Festival of Mights
Author: Tara Alatorre
PRINT Issue: December, 2013, Page 38
Photo by Sam Nalven
FOLLOWING REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO STAGE A WINTER MUSIC FESTIVAL IN THE VALLEY, AN UPSTART PROMOTER IS POISED TO PULL OFF A SONIC SOIREE AT SALT RIVER FIELDS.
Jarid Dietrich is something of a mystery man. The 26-year-old founder of True Music Festival (TMF), kicking off its inaugural event at Salt River Fields on December 14, won’t reveal much about his past, the particulars of putting together the festival or the names of his investors. Even Pollstar, the concert industry’s leading trade publication, referred to TMF as “mysterious” when it announced the event in July.
What isn’t a mystery is the mild winter weather in Phoenix, which makes it one of few places in the country suited for an outdoor, off-season festival. Yet most local promoters who’ve tried to pull off a late-season answer to Coachella here have failed; the most recent flop was Liquid Sol (see sidebar). That Dietrich confirmed a flurry of national acts – including alternative rockers The Flaming Lips, rapper Wiz Khalifa, DJ Bassnectar and indie acts Lord Huron and Capital Cities – speaks to his savviness. But he’s not about to give away the secrets to his success.
Dietrich does reveal he grew up in Chicago, and says his uncle was a music producer. He’s lived in Scottsdale for seven years, and claims he’s spent his entire career in music promotion, with True Music Festival as his first foray into large-scale fests. He says he started organizing TMF almost two years ago. Reports filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission show Dietrich is the principal of King Me Management, LLC, in Scottsdale, registered on March 25, 2013 – just a month after the doomed Liquid Sol festival was announced.
Dietrich believes music fans in the Valley and elsewhere are hungry for a multi-act music festival in the late fall or winter, when the industry typically hibernates. Given that Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the U.S., with a big college population and winter tourism season, Dietrich says an event like TMF is overdue: “We wanted to put Arizona on a pedestal, and put the market in the spotlight and really feature it because it deserves to be featured.”
Dietrich zeroed in on Salt River Fields’ 140-acre facility at Talking Stick Resort (on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community) after touring the stadium and seeing its proximity to freeways, nightlife, shopping and restaurants. His partnership with the facility is one festival detail he eagerly discloses. “Instead of going out to the middle of the desert and trying to set something up with no infrastructure, you deal with people who are used to running a Major League Baseball facility,” he says.
Dietrich adds that industry support for a winter festival in Arizona was strong from the outset. “When the artists start referring other acts to you, you kind of know you are on to something. You know you are doing something right,” he says. As for which acts referred which acts to Dietrich for TMF, he of course won’t say. Nor will he disclose the costs of putting on the festival – but operational expenses for large music fests can range from $500,000 daily (the touring Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem festival) to $1.2 million over a weekend (Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Fla.).
TMF sold out of $60 pre-sale tickets in two weeks after announcing its lineup in August, sans corporate sponsors or traditional marketing. Dietrich remains coy on how this happened, but mentions 125 tickets were sold to a group from Canada. VIP packages, which reportedly include backstage access, start at $146. General admission costs $80.75. Aaron Studebaker, sales director at Salt River Fields, says they’re prepared for 17,000 people. “We have enough power at our facilities to host any concert in the world,” he says.
As the spring home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Salt River Fields is equipped for large crowds, and already possesses the permits and staff for an event like this. “All the dominoes are lining up for this to be a phenomenal day, and future, for hopefully one of the biggest music fests in the country,” Studebaker says.
“It’s hopefully going to change the vision people have when they think of Arizona,” Dietrich says. He plans to expand the festival into a multi-day event next year.
Just don’t expect the Valley’s new musical mystery man to offer up any details.
Concert promoter Jarid Dietrich (pictured) expects success at Salt River Fields. Can his headliner-heavy True Music Festival make up for these fizzled Valley music fests?
Liquid Sol: After failing to take place as originally planned at Moon Canyon Ranch near Florence in September, organizers announced in October the fest would take place November 2 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. However, no lineup had been announced and no tickets were for sale as this issue went to press.
Tempe Music Festival: Beginning in 2003, this annual, Circle K-sponsored spring festival at Tempe Beach Park featured national acts like Kid Rock and The B-52s. In 2010, promoters ?announced there would be no Tempe Music Festival that year – and there hasn’t been any year since.
Glendale Jazz & Blues Festival: Every April for nearly 30 years, this festival brought national jazz acts to the West Valley. The website for the festival currently reads, “Due to budget cuts the Glendale Jazz & Blues Festival has been canceled for 2013 and the foreseeable future.”