By Jane Spietz
The 29th season of Waterfest is upon us at the beautiful Leach Amphitheater. The Scene recently sat down with Waterfest President Mike Dempsey to talk about the bands, the venue, and all things Waterfest.
Jane Spietz: Waterfest 29 will bring another summer packed with great music and we are ready to rock ‘n’ roll! Give us the story on this year’s lineup.
Mike Dempsey: The three premium nights featuring: The Under The Sun Tour with Blues Traveler, Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray and Uncle Kracker on Thursday, July 17th, Ted Nugent with The Kings on Saturday, July 26th and our finale’ with America on Friday, August 22 set this season apart from others.
JS: What Waterfest “nuggets” should fans be watching out for this concert season?
MD: The Sam Llanas Band (of the BoDeans) will join us on opening night, Paul Sanchez (Cowboy Mouth) is bringing in a rock unit with two other CBM alumni this year, the Valley’s own The Guilty Wanted are making some noise and Rockford’s critically
acclaimed Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts make a first appearance. Look for a sizzling, jaw dropping set from The Traveling Suitcase and also Canadian rockers, The Kings, make a rare US appearance and having everyone “Switchin To Glide.”
JS: What was the rationale behind lowering the number of Waterfest dates to eight?
MD: Quality. We are spending more on artist fees this season and condensing them into targeted dates throughout the summer. The dates selected allow Waterfest to compliment other events in the process. We have five Thursdays, including a Waterfest Weekend and a Waterfest Back2Back finale’. This also helps us focus our marketing resources to elevate awareness there as well.
JS: Give us the details about this year’s pricing and admission policy.
MD: Waterfest is about value and accessibility in a world class venue.
We are offering five dates with 2 for 1 admission before 6PM. You can get in and cozy up to the front of the stage for less than the price of a movie ticket and experience The Gin Blossoms, Los Lonely Boys, Sister Hazel and Hairball! How good is that? The three premium nights offer general admission for $20 or less to see Ted Nugent, America and The Under The Sun Tour. These shows are going for more than twice that around the country. We are also offering reserved special patio access experience to those shows sold in advance for a few more dollars. Our Season Pass gets you in to all eight shows at any time, including the Reserved Special Patio area for Under The Sun, Ted Nugent and America for just $100 ($175 Value). As in the past Waterfest takes pride providing FREE Admission to US Veteran’s at anytime for all shows. Teachers are free with school ID on opening night June 19th. Another rare concert benefit of Waterfest is that we continue to allow fans to leave and reenter. So come early, pay less and head over to some great gathering places along the river and in town.
JS: What’s in store for hungry and thirsty Waterfest attendees?
MD: We offer a wine bar, a specialty craft beer bar, tasty Glass Nickel Pizza and an assortment of sandwiches. Try the pulled pork, it’s deelish! We will also offer gluten free beer again this summer.
JS: The Waterfest FaceBook page continues to grow and thrive. Fans appreciate having an open forum and it’s a great way to provide updates.
MD: The FaceBook helps us a lot. Some of the changes as well as the band choices are a direct result of fan recommendations. We also use it to communicate band start times and in real time when weather is iffy. Fans exchange hotel, dining, bar and parking recommendations and fans share Waterfest photos as well. The raves and rants can be colorful as well. It toughens the skin.
JS: What effect do you feel the opening of the new Oshkosh Premium Waterfront Hotel had on 2013 attendance?
MD: The Hotel and the River Walk are spectacular. Access from the Leach Amphitheater to Fratellos is a short bike ride covering a half dozen watering holes on the way. The Waterfest Navy is back in full force. They love the improved facilities along the riverwalk. Dockside “Whale-Gateing” is very festive and part of Waterfest’s charm. Watch for “Between The Bridges” outdoor music coming this summer too!
JS: Any last words of wisdom about Waterfest 29 for concertgoers?
MD: Come early and pay less when you do. Stay late & get more! Also, keep some rain gear and a few layers in the car. Weather can change when the sun goes down. With reentry privileges you can stash gear in your car and go get it when you need it. Log on to www.waterfest.org for start times, band links, sponsor links and join the FaceBook community.
It’s your summer to rock, do it at Waterfest! Thanks Jane!ν
Jane Spietz is a community activist and social worker who loves music.
Tis the season of summer music festivals! Dan Liebhauser, promoter of Country USA and Rock USA, has given us the scoop on their respective events.
Jane Spietz: Hi Dan. After an incredibly long, hard winter, Country USA and Rock USA fans are chomping at the bit to come out to hear some megastar talent at the Ford Festival grounds in June and July! What was the total 2013 attendance for the two events respectively?
Dan Liebhauser: The attendance in 2013 for Country USA was 152,673, and for Rock USA, it was 107,914. Country USA is already sold out for this year and the projected five day attendance for 2015 is 180,000. Rock USA four day attendance for 2015 is projected to be 115,000.
Country USA 2015 will mark the largest attendance in 20 years! Fans need to be advised to get there as early as possible as huge traffic will really slow things down.
JS: Have there been any festival policy changes for this year?
DL: We have greatly increased the talent budgets for both Country USA and Rock USA. We have increased Rock USA by $100,000 and Country USA by $350,000.
JS: The website stated that there will be big ticket changes are happening. Please expand on this.
DL: We have reduced the number of comp and trade tickets. In many cases they have been eliminated. However, we have been careful to keep our ticket pricing as low as possible. Both Country USA and Rock USA offer some of the lowest ticket prices in the nation.
JS: It was amazing to hear that Country USA’s general admission seats have been sold out. Your thoughts on what this says about the festival and its fans.
DL: As I stated, we have increased the talent budget to allow us to bring in some of biggest world class names in the business such as Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line. Our fans responded with a sell-out. General Admission tickets are sold out. Camping has been sold out for two months. Country Club is sold out. Reserved Silver is sold out. There are still a handful of VIP and Reserved Gold yet available. And Rock USA isn’t far behind!
JS: How important is fan input to you?
DL: Fan input is the key to festival success. It’s a no brainer! All we have to do is keep our finger on the pulse of what the fans want… and book it!
JS: What an honor it must have been for your wife Cher, who is also your business partner, to have been featured on the cover of Women Magazine last year. Please comment on that experience and the reporting on how your festivals came to be.
DL: My wife Cher, is my soul mate and my business partner. Far too often, our fans think that I am Country USA and Rock USA, but guess what? That could not be farther from the truth. These events were built by hand as a team. And she deserves the limelight of credit Women Magazine gave her. The festivals are now coming up on 20 years, and considering the fact that we are together 24/7 and still enjoy being together and making it all happen, says a great deal about our partnership. We were doing a lot of arena shows across the nation and were literally burning out and looked for something closer to home. So here we are 20 years later! Love it!
JS: Looking ahead to 2015, what are your plans to top this year’s events?
DL: Our plans for 2015 are really very simple. Don’t try to fix a thing! Build on exactly what we have done this year. Next year we plan on kicking it up even higher. We will be spending $2.6 million on talent! Some of the acts are already booked and I can tell you, 2015 will sell out even quicker than 2014. We will be cutting back even more on the freebies and trade tickets. Fans need to get their tickets and campsites early and at the lowest prices so they don’t miss out. ν
Jane Spietz is a community activist and social worker who loves music.