ALTHOUGH The 16th largest city in America, Indianapolis has never managed to host a major music festival with any stamina. As nearby festivals such as Forecastle in Louisville and Lollapalooza in Chicago have mushroomed over the years, music lovers in central Indiana have been forced to travel hours away for a world-class festival experience. .
With years of Indy gig bookings under his belt, MOKB Presents partner Dan Kemer was fully aware of this when he entered into talks with longtime friend Denny Young to host a music festival here. Young’s Cleveland-based Elevation Group has helped launch successful festivals in Cleveland (WonderStruck) and Columbus (WonderBus) for the past seven years.
“I said to him, ‘Look, Indianapolis lacks a real festival. If you’re interested, MOKB Presents has a pretty good beat on the town. With my connections, I can help with the booking, but we have to go further,” Kemer recalls.
After mutually agreeing last summer that Indianapolis would be a good destination for Elevation Group to start their next event, Kemer and Young quickly got to work putting together the WonderRoad music festival. They convinced Vampire Weekend and Lord Huron to headline the thing. Then they got support groups such as Bastille, Chvrches, 81355 and others to complete the lineup.
As Kemer and Young pondered the perfect location to host the festival, Garfield Park quickly rose to the top of the list. MOKB Presents had experience hosting events like Holler on the Hill there, and it seemed like the right fit. “We started by asking Dan to provide us with locations that could accommodate the number of people we anticipated,” says Young. “We needed a place that people knew, and when we did site surveys, we all agreed that Garfield Park was the place to launch.”
From June 11-12, thousands of people will flock to the south side park for a weekend of shows. In keeping with the vibe of their other festivals, Elevation Group intends to host a family-friendly, laid-back event at WonderRoad. “Our goal is to host events with a laid-back vibe,” says Young. “No crazy anxiety. You just spent some time.
The organizers hope it will be a success, but you don’t expect to get rich right away. Elevation Group already has loose plans for the second year.
“In Cleveland, we are entering the seventh year. In Columbus, we are entering the fourth year,” says Young. “All these commitments must be made with a long-term perspective. You will never make money the first year. It takes time to build the brand and bring people to come. We are therefore committed to the Indianapolis market. We want to go all the way. »
3 essential groups
WonderRoad co-founder Denny Young showcases a few artists at this year’s festival that he’s particularly looking forward to.
“I have never seen them in concert. And Ohio’s most credible music magazine, Cleveland Scene, called their 2019 performance one of the top 50 gigs of the past 50 years.
“They make really good world pop songs. They remind me of Duran Duran, which was an international act. With Bastille, I think it works in New Zealand, it works in South Africa and it works in America.
“It’s about a group of high school kids from Ohio who are led by this outrageous 17-year-old girl with green hair. They’re on Sirius XM’s Faction Punk station. I think they’re going to blow the minds of people. Indianapolis people.