Despite coming from separate corners of the music business, D.O'B. Sound Studios owner and veteran drummer/producer Derek O'Brien and DC-Jam Records owner Darron Hemann knew they wanted to collaborate on something bigger than their respective individual projects. Though they'd worked together from a producer-label standpoint, the duo saw the way the business was changing and how their individual finances were affected. They wanted to collaborate on a project that was different than what they'd worked on previously. They decided that concert promotion was the key.
“When you do something for so long, you get bored sometimes and want to change,” Hemann says over the phone from his Missouri home.
O'Brien and Hemann would see each other at the Punk Rock Bowling N Music Festival each year it was here that the idea for Hi-Fi Rockfest was born. Nearly three years ago at the Las Vegas festival, O'Brien tossed out the idea of he and Hemann putting on their own music festival. At first, Hemann thought it was a great idea, but the practicality of putting on an event seemed ambitious. Once they started to figure out the concept, the event came together quickly.
Setting their sights on the West Coast, they narrowed down their options to Phoenix, Los Angeles and a few other places before deciding Long Beach made the most sense, especially since it's where O'Brien is based. As the event started to form, Hemann called his friend, Dying Scene's Dave Buck, and asked him if he wanted help put together, which he agreed.
“We weren't sure initially how much we wanted to bite off,” Hemann says. “We ultimately decided that we could pull this event off and do a good job with it.”
At this year's Punk Rock Bowling N Music Festival, the trio took a slew of meetings in order to hit their target of a late September date. With only five months to launch, the trio moved at a blistering pace to make sure that Hi-Fi would come to fruition quickly. Punk Rock Bowling also served as a good barometer for the trio of how a successful, unique music festival can function. They also saw the success of festivals like Riot Fest to help avoid the potential pitfalls as Hi-Fi came together.
That's not to say that there weren't problems. The event was supposed to originally take place at the Rainbow Lagoon Park before the city stepped in and denied the trio's application, causing a logistical headache.
Instead, what seemed like a death knell for Hi-Fi Rockfest became a blessing in disguise. It ended up being moved to the Queen Mary, which Hemann says served as not only a major relief, but turned out to be the best possible outcome.
“We already paid the bands' deposits and were a long way down the road already,” Hemann says. “It turned out they didn't want us to hold it at that particular location because I assume Punk Rock Picnic had some issues at the location right near there and they were worried about noise.”
Additionally, the booking process also took longer than they originally anticipated. They thought they could go in and snare the bands they wanted right away, but pricing and scheduling concerns caused them some booking headaches. If that wasn't enough, the trio saw two headliners and one co-headliner drop out before booking the Dead Kennedys as the main attraction, a band they're elated to have at the top of the bill and the lineup filled out exactly how they wanted.
O'Brien, Hemann and Buck aren't the only ones excited about Hi-Fi Rockfest, their headliner is as well. Having played Ink N Iron a few years ago, Klaus Flouride of Dead Kennedys says the location is the perfect place to hold an event like this. Despite playing all types of concerts all over the world, the Dead Kennedys bassist says the band is at their most comfortable playing at a crowd that will fill the area around the Queen Mary.
“The location was great and was laid out pretty well,” he recalls. “It's just the right size for a festival as opposed to a mega big one. It's the perfect size in that it's a lot of people but at the same time you're not standing a half mile back watching a diamond screen instead of the band.”
Continuing Hemann's point about the lineup, Flouride says the band was drawn to the event by the lineup, one band in particular.
“You've got The Sonics in the lineup and that alone would get me there,” he says. “Once we saw they were playing, we didn't have to hesitate to line up to do it. I do like the spectrum of the bands that are playing. We've played festivals and shows where it's not just one hardcore band or one after another. We like that this has a lot of variety.”
The same goes for L.A.'s True Rivals.
“The majority of the shows we play are in clubs with just one cool band,” guitarist Kevin Besignano says. “This is one that's outside with five or six bands that we actually love and people that we do know. It's going to be a good time and it's great that there's always room for a punk rock festival.”
Although the first Hi-Fi Rockfest has yet to take place, there are already tentative plans to do the festival annually regardless of whether or not the inaugural edition is financially successful. So far, plans are to move to a two-day event next year. They would like to take the concert to other locales on the West Coast, but for the time being, they're satisfied with the Queen Mary location in Long Beach or even other locations in the greater Los Angeles area.
Despite the bumps and growing pains that occur when putting on your first festival, Hemann remains upbeat, and has reasonable expectations for the event.
“We've seen a lot of festivals that were wildly successful — and others that have flopped,” Hemann explains. “We've seen what works and what doesn't work, but we want to build something that lasts and build an event that people know the name of year in, and year out.”
Dead Kennedys, Street Dogs, Naked Ray Gun, The Sonics, Richie Ramone, Luicidal, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Year of the Dragon, Downtown Brown and Two Tens perform at the Hi-Fi Rock Fest at the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, Sep. 26, 11 a.m.-11p.m., $30, advance, $35 at the door, $55 VIP. All ages. For tickets and more info visit www.hifirockfest.com
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.