AFTER AFTERSHOCK: Sacramento’s Discovery Park saw 220,000 attendees over two weekends in October. Beau Austin)
GOLDEN SKY EXPANDS TO THREE DAYS FOR 2024
Festival producer and concert promoter Danny Wimmer Presents capped off its 2023 festival season with record-breaking attendance at its two Sacramento events, with a total 220,000 people coming through the gates over six combined days in October.
The rock and metal-centric Aftershock Festival was topped by Tool, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, and Guns N’ Roses Oct. 5-8, with 40,000 people per day in attendance, the capacity limit at Discovery Park where the festival takes place.
The following weekend, the second-year country-focused Golden Sky took place, featuring Eric Church, Jon Pardi, Maren Morris and many others, with 75,000 in attendance over two days. Next year’s Golden Sky was immediately announced for 2024, expanding to a third day, Oct. 18-20.
“When you have a good first year, you never really know that until you get into the second or third year if it’s really going to resonate with people,” said Chamie McCurry, chief marketing officer at Danny Wimmer Presents. However, growing “substantially” from year one to more than 75,000 people “made us feel really comfortable and confident in expanding it to three days.”
It’s the latest — and fastest-growing — DWP event to take place on the same site as one of the event producer’s traditional rock festivals, which means the site infrastructure is largely set up already from the previous weekend and logistics in place to pull off a similar-sized event the following weekend. Sacramento’s Discovery Park, a sprawling green space offering plenty of shaded areas and plenty of distance between main stages, has been home to Aftershock since 2012, becoming a destination event attracting fans from all over the country and multiple continents.
“For a lot of our staff, that’s one of their favorite venues because of the aesthetic and the shade it provides,” McCurry said. “That park is just such a beautiful venue to host a festival. It’s literally minutes from downtown, but you feel like you’re in a completely different world.”
Although the festival has hit capacity at 40,000 and is taking place over four full days now, there is still room for growth and added value for fans.
“We added some more bands this year to bulk up the lineup,” McCurry said. “(That can) provide some more counter-programming, which gives fans more options to see bands in split sets, or if they’re not into one of the later acts, they still can get and see more up-and-coming or mid-level artist at a really prime time in the day.” This was noticed during Converge’s Friday-night set, the same time as headliner Tool, and Dethklok, which was packed with eager fans of the Metalocalypse Adult Swim show while Korn was playing the main-stage headlining set on Saturday.
The reputation and longevity of Aftershock appears to have paid off when faced with a splashy new competitor this year in Power Trip, the Goldenvoice-produced rock festival featuring two bands per night over the same weekend — those being Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tool, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica and AC\DC, which hadn’t performed since 2016. That event was announced after Aftershock had already gone on sale, and featured two of the same headliners as a one-time event in the Southern California desert, the same site as the popular and long-running Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
“Instead of being overwhelmed or changing course in our strategy, we just focused on delivering for the fans that we knew would show up because we’ve built over 10 years of history with them,” McCurry said of the company’s response to Power Trip. “We tried not to get too distracted by the fact that there was another major event in the same state on the same weekend. I think that paid off because we did have another sold-out festival weekend with 40,000 a day, and we did have a really good experience.”
Meanwhile, Golden Sky festival has found its footing in a strong country market that can draw locally and from underserved surrounding areas, including Oregon, Nevada and Washington.
“We’re really excited about the growth potential for that brand, just the way that it’s resonating with fans and within the country music community,” McCurry said. “There are a lot of country festivals that have a long history, so it’s a little bit of a harder one to launch because there is a lot of competition.”
The October events add to other successful DWP festivals this year, which saw Louisville’s Louder Than Life rock festival at the Highland Festival Grounds at Kentucky Exposition Center attract 180,000 fans Sept. 21-24. That event is paired with the previous weekend’s Bourbon And Beyond festival at the same site (120,000 fans, four days), a multi-genre event celebrating Kentucky bourbon and Louisville culture. This year’s event was topped by Bruno Mars, The Black Keys, The Killers and Brandi Carlile.
“What makes Bourbon so special is it really is a love letter to Louisville,” McCurry said, adding that company founder Danny Wimmer and CEO Danny Hayes fell in love with the city more than a decade ago. DWP now even has an office in the city, McCurry said. “It’s really a celebration of bourbon and culinary and music and the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky. Because it’s rooted in that, it feels a little bit different for us than our other events.”
For 2024, already announced and on sale are the same seven DWP events that took place this year, including Welcome To Rockville in Daytona Beach, Florida, which hosted another 175,000 fans and is adding a fifth stage and another 50 bands for 2024. Sonic Temple at Historic Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, is set to return after this year’s event drew another 130,000 or so fans, to go along with the metal-leaning Inkcarceration tattoo and art and lifestyle event that takes place at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, which is set to continue at three days as more of a boutique event than the larger rock fests.
In 2019, DWP also produced the “Hometown Rising” country event making for a third Louisville Festival, along with the Epicenter rock festival in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I wouldn’t say that that necessarily is the entire 2024, but that’s where it is today,” McCurry said. “We’ve recently started doing more and more consulting. Soho, our concessionaire company, does quite a bit of work with outside events, and we’ve recently also expanded into talent buying and marketing and even some event operations and safety.” The company consults for events including Rocklahoma festival, specifically on talent buying and marketing, and does standalone concert tour dates with Tool, with which the promoter has a longstanding relationship.
“We’re not a company who just rests on our laurels,” McCurry said. “Where are there opportunities? Where can we be better? Where can we push the limits? Where can we deliver for our fans? Where can we deliver for our artists and where can we take advantage of opportunities in the market? We’re always talking about acquisitions or other lanes that we can get into to continue to grow this company while also delivering great experiences.”