Interview with Gabriel Mattacchione of Ever After Music Festival
Last year, On the Grand was opened at Bingemans which is an outdoor amphitheatre and one of the newest venues in Kitchener-Waterloo. What was it about Kitchener-Waterloo/Southwestern Ontario that you identified as a viable market for a new venue for live music?
From the curation of Ever After 5 Years ago, we really realized that there was a gap between London & Toronto. Kitchener is that natural sandwich, with Ever After being so successful and growing every year. Year after year, our indication between the gap of the two major cities was true. That’s what really led us to open up the venue.
I think it’s been an excellent move to close the corridor between London & Toronto, when it comes to live music and entertainment.
For sure, Kitchener always got jumped over or left behind. Now we are truly on the map and bringing in some big talent in.
The 2019 lineup for On the Grand was recently announced with the Ever After Pre-Party, Oh Canada Fest, Slam Fest, Kitchener Reggae Festival and Throwback Fest. It almost seems that every genre is being celebrated at On the Grand. Was the diversity apart of the vision for On the Grand?
Yes, of course. This is only Phase One, so there will be other mini festivals or shows that will get announced and we will truly cover a multitude of genres. This was definitely part of the vision of making Bingemans and On the Grand, a one stop shop for entertainment and for any interest to come and be fulfilled.
Speaking of Bingemans, the locations is great and makes so much sense. On the Bingemans grounds there are so many amenities; like a waterpark, camping proximity to the Grand River and an entertainment complex. What made Bingemans such an attractive spot to hold music events for the expansion of On the Grand?
I think you almost answered your own question there. We call Bingemans “a unicorn venue”. There’re so many natural amenities that lye on Bingemans itself that just make it the best venue that we’ve found in Southwestern Ontario. We really couldn’t find everything that Bingemans had, so to create a music component and drive attendees there that prior/post event they can have other things to do. It was just a natural fit.
With the proximity to Toronto (being 1 Hour away) Kitchener Airport (YKF) being a matter of 5-10 minutes away. Where international attendees come from to attend Ever After and various other events at On the Grand?
We get a huge influx of cross border attendees all throughout the (United ) States for Ever After. We sold a ticket in every US State last year. We are approaching doing that this year as well. We also go as far as Europe for Ever After. OTG (On the Grand) has stayed primarily local, this year we are seeing an influx of cross border attendees because they are branded as mini festivals. It’s pretty across the map and international when it comes to ticket sales.
On the Grand & Beyond Oz have done an excellent job bringing international artists to Kitchener-Waterloo. What has been the feedback on the events? What have fans said about being able to see some of their favourite artists in Kitchener versus going to a bigger market like Toronto.
I think everyone is definitely appreciative of not having to drive up the 401 (highway) to go catch the night of a concert or make a weekend out of it. The response has been pretty great, we’ve been supported from the beginning from City & Region standpoint. I think it’s just a learning curve for the Region itself in terms of the community just knowing that it’s there. On the Grand will be programmed throughout the summer to get accustomed to that. I think there’s still a learning curve that we have to go through on that side but everyone that comes enjoys their time and it’s been nothing but positive feedback.
Let’s switch gears to Ever After Music Festival. This year Ever After will celebrate 5 Years and I personally have attended every Ever After since the first one in 2014. It’s been incredible to watch the festival grow and evolve into one of Canada’s Premiere Festival’s. What has been the journey been like from Year One to 5 Years later?
First and foremost, it’s been a rough one, but it has been fun nonetheless. We’ve gone through some growing pain. We’ve exponentially grown a few years/years over year, which is obviously good for us and the Region and it comes with its growing pains as well. It’s been a fun journey and we hope to continue for another 5 and 5 and 5.
Did the growth of the festival surprise you in anyway? Because it seemed to really take off after year 2-3 and just explode from there.
When we got our “explosion” there, it was quite surprising because it happened all at once. We were trending at certain growth rates from Year 1-3 and then after that it was just exponential. It was kind of like, where did this come from? We’ve done our best to keep up and I truly believe we stay ahead of the curve and leading the industry.
When it comes to the music, the lineup and the sound of Ever After, it has changed quite a bit since the first year of the festival. It’s now a bass, electro, dubstep-oriented festival. Would you say that’s correct and that the future of the festival?
Ever After has changed from its curation. It’s primarily due to myself and other members of the team the create the lineup. We do try to stay ahead of the curve, in terms of giving the attendees what they want. Right now, we are staying true to that, with more “bass-y” type music but that doesn’t mean Ever After can’t change 5 years down the road.
What is it like behind the scenes of creating a festival lineup?
There’s a lot behind the scenes, more than just looking at the Billboard’s Top 100 Artists and picking the Top 30. It’s a lot of curation, Number 1 from myself and the other guys on my team. We have a full talent team that does extensive research in terms of, who is going to be big? Who is on the uptrend? Who has radio plays coming up prior to the festival? At the end of the day, we need the ticket sales. We try and give the patrons what they want to see and what they’ll pay to come see.
We are just weeks away from the 2019 Edition of Ever After taking place June 7-9, with the Pre-Party kicking off June 6th. What can fans expect from this year’s festival? I have seen a lot of teasers and announcements of new things coming to the festival.
Fans can expect what Ever After has always been, a true experience. Even past the fantastic lineup that we put a lot of hours into. We have gone back to giving a huge focus to attendee experience and patron flow through the weekend of. That being said, we have put more hours, time and money into the water stations, the amenities on-site having more bars and more washrooms. Really making their experience less stressful, so they can focus on really having their weekend away forgetting the stresses of everyday life to leave that at home for 4 days.
What makes Ever After such a great festival is that Ever After is very responsive and you listen to the feedback. Often listening to the fans of what they want in a festival.
It is two-fold. I used to be an attendee myself, so always try to put myself in back in those shoes and say what didn’t I like or what did I like about festivals? What was more stressful on me as an attendee? To your point, I love to listen to the feedback. These patrons are everything to us. We need them to keep coming to the events, we want them to have a safe and fun time. We want them to build memories here that they can go share later down the road with family and friends. We want them to come back, so listening to them and what they need to enjoy is very important to us.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s Ever After?
I’m most excited to those happy smiles come through my gates. But in terms of talent, there are some special names on there like Feed Me & Green Velvet that I’m pretty jazzed to see.
Names like Peekaboo and some of the up and comers. Mastadon, he’s blowing up. There are a few names that I am excited to see.
On the Grand
Ever After Music Festival facebook.com/EverAfterMusicFest/