and crying if mayhem strikes, knowing that we’re not alone and truly supporting is all I need to bounce back and make it through the next step, or move forward with what we have to do and make the festival happen. Having said that, HQ is the place where we get to regroup, figure it out, and head back out without any of those moments being too public. It’s nice to have that feeling of home throughout the festival.

Do you have a most memorable moment from your festival experiences?

Yes. Last year at The Grand: Jeremy Dutcher. I’ve been to a lot of special shows, but I’ve never been as emotionally impacted like I was from that specific set. I came up from the green room, the show had just started and walked up to the main area next to the stage and recall the packed theatre was dead silent. I looked around and could see tears streaming down faces, hands being held, and people hugging. It was such a moment of pure beauty shared among so many people, where I don’t know that any performance will ever match that. It rings in my heart anytime I think about it. 

Do you have any survival foods that get you through your weekend? 

I honestly don’t know that I eat throughout the festival, so I don’t have any tips for this. I sort of just go during the festival. My fuel is my drive to provide the best experience for the artists who are coming in to town. I know that’s cheesy, but I probably have to be stopped and told to eat. 

So for all the folks reading this, if you see a running Célyne, or anyone throughout the festival for that matter, give ‘em a little snack pack, or a wheel of cheese, or share some love in the form of food. 

If you see me walking by just throw food at my mouth. Hopefully it’ll make it in.

Sara Gibson