LouFest announces new partnership, expansion

Only a few years ago, the idea of holding a major music festival in Forest Park was nothing more than one Washington University professor’s whim.

But when the organizers of LouFest recently announced that they will be collaborating on next year’s festival with C3 Presents, the production company behind Lollapalooza, they cemented a vision of taking the festival past a small-scale local event.

The expansion plans announced on Sept. 18 look to add more artists and stages and hopefully generate a larger crowd for the fall festival.

“The partnership brings resources to the table and gives us access to [C3’s] experience and expertise,” said Brian Cohen, the Washington University professor who founded LouFest three years ago. “The result will be a bigger festival in every way, from the number of bands and stages to the size of the overall footprint.”

Cohen organized the first LouFest after realizing that waiting for someone else to do so was fruitless. He wasn’t in the music business but recognized Forest Park’s ability to be a perfect venue for a multi-day music festival. After arranging logistics with the park, Cohen assembled a team to help run the event with him and has been doing so for the last few years.

“At the end of last year, it became clear that we needed to grow to survive,” Cohen said. “So I reached out to C3 to see if they were interested in a partnership. They immediately understood the event, immediately understood what we were trying to do, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Cohen, other organizers of LouFest and C3 will be working together for the next several months to hash out details on how exactly to expand the festival.

“It’s safe to say we’ll experience a growth spurt next year, but we won’t get huge overnight,” Cohen said. “The growth will be managed.”

Another upcoming change for the festival will be the date, which will be pushed back two weeks from its customary date to Sept. 7 and 8, 2013. LouFest organizers hope this date will be better suited for both Washington University students and those of neighboring colleges.

“The festival has always been the weekend before Labor Day, but that’s also move-in weekend for Wash. U. and sometimes for [Saint Louis University], so it’s almost impossible for college students to participate,” Cohen said. “Freshmen are tied up with orientation and other students are just getting back into town. [Moving it back] allows students to get more involved.”

This year’s LouFest brought in a crowd of about 6,000 people; Cohen hopes this number will expand as the festival hosts more stages and artists.

C3 is behind several other renowned music festivals, such as Austin City Limits in Texas and Lollapalooza in Chicago.

“I’m happy [LouFest] is expanding because there’ll be higher quality bands and more of them, giving us more options to choose from,” sophomore Nathan Port said. “I do hope it’s able to retain its local flare, because I did like that it included a lot of smaller, St. Louis-specific things.”

Port expressed worry that small acts might be overshadowed by bigger names in the attempt to expand and that the festival might lose its focus on sustainability. He hopes the organizers will be able to maintain these aspects while expanding.

“I think it’d be awesome if somehow LouFest could organize for there to be more concerts afterwards in Forest Park because it’s a great location,” Port said. “If it’s a consistent thing for the headliner to play a show afterwards in the area, it’d be a draw for St. Louis.”

A two-day ticket for this year’s festival cost $70. With the addition of many new bands, many expect the cost of the festival to increase, though changes to the price have yet to be determined.

“I did like how cheap the tickets were for a music festival, but I think if LouFest is able to bring in a lot more and bigger names, an increased price will be worth it,” sophomore Masha Popelyukhina said.

The possible change in price will be finalized within the next few months and implemented for next year’s show.

“The goal has always been to grow LouFest into a major destination event, one that holds its own against other major festivals,” Cohen said. “This partnership gets us closer to that goal.”