InFested: An Interview with Dominic Petrozzi about Athens, Ohio's #Fest

Kendrick Lamar

Established in 2004 in the city of residence for Ohio’s most notorious party school – Ohio University – the annual #Fest (or Number Fest) has grown to become the biggest and best collegiate music festivals in the United States. It has also helped to launch some of today’s brightest music stars to new heights. With this year’s lineup featuring co-headliners whose popularity is nearly unrivaled in their respective genres and a BYOB format, 15,000-20,000 music fans are anticipating an experience that offers big returns on fun and talent for a modest investment.
Ghettoblaster discussed the forthcoming event with organizer Dominic Petrozzi, who had this to say about it…
Scoring Kendrick Lamar who is having a huge year, and Steve Aoki, who is world renowned for electronic music, is huge.  Are you expecting that the response this year in terms of attendance will respond in kind?
Kendrick Lamar has obviously had a mind numbing year in regards to notoriety and success. We are beyond excited to have the opportunity to bring him on as #Fest – 11th Edition‘s Co-Headliner alongside Steve Aoki. W/ Steve’s world renowned style behind the CDJ’s and Kendrick’s recent explosion onto the popular culture scene, we expect the attendance numbers for this year’s festival to increase more so than in years past. W/ the way online ticket sales have been going (already over 3k) and hard ticket sales topping 2700 this week, we are seeing a trend of early and often buying patterns. All signs are pointing to record breaking attendance numbers. 20k in attendance is our goal. Let’s see how close we get. 
I suspect given Lil Wayne’s recent health scare, Lamar was a much safer bet for hip hop presence at the fest…
Lil Wayne’s drug habits have no bearing on the “safety” of the #Fest or the safe-ness of the Hip Hop artists we have on the bill.   Whether his TMZ story was a hoax or he in fact OD’d on Codeine two times in one day really means nothing to what we have going on. Kendrick is from Compton. Nothing safe about that. When it comes to music and the message, it’s in the ear of the listener. Each person takes from it what they will. In 2013, Kendrick Lamar sits higher than Lil Wayne on the totem pole. That’s why we booked him. 
What is it about their approach to music that made Lamar and Aoki a natural fit for this event?
#Fest has a reputation for being a crazy good time. We are now pushing for it to be considered one of the best billed festivals out there on top of one of the craziest experiences around. Lamar and Aoki have helped provide us with that credibility. Their presence in and around the college music scene is very strong. Their particular approach to music wasn’t necessarily the driving force behind booking them, rather, their connection w/ the students and attendees that we focus our event towards. Kendrick is on top of the Hip Hop world. Steve Aoki is a veteran of the EDM scene and has commercial success w/ his tracks being used in mainstream corporate commercials (Vitamin Water with Kid Cudi). What makes them a natural fit is the demand of the attendees. We did our research. Kendrick and Steve topped our list of most requested artists representing their respected genres. Cross-Genre integration is our end goal when booking our lineup.. We want to provide something for everyone. 
While Lamar has garnered major commercial success as of late, including an appearance on SNL, his flow and approach doesn’t sound particularly mainstream to me.  Is not sounding to commercial part of his appeal?
Kendrick Lamar has resonated with the masses as well as the true underground heads because its natural. Nothing about his music is fabricated. He came from LA. He’s seen the trials and tribulations of the ‘80s and ‘90s on the west coast. Sometimes, artists success is predicated on luck.  And luck is when opportunity meets preparation. To me, sounding commercial should never be a factor or deterrent to an artist’s appeal. If it sounds good, it sounds good. Always has been the case in my eyes. Kendrick Lamar’s music sounds good and the results are in line with his talent… and his luck. When it all shakes out, I see Kendrick Lamar being a mainstay in the Hip Hop game for a long time…decades. To many, he changed the game, bringing Hip Hop back to life. Every other major rap artist realized they better step up or they are going to get lapped by the likes of Kendrick Lamar. The ringtone, corny rap won’t cut it anymore. Consumers are over the not so decent music that has been presented in recent years. Hopefully we see a resurgence of originality and mindful, heartfelt hip hop music. 
Who else is performing at the event and what do they bring to the table?
The #Fest – 11th Edition Lineup is far and away the biggest and most recognizable to date. Besides KL and SA, we have direct support acts, Watch the Duck (ATL) and Bad Rabbits (Boston). Both acts have made major headway in the mainstream music scene w/ Watch The Duck (Poppin’ Of) appearing as high as #6 on BET’s 106&Park and Bad Rabbits being billed as support for the Verge Campus Tour Presented by Karmaloop and eMuze.
