Were you planning on attending Kanrocksas earlier this summer and still feeling the frustration of that whole debacle? Or perhaps did the wrath of Mother Nature at Wakarusa back in early June decimate your music-seeing activities? I’m just going to go with a rather solid “yes” on the first and a “son of a bitch/mother&*#@^$!/sh*t/f%ck/damn it” on the second. Actually, now that I think of it, they are interchangeable and perfectly understandable responses. If you are like me, there was definitely at least just a hair of a smidge of a void left by these rather unfortunate non and not-quite-full-fledged happenings. But then again, life goes on and so does the dance party/untz/happy time. After missing RJD2 the last two summers, I was determined to right this ship before the season ended. So after doing some research on the inter-webs, I came across a relatively unknown, yet potentially eventual serious player of a festival called Dancefestopia in Kansas City of all places (and don’t get me wrong as KC has a ton of rich musical heritage oozing within its system). As soon as I started perusing the line-up, it didn’t take me long at all before I was sold: the aforementioned RJD2, Lotus, EOTO, Griz, Minnesota, Gramatik, Break Science and Wick-it The Instigator to name just a few. And that’s not even taking into account headliners like the Whiz Khalifas, Mac Millers, Porter Robinsons and Infected Mushrooms of the world. Wherever you stand on the fence, one cannot deny that this festival offers a very legit offering of talent, yet with still more of a relatively intimate feel. Think of Lights All Night and Lollapalooza coming together to make a festival love-baby. Dancefestopia would be the product of that Midwest neon fantasy union I just illustrated. You have the large city vibe without the overwhelming crowd enormity of a Lolla, EDC or an Ultra Music Festival. With an expected gathering somewhere along the lines of 15-20,000 in the midst of a cozy 17 acre setting next to the Missouri River in beautiful downtown KC, this is the year to get in on this EDM/Hip-hop apple pie. Especially when you factor accessible on-site camping, a plethora of regional DJ’s and music going plenty strong until 5:30 a.m. into the sweaty party equation. Needless to say, if you have one last gasp of summer energy somewhere deep within, Dancefestopia is an ideal chance to get after it for all it's worth before the colors recede into the equinox. I recently spoke with organizer Kevin Bordegon about how the festival’s sophomore effort will exceed last year’s festivities and what his vision is moving into the foreseeable future.
MC: What inspired you to take on this festival? Was there a certain impetus to get this going for you?
Kevin Bordegon: We basically wanted to create a high-energy music festival intertwining hip-hop and electronic music. We want a festival that also incorporates a large amount of local talent and also saw that there was a void in Kansas City. We ultimately came up with the idea prior to Kanrocksas being implemented. So we were quite heartbroken when that festival had released their line-up back in 2011. But actually at that point we were still shooting for a location at the Missouri State Fairgrounds. We were trying to utilize the three markets of St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City. Ultimately, it didn't pan out there and we found a phenomenal location instead at the Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park in downtown Kansas City. They had the space we needed and it helped create what we wanted - an urban atmosphere as well as the appeal of being in downtown Kansas City on the riverfront. So we ultimately found a far more superior spot.
MC: I think it is pretty safe to say that Kanrocksas being cancelled this summer was very beneficial not just for this year, but for the long-term maturation of Dancefestopia.
Kevin Bordegon: It is unfortunate that Kanrocksas’ cancellation happened in a way that depicts the Kansas City market and how difficult it is. We do feel like we are going after a little bit more of a niche. And we obviously didn't have the size of the budget that they did. We're starting smaller and we have a different plan. We want to build up as opposed to showing our hand and either stagnate or even possibly going downward. All in all, I think it opens the market up by having Kanrocksas out this year and ultimately the word is that they are done for good. So yeah, we're really the only player right now in Kansas City in terms of a large music festival geared to electronic and hip-hop.
MC: When it comes to Kansas City and where you are located, what makes it an ultimate setting for Dancefestopia?
Kevin Bordegon: We really, truly feel that it can be what you want. It can be an easy in-and-out festival in a location that is highly occupied with residents. Those young folks that are living downtown or in the vicinity can walk or take a bus to get to that location with ease. They can then go back to their house if they don't want to camp. But we also have the capability of housing a large amount of camping. So it also can kind of feed into the traditional festival atmosphere for those people that want that – it is there to be experienced. So it gives an ideal setting for your standard club or one-off concert folks and then also for your traditional festival-goers that travel. The location of it is phenomenal because it is in such a gorgeous area. It is right on the river in downtown where you can see the skyline of Kansas City. Another thing we feel that is a plus to the location - within 10 minutes you can park and be in the festival. This is similar to going to a concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. It's just easy in and easy out.
