Columbus has brought in multiple big-name music festivals in recent years. The country’s premier hard rock get-together, Rock on the Range, calls Mapfre Stadium home, while Fashion Meets Music and Breakaway also bring prominent artists to Ohio’s capital.
And now PromoWest, one of the city’s most active concert promoters and primary operator of the Newport Music Hall, EXPRESS LIVE!, the Basement and A&R Music Bar, is getting in on the action by hosting its first festival.
Friday through Sunday, PromoWest Productions will host the inaugural PromoWest Fest at McFerson Commons in downtown Columbus. Two stages will stand at opposite ends of the commons, which is set to be populated by fans, food trucks and a beer garden.
The lineup is filled with popular names on the festival circuit. The Flaming Lips, whose eccentric and psychedelic live show has hit up nearly every major American music festival, headlines Friday night. Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J will each bring decades of hip-hop classics to the stage on Saturday and alternative staples Modest Mouse and Brand New play Sunday night.
The lineup may seem impressive for the debut edition of a festival, but PromoWest already has experience booking large-scale festivals, having hosted the Bunbury and Buckle Up music festivals in Cincinnati.
“We really wanted to start out big,” said Marissa Luther, marketing director at PromoWest. “Most of the artists are artists we work with fairly often. Modest Mouse comes around every other year, we had Snoop at Bunbury last year. We wanted to showcase some of the higher level bands we’ve had in our outdoor space.”
But with a total of 38 acts on the bill, there is plenty to be found beyond the headliners. Singer-songwriter Ryan Adams is set to bring his country-inspired sound to the stage on Friday and synth-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums is set to end its hiatus. Alunageorge will bring her electropop sound on Saturday in addition to pop punks All Time Low and rapper Mac Miller. Blues-rockers J. Roddy Walston and the Business perform on Sunday, in contrast to heavy rock band, Garbage.
Each day of the festival will close with sets by local artists on the After-Party Stage at A&R Music Bar. Copywrite, Nick D’ and the Believers, Forest and the Evergreens, The Worn Flints and Way Yes are all taking part.
Way Yes has become a regular at Columbus festivals since forming in 2010, and bassist and singer Glenn Davis said nothing compares to hometown shows.
“In town always feels the best for us,” Davis said. “We have built up a bit of a fanbase, so we know we’ll have a crowd at any show.”
Nick D’Andrea, frontman of Nick D’ and the Believers, said his band’s inclusion in the festival lineup is a “huge honor.”
“We heard rumblings about the fest, and we were really hopeful we’d get to be a part of it,” D’Andrea said. “PromoWest has always been really cool about supporting local acts.”
PromoWest Productions was founded in 1984, when Ohio State alum Scott Stienecker purchased the former Columbus Agora and renamed it the Newport Music Hall. In the more than 30 years since, the Newport has hosted musical acts such as Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam and The Ramones.
Along the way, PromoWest acquired venues around Columbus and became the Midwest’s largest privately owned concert promotion company, according to its website. But it didn’t consider hosting a festival until after it purchased the Bunbury and Buckle Up music festivals.
“In late 2014 we purchased two fests in Cincinnati, so Columbus was sort of put on the backburner,” Luther said. “But we decided in 2016 the time was right to bring one to Columbus.”
D’Andrea said he thinks having a wide variety of acts on the bill is what makes festivals special, PromoWest included.
“Last year at Fashion Meets Music we were playing when Ludacris’ set ended, and a lot of his crowd walked by and joined ours,” he said. “Festivals are a great opportunity to branch out to new fans.”
McFerson Park is located at 218 West St., marked on the north by the Old Union Train Station arch. Three-day passes are sold out, but single-day passes are still available through PromoWest Fest’s website.