How John Reese Elevated OC Fests to a National Level With SGE

John Reese and Ozzfest Meets Knottfest (Credit: Michelle Alvarez)

Back in the day, everybody wanted to go to the Warped Tour. Bands like Blink 182 even sang about it and glorified those good ole’ days. Before that, everybody wanted to go to those larger than life shows with bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen or Guns N’ Roses. Today, Warped Tour is no more, well kinda… but, the magic of those original classic rock shows isn’t what it once was. Fast forward to today, music lovers come from everywhere, and they love those larger than life festival shows. When all is said and done, they have one thing in common, a good number of the show’s fans love these days are put on by OC-based entertainment company, SGE [“Synergy Global Entertainment”]. SGE is led by OC local John Reese.

Honestly, to be at the top of any profession isn’t an easy task. To do it in the entertainment industry, and specifically, in music festivals, that’s one of the hardest nuts to crack on the planet. For SGE, their rise to the top of that proverbial totem pole didn’t happen by accident, or overnight. Organizationally, SGE came to life in 2009; and it’s been a ride like no other. They’ve put on some of the most iconic shows we’ve seen this past decade. Their shows include Taste of Chaos, Ohana Fest for Live Nation, Surf City Blitz, Knotfest, Big Adventure and Sabroso just to name a few. Over that time, SGE has developed partnerships with the who’s who of media and corporate engagements. They’ve also teamed up with radio titans KROQ, KLOS and Real 92.3.  As a result, SGE is one of OC’s most successful firms in entertainment.

Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you, the guy all festival organizers looked up to for years is Warped Tour’s Grand Poobah, Kevin Lyman. In a recent interview, Lyman told us that of all the organizers out there, SGE is one of the best in the biz. Sure, there’s Goldenvoice and a few other mega firms, but SGE is at that level. As for Reese, he’s a big guy, very soft-spoken, but carries the swagger of a professional athlete. Then again, when it comes to talking about SGE, he’s very direct. He’s said on numerous occasions he doesn’t want to be that big corporate monster. You know, the Goliath of the industry. He loves how they do things, and wants to remain a boutique company.

Descendents front-man, Milo Auckerman is a good judge of what a successful festival and organizer look like. He told us that fans love cool music and venues, but what they love even more is when someone can bring bands to their own backyard. That’s what impresses everyone about SGE and the festivals they put on. They can put up a festival ground (a mini-city), anywhere from coast-to-coast and around the world in no time with military precision. Their ability to put together a mobile city is beyond impressive, and it gets better event-after-event. They are living proof that anything that can be measured, improves.

The crowd at the inaugural Back to the Beach (Credit: John Gilhooley)

SGE’s success is only part of the story, it’s how they’ve made it to the mountaintop that sets them apart. Before SGE and Reese exploded, Reese started his own security company after graduating from Arizona State University. He went on to later provide security services for Guns N’ Roses. His all-around services were so instrumental in some of the band’s successful events, he later became their Tour Manager. Can you imagine the stories this guy could tell? Reese eventually moved to the OC in 1990 and managed artists before he began producing shows. Here’s the skinny, Reese doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the efforts of his staff. He’s gone on record countless times saying the staff is the backbone of the company, they are the big reason that they’ve become who they are. He recently told us that each person contributes to the firm’s success, what impresses him the most about them is that they’re flexible, they listen and in the end, they get things done. Not only do they put on the greatest shows on earth, they work in tandem with media and other promoters.

All successful organizations share duties, and this firm is no different. General Manager, Heather Vantress is the other half of the equation. Vantress is a Warped Tour Vet who worked for Kevin Lyman, and her success at SGE comes as no surprise to him. Reese puts faith in her abilities, and believes their collective efforts is what makes their shows special.

Bottom line, Reese loves what he does, and continues because he has a passion for it. He loves music and making people smile. His passion shows, at any one of his festivals you can see him walking around, checking to make sure things are running smoothly, putting out any fires, and most importantly… he’s always asking concertgoers and invited guests if they are having a good time. He does this because he wants truthful feedback, it’s a means to learn from truthful commentary. He believes it’s vital to hear the truth, and by doing that, you’ll learn what will make fans want to come back for more.

You’d think with all the shows they’ve done, there’s a sense of complacency; actually, it’s the opposite. SGE owns or produces everything themselves. They have several departments within the company, everything they can keep in-house, they keep in-house. With all this in mind, SGE has teamed up with a variety of artists over the years. Everyone from Pearl Jam’s, Eddie Vedder to Social Distortion’s, Mike Ness to Blink 182’s, Travis Barker. For any artist, attaching your name to a festival can be scary. They’ve all trusted SGE, and it’s paid off immensely. Travis Barker once said a main reason they put their trust in SGE is because Reese has a great feel for talent and he understands artists and treats everyone like family, including staff and concertgoers.

What’s next for SGE, and its partners? Well, there’s no rest for the weary. On the heels of last weekend’s very successful, Back to the Beach Festival, that entertained about 37,000 fans over the weekend, SGE has teamed up with Honda Center and Real 92.3 to present Real Street Festival. The festival will take place August 10th and 11th at the Honda Center Grounds. It’s going to be one of the largest Hip-Hop Festivals to hit the OC in recent memory. The two day fest will feature artists like Future, Migos, A$AP ROCKY, 2 Chainz,  Big Sean, Meek Mill, Miguel, Rae Sremmurd, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Jay Rock, Sir, Reason, Zacari, Kid Ink, Lil Baby, and Rich The Kid just to name a few of the artists to appear over the two days of mayhem to hit the city of Anaheim.

Like all SGE events, there’ll be more than music to entertain concertgoers. At this event there will be Live Art and Big Boy’s Neighborhood. That area will have a barber shop, nail salon, a Car Show and much more. Like the Travis Barker Car Shows, this is destined to be something very special. It’ll be a carnival-like atmosphere, and if this event will be like previous SGE events, expect more additions to be announced.

Regardless of what kind of show they’re putting on, SGE and their associates have created the new model for concert promotions that will be the new measurement of how to put on a festival show. Hats off to everyone at SGE, Barker, Feldman, KROQ, KLOS and Real 92.3 for putting on shows that continue to result in lasting memories for OC music fans.

2 Replies to “How John Reese Elevated OC Fests to a National Level With SGE”

  1. John has been a dear friend since High School, in fact he gave me my very first job at a little Mexican Restaurant, I was 14, and the youngest of our group. We all went to HS together and ran around, as HS boys do. What set John apart even at 16, he hustled. I am a very successful Sr. Manager in my organization, but what I learned about leadership and effort, I learned from John when we were young men. We follow each other on FB, and I am continually blown away with his effort, his teams effort, and mostly just “kick ass” results!

    Ed Smith

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