British Promoter's First U.S. Festival Draws Thousands to See Kid Rock, Seger, and More in Orlando

By Mitra Sorrells November 15, 2011, 2:15 PM EST

Photo: BizBash

More than 18 months of planning and two weeks of construction culminated Saturday and Sunday in the Orlando Calling music festival on the grounds of the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Nearly 50,000 music fans attended the event, which featured performances by Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Blake Shelton, the Killers, and more than 80 other acts on five stages.

Orlando Calling was the first event in the United States from Festival Republic, a British music promoter that produces seven popular festivals around Europe, including the Reading and Leeds Festival in England. “When you are first launching a festival, it is a particularly slow process. The artists don’t know what it is. So that’s what the investment of the first year is about, creating something so people can say that’s a great event,” said Festival Republic C.E.O. Melvin Benn.

Benn said he was pleased with ticket sales for the first year, but will have to look at final figures and talk to city leaders to determine if the festival will return in 2012. “The goal of course is very much to create a festival property that will have a long life. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no guarantee. No festival has the right to live. Every festival has to work to continue to exist,” he said.  

The Saturday schedule skewed toward a younger crowd, with performances from Kid Cudi, the Roots, O.A.R., the Killers, and dozens more. Benn described Sunday as “a statement of American classic rock culture,” with headliners Kid Rock and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, along with diverse acts such as Michelle Branch, Buddy Guy, the Doobie Brothers, Chris Isaak, and Dwight Yoakam.  

Organizers covered the Citrus Bowl turf with UltraDeck tiles and erected the massive main stage on the north end of the bowl. The most eager fans packed in front of the stage—most standing, a few sitting on blankets—while others chose to sit in the stadium’s bleachers. The remaining four stages were spread around the property. A 20- by 20-foot tent dubbed the Art House held the smallest stage, where local bands performed as fans lounged on couches and sipped coffee and cocktails served from a small bar in the corner. Works by local artists decorated the interior walls of the tent, while outside artists created large canvases inspired by album covers of some of the festival’s performers.

Festival Republic chose Orlando in part due to support from city leaders and also because the mild climate allowed them to hold the festival in the fall. Sponsors included Heineken, Camelbak, JetBlue Airways, Jim Beam, and

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