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Mix Blog: Keeping Things Eventful

2023 is going to be a big summer for events -- so let's consider what eventful actually means.

Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.’
Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.’

The story of the day my sister Bitta was born will be told for generations in the Kenny family, embellished slightly in each re-telling, no doubt, but with a baseline of a few irrefutable facts. First, my mom was in the Jasper County Hospital, having gone into labor early that morning. Second, my brother Mike, in the third grade, also went to the hospital, having just had a hard-plastic playground swing come back at maximum speed and knock out all of his front teeth. Third, there were six children in the kitchen under the age of 12, being watched after school by family-friend Barbara Ryan, who was at the electric stove when it caught on fire and flames leaped to the ceiling.

Dad was at work when he got a call from the hospital, not pausing to listen to the message. He rushed over thinking he had a new baby girl and was greeted by his bloody 8-year-old son. He didn’t yet know about the stove. It was one of those afternoons that led to one of those evenings where, once the dishes were done and the kids were in bed, the parents might decide to have a nightcap on a school night, sink into the couch with a sigh, and say to one another: “Well, that sure was an eventful day!”

Fifteen years later, there was a Thanksgiving that nearly rivaled the Bitta birth day, involving, once again, mom in the hospital, dad returning from an early morning 10K run with a painful, twisted ankle (two brothers helping him walk), grandparents drinking Manhattans and a sister, wearing shorts, who pulled a pan of sweet potatoes out of the oven and directly into her lap, letting out a scream that shook the house.

If a newspaper notes that last night the City Council meeting was “eventful,” I think of screaming parents wielding pitchforks; at the very least, it’s likely that not much business took place. If it’s reported that it was an “eventful night in Oakland,” I’m guessing that it’s not a story about a surprise parade or a group of social workers handing out meals.

Mix Live Blog: A Different Perspective

We usually associate “eventful” with the idea of unexpected or jarring elements packed into a day, a week or a month; it doesn’t matter. The feeling is that you have somehow dodged a bullet and can now shake your head and say, “Shwew!”

I, however, tend to be a glass-half-full kind of guy. To me, “eventful” is a full eight-hour day at Magic Mountain, followed by two hours at a waterpark to cool down, then a stop at a favorite restaurant, maybe even an ice cream, on the way home. Or the first day of a week in New York, where you hit MOMA in the morning, lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen, swing by the Museum of Natural History in the afternoon, stop by the hotel to change before a Broadway show, finishing up with a late dinner down in The Village. Now that is an eventful day! I must get that sense of optimism from my mother’s side; her memoir is titled Celebrate Everything.

I say all this because now, finally, in the summer of 2023, it seems that Events Are Truly Back. When the world casually noted that the pandemic dealt a catastrophic blow to “events,” we tended to focus on the big events like concert tours, trade shows, Apple product launches, football games or the Olympics. The scale seemed too big to fathom. But it was also every wedding date, family reunion, club meeting, back-to-school night, library reading hour or studio opening. Each of the studios featured in our Class of 2023 was able to have a real opening party this year. To their owners, that’s just as big a deal as the return of the in-arena audience to the NBA playoffs. Every major concert tour that announced a Bay Area date for this summer seemed to announce a second, then a third date soon after. Try booking a wedding in June for the next three years; it’s pretty crowded. Look at the cost of flights these days. People are on the move, people are going to events again. Mix has a big immersive music event in Nashville one week after I write this, and it has filled up with engineers eager to be back in the room. I know that the return of events really began last summer, but I consider that a trial run. This summer, it’s real.

We have to be careful in how we measure the success of those anchor events in our business or personal lives. Take trade shows, for instance. We are now measuring the success on the creeping increase in numbers, the goal being “back to pre-pandemic levels.” Well, in some cases, that might be an accurate gauge, but the world has changed and we may have to find new metrics to measure the success of an event. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Yes, NAMM numbers were down. I happened to have a great show.

It’s not the physical location or setup that makes a good event also an eventful one. It’s the feeling you get as you come away from the event, whatever it may be, and re-enter your normal world. I don’t have any real memories of the day my sister was born except an image of the stove fire that still lives in my head—but I do remember the feeling pretty well. The feeling of controlled chaos, uncertainty and the underlying tension that can fill a home when things are noticeably out of whack, but nobody really knows what’s going on. I remember that it felt kind of exciting. It was certainly “eventful.”