LouFest is over, but the discussion about it continues. Though receipts are still being counted, LouFest organizer Brian Cohen and company are estimating that 8 to 9,000 people attended the first ever event. Not bad for an inaugural festival which took place on the same weekend as Festival of Nations and another first-year music festival, Bluesweek.
"I think there's just the sense that we tapped into something," Cohen says. "We created an event that just felt right, whether you were out front or on stage. We came into it thinking we were were prepared, and I came into it knowing I had a great group around me, but you just don't know whether that would come together day of. To see everything click and to see our hard work actually come to life was really an amazing experience for me and everyone involved.
"One of my favorite things I heard -- or overheard, actually -- was 'Aren't first year festivals supposed to have a learning curve?'...It seems like we got it right right out of the gate."
And get it right they did. The complaints were piddling and far between. At the festival itself, there was room to spread out, and never before has there been a festival where attendees would leave their places in front of the stage to properly dispose of their Schlafly cups and Bud Light Lime bottles in conveniently located recycling receptacles. The best part? You could actually get back to your spot without throwing elbows.
"I hope that we continue to sell more tickets as this festival grows," says Contemporary Productions' Jeff Jarrett, who did LouFest's artist booking. "The good news is, I don't think we have a lot to change. I think the experience was really pleasant, all the bands were appropriate, they sounded really good, everyone was well organized and the staff was friendly, it was just a really good vibe in Forest Park."
Cohen said the artists were just as pleased with the festival as the fans, noting that many of the performers stuck around to see out the day, and several who played Saturday come back for a second helping on Sunday.
"The bands said it was a really nice experience for them, that it felt like the people were having fun," Cohen says. "And that extended backstage as well."
Jarrett too was gratified with the response from artists. "That was probably my favorite part, someone from every single band that played has either emailed or texted me or called me to say what a great time they had," he says. "It goes even further back to their managers and agents, I've never I've never gotten such a great response from a show before."
Though we've barely had time to decoupage our LouFest wristbands into our diaries, Cohen and his team are already gearing up for LouFest Year Two. "We're looking to expand the range of bands that we invite in terms of genre," Cohen says. "And we're looking to grow the festival to either more stages or more days--those are things we'll be talking about over the next few months."
Word has gotten out about LouFest already--while the organizers had to sell bands on LouFest this year, they're already fielding requests from bands across the country to get on the bill for next year.
"There are a lot of people who have put themselves in the queue to play this thing," Jarrett says. "I've got a lot of ideas that I hope work out, we're just going to see what the schedules for these artists are going to be like in August of next year."
Cohen said that LouFest will be soliciting feedback in the coming weeks from this year's attendees.
"That will be a theme that we extend long term, reaching out to our fans and getting their input on the lineup, the food vendors, the things they enjoyed, and most importantly, the things that we can do better," said Cohen. "I think the general impression is that this was executed very well, but there are always things we can do to make the experience that much better."