Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: The Festival Lawyer


1. How did you go from regular law to festival & drug law?
I actually have a “real job”  as a law partner in my own criminal defense firm. It’s super satisfying and busy enough that I don’t have any need to use “The Festival Lawyer” to market for new clients.  I  write under “The Festival Lawyer” name in part because  I want people to understand that  I’m not their  lawyer and not trying to represent them.  I just really like music and festivals and believe that if I can  pass on some of the things that I know,  that it might make everyone feel a little safer and more empowered. The basic Festival Lawyer message is  that we can make festivals (and everywhere else, actually) better through Education, Empowerment and  Positivity. 

 2. What was your first party, how did you enter the scene?
I was a college radio DJ  and actually played parties as a DJ in the 80s.  The San Francisco Bay Area in the 80s was a very happening place for music. There were a ton of  clubs like “DV8” in SF where  they  would play dance remixes of New Wave, Goth and Techno music with music videos going on.  So that’s what I think of when it comes to my introduction to a “Dance Scene”. It was a very DIY and local scene. People would just hand out flyers to some travelling  warehouse party they were putting on that weekend.That’s how local it was.   Considering how it started as this small group of promoters and DJs it blows my mind what a global phenomenon EDM has become.It’s amazing. 
3. Any advice for festival goers on how to seek legal advice (besides hitting you up of course) for free or on the cheap for some of our less affluent readers?
A number of  groups like NORML and www.flexyourrights.com and the ACLU have good legal information sites. But honestly, there is a lack of quality legal resources for folks who want to just know their rights. That is one of the  main reasons  I started writing as “The Festival Lawyer”. 


4. How was your 2013? Any highlights you’d like to share?
2013 was great!  We had a group start their own “Festival Lawyer” program in Australia. We now have people interested in starting their  own FL  groups in Canada and the UK.   At the end of the year I started passing out “Tip Cards” at festivals. These are simple “What to do when stopped by the cops” checklists that festgoers can carry with them.  People loved these so much that we ended up having about a dozen people handing them out at various raves and festivals across the country.Also,  I got a chance to go to IMFCON (The International Music Festival Conference) in Austin and meet a lot  of the big names in the festival industry. That was amazing.  It was also super fun to have acts like  Excision and Portugal the Man send me these “Hey we like what you are doing” type of messages on Twitter.  But really there is nothing better for a writer than someone  coming up to  you at a festival or hitting you up on social media and saying “hey I read what you wrote and I really liked it”. Those kind of encounters were my biggest highlights. 
5. Conversely, do you have any big plans for 2014 that you want to announce or remind us of?
In 2014,  I really want to try different media formats for getting “Festival Law” information out to people. I’m going to put out some new and different  “Tip Cards”  and  infographics in the next few weeks.  Also, people have been asking about t-shirts so hopefully we will get those finished before festival season hits full steam. Of course, I’ll be doing more articles. I’ll be doing a few You Tube videos and a couple of podcasts. But mainly I’m just going to just walk the earth, meet people and get in  adventures. (yes that’s a Pulp Fiction reference)
6. Do you think we’ll see marijuana legalized in all 50 states for commercial use in our lifetime?
I think we really reached a “Tipping Point” this year with marijuana.  All of a sudden there has been a dramatic shift in public opinion on this issue. So my answer is yes,..probably. I think Colorado is going to be a wonderful test case. As long as you don’t see huge negative consequences coming  from legalization (like tons of marijuana DUIs, a big spike in crime, or studies showing more kids using it)  then I think other states will follow in Colorado’s footsteps. 


7. If you could speak directly to Attorney General Eric Holder, what changes would you advocate for in law surrounding drugs & dance music?
Honestly if I had a chance to talk to Eric Holder I would ask about marijuana.  I voted for Obama (twice) but I can’t figure out his marijuana policy.  I mean during Obama’s campaign he admitted smoking weed and had town hall meetings where he sort of gave the impression he might legalize it.  So everyone was thinking that the message was, “look be cool, let me get into office first. I can’t come right out and say it but I’m going to make it legal”. In 2009 they issued this memo at the Justice Department saying that state law on cannabis would be respected. So everyone is thinking, “okay, next step, legalization”. Then suddenly in 2011 there is this huge  crackdown by the US Attorney’s office and this new memo which is basically a  total retreat from everything they had said previously on pot. It really made zero  sense. Then last August they put out another memo saying “Just kidding. The Feds are totally fine with weed as long as you follow these certain 8 conditions”. So I would really love to ask Holder what’s with all these mixed messages and back and forth? I  don’t get why no one in the national press corp asks basic questions like this. Unfortunately, the mainstream press really can’t seem to adopt anything but a sort of jokey, smirky, “oh those wacky stoners” attitude about marijuana legalization in this country. 
8. If you could go to any festival in the world, where and why?
 I really  want to get to some festivals in other countries. I keep hearing amazing things about so many (Roskilde, Shambhala, Tomorrowland) but honestly I would probably pick Glastonbury because it’s kind of the grandfather of modern music fests and it has that “bucket list” feel to it. 

9. What are you listening to these days? Any favorite djs or artists?
I’m more of a guitar/indie guy so the big albums for me this last year were “AM” by Arctic Monkeys,  “Reflektor” by Arcade Fire and the Queens of The Stone Age album.  But what happens is some song will remind me how awesome Jack White or The Prodigy or Beastie Boys are and then Ill spend several days listening to older stuff. But in terms of the  more recent acts/DJs you are talking about…. I am a  Pretty Lights fan and really enjoyed “A Color Map of the Sun” remixes. Also,  I got a chance to see Disclosure and Holy Ghost! recently and thought they were fantastic live. Oh and I can’t go more than a few days without listening to a Smiths or Morrissey song. 
10. Besides your columns on Showbam, how can people read your stuff or contact you?
The best way is for people to follow me on Twitter or like my page on Facebook. I get too busy to do it sometimes but honestly, if you take the time to contact me on Twitter or Facebook, I will always try to respond. 


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