Friday, October 07, 2005

Vegoose predicted to have "national impact"

From Business Press:

Music festival could have national impact
BY ARNOLD M. KNIGHTLYBUSINESS PRESS Pat Christenson and Darren Libonati believe the time is right for a Las Vegas music festival that they hope will become an annual signature event.As president of Las Vegas Events and director of Sam Boyd Stadium, respectively, the duo want to present a musical extravaganza that will bring a certain type of music fan to the area with money to spend during a traditionally slow tourist time. Experts in recruiting and hosting "Super Bowl-type" events that involve motors or animals believe there is a musical void that could be filled and bring music fans by the tens of thousands from across the country."We are really looking at niche-type events," Christenson said. "When you look at what Las Vegas has been doing musically, this was a kind of market that hadn't been tested.
Dave Matthews on the stage of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June. Matthews is scheduled to perform this month at the first annual Vegoose Festival.
"We wanted to find a time when it would help the city. That worked out great for us in terms of a weekend that is good for the city and because this crowd likes to travel."Scheduled for Halloween weekend, the Vegoose Music Festival will center on a two-day spectacle at Sam Boyd Stadium featuring well-known artists such as Dave Matthews and Beck, as well as many mainstream music fans have never heard. With 28 bands scheduled to play on four stages Oct. 29-30, promoters are hoping to draw as many as 50,000 fans each day.Also scheduled are late-night performances Oct. 28-31 at the Aladdin Theater, Thomas & Mack Center, Orleans Arena, The Joint in the Hard Rock and the House of Blues by many artists who are also playing the stadium."If we can turn the turnstiles and fill up the seats, we know the business model will take care of itself," Libonati said. "I do know this is an affluent group of people because just to get to Las Vegas these people will have had to spend $1,000 already to get here."While the first three weekends of October are strong tourist draws, the Halloween weekend has traditionally been a challenge, according to Christenson. A recent exception was when the defunct jam-band Phish's 1998 concert brought 19,000 fans to the Thomas & Mack for a four-hour Halloween performance."The spirit of the attendees is such a great one that we'll see many of them having fun dressed up," Libonati said. "We've seen it with our Phish dates and not one person in the entire city knew we were there except the Phish fans. We'll probably see a couple thousand Elvises."The promoters are the team of A.C. Entertainment and Superfly Productions. For the past four Junes, they have co-produced the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.Held on 700 acres of rural farm land, the endeavor made $13.3 million with more than 76,000 attendees this past June, according to Billboard magazine. Rolling Stone magazine says Bonnaroo has been "hailed by fans and critics for its near-flawless logistics, peaceful vibe and progressive lineup.""Financial-wise, it has meant something to us," said Coffee County Mayor Ray Johnson. "A lot of people will stop outside the city and get supplies. We get sales tax off the vendors that sell stuff during the concert, and that means probably a quarter of a million dollars to the county.""Bonnaroo looked like something we could customize and bring to Vegas," Christenson said. "We wanted something a little unique for Vegas and we left that up to them. They did a good job of putting together the program, the acts and the event. We want our own unique music festival in Las Vegas."The courting process started three years ago when the duo flew to Tennessee and began working to convince the two Southeast-based companies to bring a festival west."If you look at Las Vegas as a market, it doesn't need a lot of help musically," Christenson said. "All of the properties do a good job competing for what is out there."As an example, U2, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney all play at the MGM Grand in November. Beyond Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and Beck, other Vegoose performers, such as The Arcade Fire, Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio, The String Cheese Incident, Talib Kweli and Blackalicious appeal to a niche market with a strong Internet following.Supported by chat rooms and Web logs, many of the bands are followed religiously. Fans swap show tapes and compact discs, post set lists from concerts, coordinate travel plans and follow the ever-changing landscape of the music scene, all via the Internet.This devotional activity is rooted in the fan base of the Grateful Dead. But this is a distinctly different generation and type of fan than those who followed the Dead around the country."There is a tremendous amount of musical diversity in the lineup," A.C. Entertainment owner Ashley Capps said.Dave Matthews is one of the top touring acts every summer, but he has only headlined once in Las Vegas, in a series of concerts at Sam Boyd Stadium in May 2001. During the festival, he will play the Aladdin one night and the stadium another giving fans two opportunities to see him."Without the Vegoose event, Dave Matthews would have never played a nightcap at the Aladdin under any other circumstances," Libonati said. "He's a stadium guy and that is what makes this event so unique."Superfly Productions started out based in New Orleans, producing shows during the city's jazz festival and Mardi Gras in the late 1990s. Knoxville, Tenn.-based A.C. Entertainment promotes mainly in that college town, owning a theater and producing a successful free-concert series during the summer. In 2002, the two companies combined resources to create Bonnaroo. After being approached with the Las Vegas idea three years ago, the partnership agreed to become involved in the project."We know Vegas is a great destination city and we put on destination events," Superfly co-owner Rick Farman said. "A lot of acts we work with and are on the festival have a nice history in Vegas, especially during special events times like Halloween and New Year's Eve."Said Capps: "(Christenson and Libonati) are great partners because they really understand what this is all about. They already have the infrastructure in place that is able to support us. They are great partners in making this event a reality."Tickets are sold separately for the satellite concerts, with people holding stadium tickets receiving first rights of purchase. Five of the 11 citywide shows, many of which are scheduled to start around midnight, sold out to festival ticket holders before the public sale began on Oct. 1. Eight of the performers are also scheduled to play the festival part of the event.One of the major differences between the two festivals is at Bonnaroo most of the attendees camp out at the festival site.There will be no camping allowed at Sam Boyd. According to Johnson, Coffee County has only 1,600 hotel rooms, mostly taken up by the promoters and bands. With a regular population of nearly 50,000 for the county, the festival grounds become the sixth-largest city in the state of Tennessee over that June weekend.Johnson took office as county mayor three months after the first Bonnaroo. He describes the two promoters as "pretty good to work with" and that they have "been getting things done like they're supposed to." He praises them for working with the local and state government to help with traffic and the people attending the festival."I had some different opinions about it, but I talked with some ministerial associations," Johnson said. "If they were all right with it, I decided I could live with it.""Creating the Bonnaroo Music Festival is like creating a small city," Capps said. "We have to bring our own infrastructure, our own security system. We bring in the power, we bring in the water. There's nothing there."We're still going to have a festival environment but we're not going to have a camping environment at all. Vegas is already a city so it gives us a different set of opportunities because Vegas has so much to offer. We don't have to set up a network necessary to support 80,000 people camping."Most ticket purchases have been coming from out of state, mostly from California. New York has bought the fifth-most tickets as a market. According to Libonati, the Las Vegas market has only sold about 3,000 tickets but he feels more locals will buy closer to the dates."The whole purpose is to fill hotel rooms and create a synergy for the city that all the entertainment venues can appreciate," Libonati said. "Because this crowd is such a mellow crowd, we don't anticipate any issues whatsoever."aknightly@lvpress.com 702-871-6780 x316

What: Vegoose Music Festival

When: Oct. 28-31

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium and other venues around the city

Who: Dave Matthews and Friends, Widespread Panic, Beck, Jack Johnson, The Arcade Fire, Primus and many more

Cost: Tickets to the two-day stadium event are $128.50, before fees, with a limited number of VIP tickets available for $442.50. The shows around town are sold separately.

Info & Tickets: www.vegoose.com

What Does "Vegoose" Mean: According to Superfly's Rick Farman, nothing. "It's just a fun word. One of the guys on our staff was using it. He was calling it that and it just stuck."

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