MC: In terms of the amenities this year, how will those exceed the ones at last year's festival?
Kevin Bordegon: What we learned from last year is that we need a larger second stage. So we have included a second stage that is of a higher production value. And then our main stage is going to be much larger than last year as well. We are billing it as the XXX stage. The lights and the visuals onstage are going to be very similar to what you would see at Electric Daisy Carnival or something like that. With the amount of LED panels, lights and other things on that main stage, the production value is going to be doubled compared to last year. The other component we are adding this year, aside from more vendors, would be the art aspect of the festival. We hired an art director by the name of Ryan Waage, who has taken the lead on the art portion of the festival. So there will be lots of hoopers, live painting and body painting. We also added U.S. Airbag. They will have a platform set up to where you can jump into a large airbag, which brings an extreme element to the festival.
MC: What about this festival makes it unique?
Kevin Bordegon: I think what not only definitely makes it unique is the location, but also the mix of hip-hop and electronic music. A lot of people might ask, "Why would you combine Mac Miller and Whiz Khalifa with Porter Robinson and Infected Mushroom?" We do feel like there is some overlap there. However, we do feel that with the general population we can touch both of those genres: all entangled in high-energy music. This is not chill music where folks sit down in a lawn chair. It is very much high-energy, stand up and party kind of music. And that's the other aspect - we want to be the party of the year in the Midwest. We try to cater to those kind of people. We want people to think that this is the party of the year that you just can't miss. It's not just the music at Dancefestopia. It's also the people intermingling, the friends you make and the amount of fun you have.
MC: When it comes to the identity of your festival it seems like you are comfortable with it being more of a hip-hop and EDM festival. With this festival, do you see there being room to grow in terms of a more diverse line-up or do you want to push only having those two genres pretty strong?
Kevin Bordegon: The idea moving forward is having a 5-10 year business plan that is always incorporating those two elements - hip-hop and electronic music. That's not to say that if a genre that pops up that matches our high-energy theme that we wouldn't include it. But right now the vision is always to include your top notch hip-hop and electronic acts first and foremost. This year we were able to snatch up some much larger names on the EDM side. We had difficulty booking those kind of people last year. So this time around, with one year under our belt, we looked to get some artists that we really wanted to get the first year. But to answer your question, it's going to be just electronic and hip-hop moving into future years.
MC: You have 30 local/regional artists performing. Is it part of your vision for the festival to make it a regional showcase for upcoming talent?
Kevin Bordegon: Absolutely, there is no question. We want that element to be huge. With people coming into the industry, we want them to have that showcase. We like the local support because I think it brings a different element to our festival. Not only does it get the local community engaged, but we feel that having that local part also brings a different element to the festival. One where we can kind of separate ourselves from some of the other ones. That will always be in play and will actually expand and grow as we grow as a festival. I think we will entice some stronger local and regional talent as we continue to make progress.
MC: How did you go about implementing that? Did you have some contests set up regionally?
Kevin Bordegon: We've had a host of contests. This year we implemented a Midwest tour where we hit up about six different Midwest cities and hosted DJ competitions. We gathered some of the folks from those competitions. We also did a contest with ReverbNation where we collected over a thousand DJ's from around the world and reviewed their material. And we did our own local competitions here, pulling some of the top DJ's that we thought would perform well at the festival.
MC: I know you talked about your 5/10 year plan already. But still though, where do you realistically see this festival being in 5 years?
Kevin Bordegon: The goal is obviously to increase attendance each year. To make the festival stronger and larger as well as increase our ability to add different elements to the festival. The goal is to eventually add some amusement rides. So in 5 to 10 years all we hope to do is just grow. It doesn't have to be fast. Just grow slowly and grow appropriately. As long as we're growing and getting great reviews and we continue to listen to the customer, I believe that we will just continue to slowly grow. And hopefully 10 years down the road we will be a monster festival that people talk about not only in the US, but around the world.
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- Matthew Cremer