Steve Sybesma once witnessed musical history at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
In 1964, he stood in front of a fence to watch the Beatles play in the grandstand.
In 1988, he created another moment as part of the organizing team for the Henry Lee Summer/John Mellencamp show which drew nearly 50,000 people to the sprawling fairgrounds.
Now, the longtime Indianapolis concert promoter is part of a collaboration that seeks to produce something even bigger: a two-day festival that will start small in hopes of one day creating monolithic moments and to attract tens of thousands of fans every year.
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The AllIN Music and Arts Festival, which kicks off Labor Day weekend, is the brainchild of Sybesma and three collaborators: Paul Peck, with whom he founded the Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida, in 2016; Dave Lucas, who founded the Deer Creek Music Center and remodeled the Murat Center through his Sunshine Promotions alongside Sybesma; and Kevin Browning, co-manager of Umphrey’s McGee Group of South Bend.
Sybesma and Lucas have been promoting concerts in Indianapolis for more than 50 years, while Peck brings years of success to the recent festival, having been part of the teams that founded Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2002 and Outside Lands in San Francisco in 2008.
“We are establishing a long-term national music and flavor destination for Indy,” Peck told IndyStar. “Something unlike anything out there in the country. Something that’s programmed differently and feels unlike anything that could happen anywhere else.”
AllIN Music & Arts Festival has signed a 10-year contract with the Indiana State Fairgrounds
The group considered several possible configurations of empty fields, common at many modern festivals with a national focus, including a farm tour between Bloomington and Indianapolis. But the fairgrounds offered several important logistical starting points: a parking lot, a natural setup for three stages of different sizes with lights and sound, and, perhaps most crucially, an actual restroom.
They eventually signed a 10-year contract with the fairgrounds, with three five-year renewal options. The agreement even includes the possibility of another 25 years, if the first quarter century goes well.
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Sybesma and Peck began imagining AllIN in 2017, shortly after leaving the Okeechobee Festival organizing group.
In 2018 they attempted to build a new festival in Florida, Miami Beach Pop, but it was first postponed to 2019 then rescheduled and eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked about it, Sybesma said it was “a really difficult situation”.
“Ultimately it was a combination of factors that made it untenable,” he said.
Smaller local festivals have exploded
Although Indianapolis has a proven track record of hosting massive events and is a prime location within a day’s drive of much of the nation’s population, festivals have struggled to gain traction.
Several smaller local festivals have boomed in recent years, including the Evermore Music Festival, which even struggled to pay its bills in 2016. That was before the pandemic brought the live music industry to its knees. at all levels.
However, Ohio-based Elevation Festivals had some success earlier this year in hosting a larger-scale festival with national appeal, as WonderRoad filled Garfield Park in June. The two-day event, featuring headliners Vampire Weekend and Lord Huron, neared its daily capacity of 10,000 attendees, organizers said at the time.
AllIN has a bigger lineup than WonderRoad and is also hoping for even bigger attendance. And it won’t be the first time that Sybesma has taken part in an Indianapolis music festival.
“We did some early festivals in Indianapolis,” Sybesma explained. “One was called the Rockin’ Picnic Jam. And those festivals were so basic. We just threw up a fence, hired security and just kind of threw things together. It’s not like that now. It’s a very, very professional setup.”
In addition to these early ’80s events, Sybesma held shows at the fairgrounds and convention center in the mid-’70s – Blue Oyster Cult, REO Speedwagon, Joe Walsh. He also helped organize the legendary 1975 Rolling Stones concert at Indiana University.
AllIN’s Inaugural Music Lineup
More recently, Sybesma spent 11 years promoting in China, bringing in Elton John, James Brown and the country’s first electronic music festival, he said.
His latest effort will be the exclusive Indiana State Fairgrounds music festival, according to the contract secured by IndyStar.
The long deal will pay the fairgrounds $50,000 plus miscellaneous event-related expenses in its first year, rising to $210,000 by 2026 and increasing further each year depending on the state of the event. event and other economic factors. Showmen are also entitled to 5% of the festival’s net income each year.
However, the contract and the festival could be canceled if the organizers declare bankruptcy or insolvency. The official parties to the agreement are the Indiana State Fair Commission and Sun Sign Creative LLC, a Carmel-based Sybesma company registered with the state earlier this year.
On the performance side, AllIN’s inaugural musical lineup is a mix of classic and modern rock: Death Cab for Cutie, John Fogerty, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Cage the Elephant and Portugal. The man. It also features a handful of local bands each day, as well as some genre diversity in the mid-card, from R&B legends the Four Tops to American singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams.
Peck said the headliners were selected based on the strength of their live shows and song catalogs.
“Radio is such a big part of the culture (in Indianapolis) — driving your car and listening to music,” Peck said. “Radio is all about songs, and it’s so basic, but we really thought about programming this festival with artists who have great songs and are amazing live performers.”
He cited Portugal. “Feel It Still” by The Man for example, calling it “the biggest hit of the past eight years”.
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Capacity of 12,500 per day for “a more intimate setting”
The multi-generational aspect of the programming allows younger and older attendees to experience something new, in addition to expanding the network of organizers for eventual ticket sales, added Sybesma. The Okeechobee, Sybesma and Peck festival in Florida had the same generational mix in its first year, with Skrillex, Kendrick Lamar, Robert Plant, Mumford and Sons and Hall & Oates.
“The kids who came to see Kendrick Lamar loved Hall & Oates and Robert Plant,” he said.
Local bands will play on a smaller stage along Main Street, while bigger names will occupy a second stage at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum and a main stage at the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand. It will follow the typical format of staggering the lineup throughout the day so that one band is playing while the other stages are setting up.
Organizers originally toyed with the idea of a capacity of 30,000 attendees per day in hopes of hitting the 50,000-60,000 day target sooner. Okeechobee sold its 30,000-a-day capacity in its first year, they both noted.
But they opted for a more conservative capacity of 12,500 a day for “a more intimate setting” and increased flexibility. AllIN will likely increase capacity around year three, Sybesma said.
Peck is happy to promote his “Dreamsets,” collections of artists who come together to celebrate another act’s catalog. At AllIN, a tribute to the Allman Brothers Band (Saturday) and Tom Petty (Sunday) will be made. Although the festival lineup is more or less set, the “Dreamsets” will feature plenty of surprises, Peck said.
He has set up similar moments at his previous festivals. In 2014, Skrillex, Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger, and Cage the Elephant’s Matt Schultz performed Doors music as part of Bonnaroo’s “SuperJam”.
“This event is going to be different”
AllIN announced its “Dreamset” lines earlier this month.
The Allman Brothers Band ensemble will include original members Chuck Leavell and Duane Betts, sons of Allman Brothers member Dickey Betts. Several members of Widespread Panic and Betts’ Allman Betts Band, along with Deep Purple’s Steve Morse and blues artist Samantha Fish, will fill out the performance.
Schultz will lead Tom Petty’s ensemble, along with Dawes, John Oates and singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis.
“These ‘Dreamsets’ are not tribute bands,” Sybesma added. “These are superstar collaborations. We’re not ready to announce yet, but the lineup is amazing.”
Peck and Sybesma emphasized that they were not looking to replicate their own past festivals or other contestants in Indiana.
“I believe what we do is individual and new,” Peck said. “I’m not trying to take Outside Lands and bring it to Indianapolis or bring Lollapalooza to Indy. This event is going to be different.”
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