Let them eat Cake – or not

The first year for any large-scale music festival is probably the toughest. Everyone knows LEAF, people have heard of Flat Rock, even Trinumeral has been around. But what about a startup?

what: Loki Music Festival
where: Deerfields, in Mills River
when: Friday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 12. (Tickets are $145, with some discounts and package deals available. www.lokifestival.com or e-mail info@lokimusicfestival.com.)

“The biggest challenge has been getting people to know the festival even exists,” says Loki Music Festival founder Jack Ballard. “It’s difficult getting the name out in front of people.”

And what about when your so-called mystery headliner bows out at the last minute? Ballard had scheduled wry alt-rockers Cake as the secret headliners. That secret was revealed last month, then Cake pulled out the first week of October – about a week before Loki, Ballard says.

“The band had some personal stuff and some business stuff that went awry,” he says. “We’ve been working with them for six months. They had confirmed, then stopped, then confirmed, then bailed. We decided it would be a better situation to have them not on the lineup.”

He’s quick to reassure they’ve been replaced by another mystery headliner, but this time, he’s not saying who it is until Friday.

Ballard notes that all the other parts of the festival, which launches this weekend at Deerfields retreat just south of Asheville, have been relatively easy. He chalks that up to a team of festival promoters and organizers he put together to ensure that Loki’s maiden voyage into the increasingly turbulent waters of the live-music-festival ocean were as smooth as possible.

Without much in the way of name recognition, the big gamble is making sure that the first impression counts. He’s trying to brand Loki as a different kind of music festival—more intimate than something like Bonnaroo—but with the same level of performers.

“From talking to people over the years, I’ve gotten the idea that people are looking for a more intimate style of venue and festival,” Ballard explains. “There are festivals—like Jam Cruise, for instance—that allow for more up-close-and-personal attention. You’re not in a field with 40,000 people hoping you can see the band. You’re up right next to them, and you can really see and hear the music.”

There’s also another theme to Loki—one fitting the name.

“(The festival is named for) Loki the Norse god of mischief,” Ballard explains. “He’s a shapeshifter. It’s getting close to Halloween, so we’re also going for that masquerade and voodoo kind of feeling. We also have a masquerade ball, and you’ll see people out in crazy outfits. We’re trying to make it so that when you walk in the door, you are shocked and surprised by everything you see.”

But festivalgoers aren’t likely to associate the festival’s experience with the frozen climes of Scandinavia. With a performer lineup partially culled from the New Orleans funk and jazz scene, the festival almost seems like a short-lived Bourbon Street in the woods. Add to that a collection of jam-friendly bands—Col. Bruce Hampton & The Quark Alliance, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, George Clinton—and less jammy, but fitting acts—like Toots & the Maytals, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra and Robert Walter Trio—and you can almost see the vision for the festival’s booking.

Even the addition of headlining act The Roots, a Philadelphia-based hip-hop band known for outstanding live shows and jazzy instrumentation, didn’t seem too far from the rest of the bill.

Meantime, Ballard offers this hint about the new headliner: “The only thing I can say is this group, the person who leads this group is very famous in the festival and music scene, and has never played with this group before.”

[Steve Shanafelt can be reached at unknowncity@hotmail.com. A&E editor Rebecca Sulock contributed.]

what: Loki Music Festival
where: Deerfields, in Mills River
when: Friday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 12. (Tickets are $145, with some discounts and package deals available. www.lokifestival.com or e-mail info@lokimusicfestival.com.)


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4 thoughts on “Let them eat Cake – or not

  1. David Parker

    well, there are different stories on why CAKE isn’t going to appear. I got this in a newsletter message from CAKE yesterday:

    Although we were looking forward to being a part of North Carolina’s Loki Festival, the promoters of the event have unilaterally cancelled CAKE’s performance. The festival is running as planned, but CAKE will not be performing. If you have already purchased tickets and this news is a deal breaker, requests for refunds should be directed to:

    Loki Entertainment Co.
    P.O. Box 18526
    Asheville, NC 28814

    email: info@lokimusicfestival.com

  2. Dave

    I tried booking Cake years ago for a College event I was promoting, and had a very similar experience.

    Yes, then No, then, Yes, but double the pay, etc…

    We ended up booking another Sacramento band that didnt have a two-page rider.

  3. Rob Close

    [let me preface this all by stating – I’m in my 11th year of promoting/producing concerts].

    wow, seems like somebody is lying about the decision to cancel Cake. but who has the motive?

    does Cake? maybe they don’t want fans to know about their personal business or problems, but to lie directly like that seems odd. it’s possible.

    does the Promoter? well, cake is an expensive band to pay for, and a month out from the festival you can pretty much know how well it’s going to do based on pre-sales. Maybe he knew he couldn’t afford them, but couldn’t bear to admit that this close to the show (and is afraid of having to issue even more refunds if he does admit this).

    I’ve spoken directly to and had friends speak to people who have thrown festivals at Deerfields before, and making it profitable seems very hard, especially the first year. With a current ticket price of $145, and the economy in the dumps – I’d say it’s more likely Jack Ballard’s decision, and that he was lying to us in this article.

    Which brings up an important point – Why was Ballard the ONLY person interviewed for this article? Why wasn’t there at least a “Cake was called for a statement, but…”. Journalism 101 Steve – you have to investigate the story – and that means trying to find out both sides; especially when the article makes one side (the band) look like a bunch of jerks. I know you wanted to promote the festival and have local stuff do well – but you simply can’t publish a story that has one side. That’s Faux News tactics.

    Heck, the word “Libel” might even apply.

  4. Jon Elliston

    Hi Rob:

    Thanks for your critique of the piece, but I should mention that Xpress got the word about the change very late in the game — just before we went to press on Monday. Our arts editor scambled to get the best information we could at the time, but time was exceedingly short, and we weren’t able to contact Cake on that timeframe.

    And I should add that Steve wrote the piece long before we got the news of Cake not being on the bill. I can assure you that he would have contacted all parties if time had allowed.

    As it stands, I’m glad we were at least able to get the news out in the paper to inform festival-goers.


    Jon Elliston
    Managing Editor

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