Interview: Patrick Van Wagoner Discusses Audiotree Music Festival’s Focus on Growth & Music Discovery

There are so many festivals vying for your attention that it’s pretty easy for some of the smaller ones to get lost in the shuffle. However, it’s usually the more niche and focused festivals that offer you the biggest rewards. Audiotree Music Festival in particular is one that should be on your radar. The Kalamazoo based fest has been running for 6 years and has been steadily accumulating a worthy reputation with lineups that rival large festivals.

I had the opportunity to speak with Patrick Van Wagoner, talent buyer for Lincoln Hall and Audiotree Music Festival, about the festivals outlook. It’s incredibly apparent that one of his goals is to continue improving on the festival’s already impressive trajectory. “Audiotree purchased Schubas and Lincoln Hall a few years back and when that happened I took over as talent buyer. Then I gradually made the transition to also take over the festival. In terms of direction of the festival: every year since it’s started, it’s grown a little bit. So when taking over you’re taking bigger steps to grow in size and value with the bands we’re booking.”

That clearly shows as last year the festival really upped their lineup with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and SuperDuperKyle taking the top spots. Additionally, the 2017 edition made the festival a two day affair, an evolution form the single day fest of previous years. This year’s main stage acts were announced last month and featured an incredibly strong lineup including Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, and more. “It’s hard to pick out anyone specifically, there are so many cool bands. Khruangbin is one of my favorite bands; we’ve worked with them a fair amount now. We did two shows at Lincoln Hall and one at Schubas prior to that. There is something super special about their live show. Their set time will be basically when the sun is going down, so throughout it will be gradually changing and it’ll be a really cool vibe.”

While the festival does take place out in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Chicago’s amazing music scene has a strong showing in the lineup. “Michael [Johnston] and Adam [Thurston] who founded Audiotree are from Kalamazoo, as well as our CFO Cam [Burnett]. So when they came to Chicago and started Audiotree they wanted to bring something back home. For me personally, booking in Chicago, it’s an opportunity to support a bunch of bands that I really love, especially for the smaller ones. “

That connectivity with smaller and local scenes is what makes Audiotree Music Festival so special and it’s something that Van Wagoner wants to emphasize. “As much as we want to grow each year, I don’t think it’s in our mind to grow into a major musical festival. We want to be in that niche were we’re all about discovery and up and coming.”

It’s the emphasis on discovery that birthed the WIDR second stage, which was booked in collaboration with Western Michigan University’s student radio station WIDR-FM. will have a strong focus on Kalamazoo and Chicago bands. “Another stage will fill out the space more and give these younger bands an opportunity to get out and be part of a festival, play around some cool band, hang out and have a good time. So much of what Audiotree, Schubas and Lincoln hall are trying to put new music in front of people that will hopefully like that new music.”

Some of the acts on the second stage include the Grand Rapids Michigander, Lushh from Kalamazoo, and Chicago’s Pool Holograph and V.V. Lightbody. “I’m super excited that Viv’s on the bill. She’s an incredible performer and one of my favorite locals from around here. It’s going to be fun having her out here. But that just one example, there’s a lot of the locals and the Michigan acts that are on there that are exciting.”

The Audiotree Musical Festival will be taking over Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Creek Festival Place this Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23rd. The fest is all ages and children under the age of 10 get free admission with an adult. You can purchase tickets now! Single day passes start at $45 while two day passes are $80. Don’t miss out on this great festival!

Julian Ramirez
Julian Ramirez