We also have some local talent that has made the jump into the big leagues as of recent w/ Fly Union out of Columbus, fresh off the BET Music Matters Tour and a week long run at SXSW in Austin, TX. Their direct affiliation w/ Lebron James (check his recent ESPN The Magazine Music Article Playlist) has put this trio of artists on the brink of mainstream success.
WVU Student and Hip Hop up and comer, Huey Mack is also on the bill this year. He has a solid following in the region and hundreds of thousands of video views via Youtube.
Philidelphia based EDM DJ, 5&A Dime is also on board this year. His tracks have regularly topped the charts on Hype Machine and Next Big Sound.
Rounding out this year’s lineup is international touring DJ from Ohio and Warner Brothers Artist, Brooklyn Earick. Outside of his Vegas residencies, Brooklyn also performed at the Vancuver Winter Olympics in 2010.
Columbus Alive’s 2013 Band To Watch,  Forest and The Evergreens is providing our lineup an Indie twist. Talk about some serious talent. These guys are going to be on some major fest billings in the near future.
Cincinnati based Hip Hop mainstay, Santino Corleon, who has roots as the previous host of #Fest will also be performing.
Lastly, Ohio University student and local DJ, DJ Loco will be rounding out the bill. 
What do you hope those who attend the event take away from it at the end of the day?
Our goal this year, as it is every year is to provide the attendees w/ the most well valued music festival in the Industry. W/ ticket prices at $30 (presale) and the ability for attendees to bring in adult beverages (for attendees 21+.. we ID), there is no cheaper all day music festival, billing some of the biggest acts in the game. We hope the experience of #Fest – 11th Edition leaves all those in attendance w. lasting memories for years to come. On top of that, safety is always our main focus and number one priority. At the end of the day, #Fest has been and always will be a celebration of good times and great friends. Music is the one common thread in this Festival.. the soundtrack will be on the front of everyone’s mind until we bring #Fest – 12th Edition back to Athens in September. Our request is that everyone gets home safe. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to us. 
Any chance future number fests could expand to multi-day blow outs?
Future #Fest’s may turn into a multi-day event. However, we are currently working on a new formula for a more corporate backed festival franchise that will appeal to all walks of life, young and old. This particular brand is still in the works, but we hope to create and provide the state of Ohio w/ a massive 2 to 3 day festival that includes camping, multiple stages and beer sales. #Fest is for the younger generation… its no secret. In order for us to reach the soccer moms of the region and the corporate 9-5er’s, we know we have to create a more appealing event that includes something for everyone. The way it’s looking, the #Fest franchise will continue to roll out every spring w/ hopes that a Labor Day weekend festival will come to life in the next 2-3 years, w/ #Fest being a Bi-Annual scenario until then (Fall and Spring). 
Were you relieved that Columbus restricted their Lamar/Aoki show to OSU students so that it wouldn’t compete with the entire target audience of your event?
The OUAB show was actually booked by our company, Prime Social Group. We knew going in that the show was relegated to OSU students and capped at 1,800 tickets. It was never a concern that it would effect our numbers. 15,000 people in an open field going strong from 12 noon to 11pm can’t be deterred by a typical indoor show a few days before. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone of the OSU students come down to Athens 2 days later. I don’t know if you can really compare the two experiences though… 15,000 vs. 1,800… No need to worry on our end. 
Have you heard the full Jay-Z remix of Lamar’s “B Don’t Kill My Vibe” that hit the internet recently?
I have heard Jay-Z’s remix. Hov is my all-time favorite artist, period. I was excited to hear the first original collaboration track between the two artists. ”B*tch Dont Kill My Vibe” didn’t need to be remixed. It stands on its own because it’s that good of a song (best on the album in my opinion).  However, if anyone was to remix it, Jay-Z would have been my obvious first choice. 
Was your DVR set for Aoki’s appearance on CW’s Arrow on March 20 (he performed at the grand opening of Arrow’s nightclub)?
What’s the CW? I can only remember the WB frog mascot….To be honest, I was unaware of the appearance, but I will be sure to scour Youtube for clips. I’ll be watching LBJ’s return to Cleveland during Steve’s set.  
 (The 11th annual #Fest takes place Saturday, April 13 on West Union Street in Athens, Ohio. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $50 for VIP.  For more information, visit