True Music Festival is the Latest Attempt to Tap into the Phoenix Market
It's been a long time coming. Music lovers across Phoenix have awaited an event that will truly encompass the diverse variety of today's most popular artists. On December 14, Salt River Fields will host the inaugural True Music Festival, marketed with the tagline "One day will change everything," as another contestant in the attempt to bring that intricate balance of musicians together for the first time.
"There is a complex market in Phoenix," says TMF founder and creator Jarid Dietrich, "with so much culture that is untapped because people don't dive into it. When you immerse yourself in it and understand what it is, you can design a festival to the market, rather than just bring it to the market.
"The best way is to take advantage of its valuable assets — the local bands, the culture, the weather — and put it in December, when no other music festivals are going on."
The idea of TMF begins with an unusually diverse class of performers: The lineup mashes together everything from electronic music to classic rock and hip-hop by featuring 16 different musical acts on stage for the event.
The first of three eclectic headlining artists at TMF will be psychedelic alt-rockers the Flaming Lips. For 30 years, Flaming Lips has toured and recorded on a blend of imagery and sounds even more diverse than TMF's bill.
Flaming Lips fans have never been left to want for more, as the band consistently has released new material every few years. "Maybe we do it to prove to the young punks out there to not write us off just yet," says multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd.
The band's stage performance has developed over the years to suit the music, with a strangeness that manifests in physical ways. Flaming Lips plans on bringing nothing less to TMF and has tailored its show to welcome a new album, The Terror, filled with a looming, symphonic atmosphere.
"It's a very visual show," says Drozd. "It's kind of a darker atmosphere — [but] it's still a party atmosphere. [For instance,] we still have confetti, but now it's black confetti, and it will be red lights now. We're trying to change the light show for the songs off of the new record.
"If you're trying to get the maximum exchange of energy between you and the audience, and trying to be technically perfect, it's not going to work. We focus on the energy between the crowd and the band to take us to some higher plane."
The second headliner on the TMF bill hails from the city of steel and the Terrible Towel: Pittsburgh reefer king himself, Wiz Khalifa, who'll be heading up the hip-hop side of the festival. Khalifa had his biggest hit in 2010, "Black and Yellow," an homage to the colors of his city, that rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Firmly secured among hip-hop's top tier, Khalifa released the gold-certified album Rolling Papers in 2011, followed by the number-one album O.N.I.F.C. in 2012. Khalifa plans to keep the train rolling with the upcoming release of his sixth studio album, Blacc Hollywood.
Regardless where your preferences may lie for music's fastest-growing genre, the whirlwind success of dubstep DJ Bassnectar is undeniable. Rounding out the headlining performers at TMF and bringing the multi-genre event full circle, Bassnectar offers a piercing light show and bone-rattling bass lines as his contribution to the blend of artists.
Citing such influences as Metallica and Nirvana, the music of Bassnectar harnesses elements of heavy metal, pop, and rock with his original heart-stopping hooks and that ever-thumping beat from the bass.
Bassnectar fronts various charity efforts and, in 2011, began donating one dollar from every ticket sold to his group Dollar Per Basshead. In one year, he racked up more than $250,000 in donations.
"Our organization is spread across the United States," Dietrich says. "You realize that if you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you but share your dream, then you just get out of their way. Sitting back and watching them execute is fantastic."
In trying to avoid a common pitfall among festival-going fans, he says, "we've done a good job of limiting expectations in the hopes of really pulling out some major surprises that day. You want people to walk out of this blown away, and you can't do that if you set the bar too high. It's difficult because we have so many incredible elements."
A major focus of TMF for Dietrich has been keeping the event local. Whether it's the ticketholder, the guy rigging the lighting, or the performing local bands, the TMF team believes everyone should have a piece.
"I can't tell you how exciting it was for me," says Dietrich, "to contact each local band and ask if they would play. All the live art is local; the food vendors are local. We want to keep everything in this market and support this market, so everyone feels like they played a part. That is a main pillar we wanted to keep in line with."
The local bands at TMF, including the Black Moods, Black Carl, Dry River Yacht Club, and Black Bottom Lighters, are an important aspect of rounding out the lineup. These musicians carry many parallels between them but a lot of differences as well. The essence of their music falls into different genres, but they are familiar with, respect, and appreciate each other's music through the local scene.
"There's great talent around Phoenix," says Josh Kennedy, singer/guitarist of the Black Moods, "but they don't get many opportunities to do stuff like this. Hopefully, True Music Fest will bring in more shows like it so local bands can gain a larger draw in Phoenix and be exposed to larger crowds."
Local bands view their opportunity at TMF as a chance for exposure, but they can also gain knowledge from the artists they share the stage with.
"Playing with bigger bands makes us better," Kennedy says. "We're always trying to grow, and when you play with bands that are where we want to be, it's a double learning experience."
Every aspect of TMF is part of a larger plan; the grueling process that goes into creating an event of this magnitude can only be understood by the ones behind the curtains."It's not work if you're doing something you love," Dietrich says. "I haven't worked a day on True Music Festival, if that's the case."
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