Indian Antao on Why the Mesa Music Festival Is Free

Sunday at Noon are scheduled to perform at Mesa Music Festival.
Sunday at Noon are scheduled to perform at Mesa Music Festival. Courtesy of Mesa Music Festival
What do you call a music event that promotes up-and-coming bands rather than established stars, and presents performances in vacated buildings, a cookie shop, music store, coffee house, smoke shop, and open spaces, rather than 20,000 seat arenas or 100-acre farmland? The Mesa Music Festival.

Now in its third year, the city of Mesa-sponsored annual event has become a premier emerging artist symposium in Arizona.

The 2017 event is being held Thursday through Saturday, November 9 through 11, and will feature around 200 acts performing in such styles as rock, pop, indie, folk, hip-hop, soul, and metal. Many hail from the Valley, but even more are from all over the country and world.

For star appeal, the festival will have Grammy Award-winning producer and bass session player to the stars Randy Jackson as its keynote speaker. The former American Idol judge will take the stage at Mesa Arts Center on Friday. MTV metalhead Matt Pinfield and the late Chester Bennington delivered keynote speeches at past editions of the event.

Featured acts at this year's festival include Christian Metal rockers P.O.D., L.A.-based R&B and pop singer Laci Kay, and Indianapolis funk rockers the Indigos, Tempe's Teammate Markus, Phoenix's Sunday at Noon, and Brooklyn glam punkers J. and The 9s.

The free festival is the brainchild of New Jersey music promoter Indian Antao. Antao began this unique festival through his Motor Media promotions and charity event firm, and says the event is designed for musicians to learn from and network with industry professionals, trade ideas with others in the music community, and show off their talents.

“The biggest problem with the emerging artists is a lot of them don’t have money,” says Antao, a one-time TVT label rep. “When you are an up-and-coming band, people are not going to pay money to see you. So, the idea was to make it free and sponsor-driven. You like what you see, you stay, and try to have something for everybody.”

By making the festival free to attend, Antao says attending audiences can spend more money on concessions and local establishments, including event sponsors. And Antao adds, since the festival doesn't have pockets deep enough to finance a Woodstock-capacity event, some ingenuity created the approach.

“The big challenge with Mesa is that there’s not a lot of venues,” adding, “The organization MURAL [Mesa Urban Renewal Arts Lab] is buying out a lot of the buildings in downtown Mesa. They’re going to create really cool boutique hotels, a renaissance. They gave us a couple buildings for us to create venues for the weekend. One is an old bank, we’re calling it The Galleria. We’re going to have artists in there with paintings while bands are playing.”

Other special guests will be on hand to discuss the music industry. They include NRG Studios producer and mixer Jay Baumgardner, Rene Mata of Red Bull Records, and Jim Colletti of the Phoenix Listening Room, among several others.

For a complete schedule of events, venue locations, and speaker times, visit the Mesa Music Festival website.

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Mark C. Horn
Contact: Mark C. Horn