Music Festivals

Denver DIY Scene Hosts Camp-Out Festival in Brighton

One thing is for certain: The coordinators of Field Day Camp Show are not in it for the money.

“We’re going to be paying out of our pocket for this,” confesses Jeremy Marquez, one of the festival’s three organizers-slash-bookers-slash-promoters. The other two members of the coordinating team, Logan Misegadis and Ryan Michener, nod in agreement.

It’s a recent Friday afternoon, and the four of us are posted up in a back booth at Leela European Cafe, sipping happy-hour-priced PBR longnecks. A basic indie playlist is booming through the stereo, alternating Tame Impala and Mac DeMarco with the occasional Talking Heads and Daft Punk track.

It’s a strange time for the threesome. Marquez, who fronts local garage-rock band Bourgeois Girl, is preparing to move to San Diego. Misegadis and Michener, who met in Arizona while studying music production at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, just relocated to Denver this May.

And Field Day Camp Show — a daylong showcase of mostly local bands from various genres — was not a part of any of their plans.

“We were just kind of joking,” says Misegadis of the fest’s beginnings. “We had all these crazy ideas about how we could throw shows and get all these people together. Then Jeremy said, ‘Well, we might as well just make it a music festival.’”

None of them had ever organized a festival before, but things were slowly falling into place. Misegadis and Michener were producing an EP for Marquez’s solo project, Continental Breakfast, at local DIY hub Seventh Circle Music Collective when they met Joel Zuercher, operator of Kappa Waves Studio. Zuercher also just happens to own fourteen acres of land in Brighton, and when they pitched their idea to him, he offered the property for a full 24 hours, allowing festival-goers to camp overnight if they so choose.

“We saw this space and thought, ‘We could actually do this,’” says Misegadis.

So began the serious work. The coordinators posted an open call for bands on Facebook, aiming to book eight. “There wasn’t much of an application process,” says Marquez. “We were like, ‘If you want to play this, message us. We’ll listen to you.’”

The submissions started rolling in — over fifty in total, and several after the posted deadline — and the planned number of bands swelled to 26.

The trio spent a full day browsing and listening to the Bandcamp pages of their applicants, altogether ignoring the number of likes on a given band’s social-media pages and making a few discoveries of their own. “We did not look at the draw,” Marquez insists. “There are so many bands on the lineup that I had no idea about but we listened to and I was just like, ‘Holy crap, these guys are insane.’”

In its finalized form, the lineup reflects its organizers’ commitment to creating a “multi-genre, multifaceted” experience. It leans heavily on Denver’s DIY garage-rock and pop scenes and features the Corner Girls, the Beeves, the Ephinjis, Total Goth and Use the Sun. But hip-hop (OneLyfe), metal (Solarfall), jazz fusion (Wild Love Tigress) and experimental pop (Wax Tanzler) are all on the roster, too, as are members of music scenes in Boulder and Colorado Springs.

And the organizers aren’t charging bands to play at the festival, a tactic known as “pay to play.” It’s a common strategy for local bar and concert venues when booking local bands.

“There’s never been a situation like this where we could actually give bands this opportunity; it’s not pay-to-play, and it’s not a tiny venue, either. We can meet somewhere in the middle,” says Misegadis. “We can offer exposure and a fun environment, but do it on a grander scale.”

But by the same token, bands aren’t being paid to appear, which is a hard thing for the organizers — musicians themselves — to swallow. All of the funds generated by ticket sales must go to recouping the cost to put on the event, so no one, not even the organizers, is cutting a profit.

“If we had the money and the resources, we would definitely be like, ‘Every band gets a guarantee of at least a hundred bucks.’ But we don’t have that; we’re not in that position,” says Marquez.

When booking, the organizers were up front about their financial situation and encouraged every act to bring merchandise to sell. They staggered the playing schedule so that no two bands would compete for the crowd, and they decided against creating festival merchandise so as not to take profits from bands. All three organizers are also playing — Marquez with Bourgeois Girl, Michener as Wavy, and Misegadis as Super Fresh — so, well, they get it.

“It’s not about making money. The underlying objective is to bring together the music community out here,” says Michener, though he emphasizes that they hope to have a large enough budget, accumulated through sponsorships and increased ticket sales, to pay bands next year.

Given how this year’s two-stage festival has already exceeded its coordinators’ initial vision of eight bands on one stage, paying bands next year is a good possibility. All three organizers are eager to see how big — and for how long — Field Day Camp Show can grow. “Our endgame isn’t this year. Our endgame is ten years, fifteen years,” says Misegadis as he drinks the last of his beer.

“We’re building a foundation to take this scene to greater heights,” adds Michener.

The result might just be the most altruistic local festival ever.

Field Day Camp Show
Saturday, August 27, noon, 25500 East 152nd Avenue, Brighton, $5 per car, $15 per campsite.

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Elle Carroll is a writer and photographer based in Denver. She has written for Westword since 2016.
Contact: Elle Carroll