Local artists protest new St. Louis music fests

Written by Muleskinner Staff

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Protests by some local musicians worried that an out-of-town promoter will run roughshod over the city’s rich musical and cultural heritage aren’t keeping St. Louis’ elected leaders from tentatively embracing a pair of planned summer music festivals that promoters say could attract fans from across the country.

Summer Rocks LLC wants to lease the Soldiers Memorial area downtown for a large country music festival over Memorial Day weekend and a Labor Day weekend rock concert.
The company is owned by the Los Angeles talent agency ICM Partners, which books some of the country’s biggest festivals, including Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lollapalooza and South by Southwest.
After reviewing a slew of amendments that among other changes boost the minimum requirement for participation by local businesses, a Board of Aldermen committee voted Wednesday to approve a 10-year contract with the LA promoter, and a 10-year renewal option.
“I’m much more confident that this is more narrowly and appropriately crafted,” said Alderman Scott Ogilvie, vice chairman of the Convention, Tourism, Arts and Humanities committee.
The vote came after 15 people spoke against a proposal they said could damage more home-grown local efforts, including the LouFest concert in Forest Park, which takes place in early September. The concert contract still requires full board approval. If approved, the St. Louis events would begin in 2015.
The initial deal called for the city to receive $400,000 from each festival for providing municipal services as well as much as $1.5 million per festival from fees on ticket sales for the first 10 years of the proposed 20-year deal.
An online petition to “Stop Festival Bill 328” has attracted more than 1,600 signatures since it was launched Sunday night, local blues musician Jeremy Segel-Moss told the committee members. Opponents of the events said the concessions don’t do enough to embrace the true spirit of St. Louis.
“Why aren’t they trying to capitalize on our rich musical heritage?” said Kari Liston, lead singer of the Bottom Up Blues Gang. “And more importantly, why aren’t you?”
Randy Freedman, senior director of business and legal affairs at ICM, said the city, its bars and businesses will substantially benefit from the two events.
“There’s going to be a spillover of music fans into the streets hungry for something to do,” he said. “And this city can take care of them.”
Other contract revisions include changes to a non-compete clause that city officials say shouldn’t harm local events. But the change comes too late for local promoter Entertainment St. Louis, which recently decided to move two of its popular downtown festivals, Taste of St. Louis and Bluesweek, to Chesterfield.
Company president Mike Kociela has said the move to suburban St. Louis was driven by the city’s courtship of the national promoter. The local blues festival took place on Memorial Day weekend in the same location where Summer Rocks hopes to occupy.