Denver Fest is year again, and in short three years is a real contender in Denver’s series of music festivals. Tuyet Nguyen, who makes up 50% of the production team along with Emily Francis, took some time to give us the scoop on how Denver Fest came to be.
Kaffeine Buzz: So who are the people behind Denver Fest?
Tuyet Nguyen: I’ve been a music journalist (writing for the Westword, plus other smaller publications) for the past few years. Before that I’ve on-and-off booked and promoted shows. I got started when I was about 17, booking punk bands at DIY spaces and venues. I ran a warehouse venue for about a year, booking all kinds of smaller touring bands and parties. I got into publication writing my first year of college and have been doing that since then. (On a side note, I’m actually launching a magazine this October.)
Emily grew up in Richmond and went to art school there. She left her last year to move to Chicago and to tour with bands. She moved to Colorado with a group of other transplants (the guys in Git Some actually) and shortly thereafter starting tour managing Planes Mistaken for Stars (a band that she had know previously for years from booking shows for them in Richmond). She currently spends most of the year tour managing various local and national bands.
KB: This is the third year for Denver Fest. How did it originally get started and what was the driving force behind its inception?
TN: Emily Francis moved here from Chicago a few years ago and we met through mutual friends. We were both very motivated and involved in the music scene, so at the time it was a natural partnership. Both of us had past experience with booking and promoting shows. I had run a warehouse venue some years back called Garageland and she had toured with bands like Planes Mistaken for Stars and done basement shows in her hometown of Richmond.
I had always wanted to book a festival and approached her with the idea. It was pretty casual at first. But then we started talking about it and things started to get serious pretty quickly. That was three years ago and it’s grown from a small three-day-one-venue show to this current beast.
KB: How as the production of an event like this changed since then?
TN: We’re much more organized this year than in past years (but still not organized enough!) This is also the first year that we have sponsors, which is something that is entirely new to me. And honestly dealing with all these big bands and coporate booking agents is also completely mindboggling, as it’s not something that I’ve ever really dealt with before. It’s still a two-woman operation, but now the scale is so much bigger than when it started that it’s definitely becoming more of a “production” than just some one-off show.
KB: How do you feel Denver’s music pool has evolved in the last few years?
TN: I’ve been kicking around the scene for a long time now. It’s hard to say if it’s really “evolved” however. To me, it fluctuates. Some years are better for local music than others. Those are the summers when everyone is playing in a band and there’s good shows every other night and the whole community is really working together to create something positive. But some summers, it’s just not there. Sometimes there aren’t enough all ages venues to go around or there aren’t enough local promoters interested in booking quality shows or there’s just a lack of good, new bands.
What I’m trying to say is that local music is only as good as the people involved–the scene itself can’t “evolve” on its own.
KB: You also have national acts integrated into the line up. Has this always been the case or is this something new?
TN: It’s always been a mix of locals and nationals. The point of Denver Fest is to bring attention to Denver by highlighting all these small burgeoning scenes surrounding us geographically. All of us in this “no coast tour circle” visit each other’s cities constantly on tour.
Denver is situated between the two coasts and for cities like Wichita, Fargo, Reno, and so on, Denver is almost always a stop. Even just traveling from one coast to the other, you have to go through Denver.
And so we’ve made a lot of friends along the way and we just wanted to bring everyone together, and Denver seemed like a great central location.
KB: What was the difference in the event’s response between the first and second year, and what are your expectations for this year?
TN: With every year, it definitely gets bigger numbers-wise. More bands, more people, more venues. But every year the response feels the same–just amplified–because the bands and fans are always stoked to come out. It’s a like a big hang-out fest every year and the vibe is just super positive.
KB: Is this something you want to keep rolling for years to come?
TN: I guess we’ll have to see how this year’s fest goes!
Pics of Denver Fest – Saturday, September 2 – Crestfallen, Christy Front Drive – Marquis Theater – Denver