Jan Smeets and the art of letting go

It has become Pinkpop’s great strength: You can see the biggest bands in full uniform with complete productions. It’s an incredible task. In the sixth episode of Blue M & M’s, John Mulder explains the superhuman performance behind the scenes. As an example, he mentions Rammstein, who joined in 2016 with all the bombs and grenades. Tricks full of stage parts, a squirting cock, fireworks with which one could arm the Ukrainian army. So when the show is over at eleven o’clock in the evening, the crew must break things down as quickly as possible, for at four o’clock in the morning Paul McCartney arrives with several trucks on the spot. They work all night long to get it all done enough to let the first people get back on site at. 11.00.

‘Something else played a role behind’, says Jan Smeets. ‘The introduction of dance. It was also an attack on the production team, always a lot of hassle. ‘
Niek: ‘We misjudged it in the beginning. In rock ‘n roll, the acts take their own production with them. In dance, they want you to pay for the production on top of the fee. If you do not pay attention, you will end up with double what you paid for an action. ‘
Jan: ‘There have been many changes. Sometimes you think: nothing ever happens in a human life. But at some point, we started having problems with American festivals, unthinkable. But thanks to Leon Ramakers, we got Paul McCartney, Springsteen twice, Stones, for hell. We really took advantage of that. Mojo was also owned by Live Nation. You can not live without it. You could say: I do not. But that’s not how it works’.

The problem with the big headlines is: There are not that many. Still, for example, Coachella had three young headliners with Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and the Swedish House Mafia.
Jan: ‘I’ve been out watching such acts a couple of times on Pukkelpop. Billie Eilish, I thought it was really awful. Then you notice: as you get older you stop. I’ve always thought: no, I’m just growing with my audience. But at some point, you hear the names of groups, for hell’s dude. At first I thought: I was too preoccupied with the overall production of the site that everything was well distributed. I think our Sunday should have had another headliner, right? Imagine Dragons, not my type of music. ‘
Niek: ‘That’s your personal opinion, Jan.’
Jan: ‘But is it sold out?’
Niek: ‘It’s the least busy day with 60,000 tickets.’
Jan: ‘Oh, sixty, that’s quite a lot. But has Rob tried to get another act out in the meantime? ‘
Niek: ‘No, that’s not possible.’
Jan: ‘I always have some healthy trouble with Rob Trommelen, who does the programming. Then I say: you need to play less golf and watch more at other pop festivals. Twenty years ago I said I wanted Dolly Parton, so why is it at Glastonbury? So there are a few more things. Why did we never go after Bob Dylan? No, says Leon Ramakers, we no longer need that crow. I say: Leon, it’s a hero, man! He can go 100 percent crazy on Pinkpop as long as it’s there. Hell man, that’s unbelievable! ‘

The generation you love the most is slowly dying out, Jan.
Jan: ‘Yes, I’m now playing Tom Petty at home, we once had that. Oh boy, what music. Boy, kid. Is no longer. I thought Hennie Vrientens was awful, and George Kooymans right away. And then you can not even say goodbye. Those people really meant a lot to the company. That’s one thing, for hell. Golden Earring, I played forty concerts with it. In Rodahal, Donkiesjot. I still want to go to a concert with Barry Hay. ‘
Niek: ‘I do not think it was such a success in Roda Hallen, jan. There were fewer people than usual at the Golden Earring itself. ‘
Jan: “Oh it’s a shame.”

This is typical of Jan Smeets, a loyal man in an industry that is constantly racing. Faithful to the bands it started with. Loyal to Urbanus, whose leader he has been for forty years. Loyal to Leon Ramakers, the ancestor of Mojo Concerts, who has not been officially employed by the company for years, but who still mediates the most important deals for Pinkpop. Loyal to the family businesses in the region that helped him with the first walkie-talkies in the 1970s and still stands for part of the security. ‘Many who work for Pinkpop have a permanent job or their own business during the year. Then they take time off for Pinkpop. One is behind the bar at the weekend, the other comes for three weeks to carry fences.

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