Never mind Philapalooza: Get ready for the Vineland Music Festival.
Promoter C3 Presents, of Austin, Texas, announced yesterday that the three-day rock festival originally proposed for Philadelphia's Fairmount Park will instead be held Aug. 8 to 10 on a 550-acre farm in Vineland, in South Jersey's Cumberland County.
Over three days, a crowd of 150,000 or more is expected at what C3 partner Charlie Jones called "a camping festival," similar to the Bonnaroo Music Festival held each June in Manchester, Tenn.
The camp-out concert at Menantico Colony, site of a former home for people with disabilities, would be the biggest rock festival New Jersey has ever seen and the biggest multiday music festival currently on the East Coast.
Earlier this month, the Fairmount Park Commission tabled a vote on whether to grant a contract for a music festival to C3 or its competitor, Live Nation, the concert industry behemoth that owns Philadelphia-based promoters Electric Factory Concerts.
"It's unfortunate it worked out the way it did in downtown Philadelphia," Jones said. "When you have this type of investment, you can't keep waiting. We had to launch."
John Binswanger, a Fairmount Park commissioner and president of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the Park's fund-raising arm, said he was disappointed the festival wouldn't be in the park.
"We're going to wait until the first of the year and come back and reevaluate," he said. "There wasn't the opportunity to put together what we wanted."
For the Vineland festival, C3 Presents, which books both the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago and the Austin City Limits fest in Texas, will partner with Festival Republic, the British concert promotion company that puts on the prestigious Glastonbury and Reading festivals in England. Festival Republic is 50.1 percent owned by Live Nation U.K.
Though next summer's Vineland fest will take place a week after Lollapalooza, "this festival has nothing to do with Lollapalooza," Jones said. Nor will the wide-ranging and diverse rock show be themed as a "jam band" festival, as Bonnaroo was when it was founded in 2002.
It's likely, however, that the VMF, which will feature more than 100 bands (and come a week before the Philadelphia Folk Festival, in Schwenksville), will share some of the same acts that play Lolla and Austin.
Jones was not ready to announce any headliners but said the festival would include both big-name and less-mainstream acts. "This event is not about a headliner, although we will have marquee acts. It's about what we like to call 'the meat on the bone,' " he said.
Last summer, Lollapalooza's lineup included Pearl Jam, Amy Winehouse and Philadelphia's The Roots, as well as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Femi Kuti, and the Hold Steady. Bob Dylan, Björk, the White Stripes, LCD Soundsystem and Steve Earle were among those who played Austin.
For the VMF, Jones and C3's two other concert-promoting Charlies - Walker and Attal - are teaming up with Melvin Benn, the Festival Republic promoter whose work with the Reading and Glastonbury fests provided the model for American festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella.
Jones would not say if the VMF would be an annual event like Lolla, which drew 159,000 people to Chicago's Grant Park in August, or Austin City Limits, which pulled in 225,000 to Austin's Zilker Park in September. (Tickets for three days of music went for $195 at Lollapalooza, and $150 at Austin.)
But "when you launch an event of this size," Jones said, "the intention is to start something that's going to last a long time.
"The idea is to take a European-style model and blend it with a more customer-friendly model like ACL and Lollapalooza, which have been in an urban park setting, and create something that's like no other festival in the world."
James Lelli, director of Vineland's Department of Economic Development, said the festival would be held at Menantico Colony, within Vineland's city limits, which had a population of 56,271, according to the 2000 census.
The site, which Lelli said was owned by Media-based social services organization Elwyn, had been used for more than a century to aid disabled people, starting in 1888, when it housed the New Jersey Home for the Education and Care of Feebleminded Children. Elwyn's residential facilities there closed about a decade ago.
Lelli, 76, called the festival "the biggest thing I've seen here, the biggest thing since sliced bread. We had Louis Armstrong [who died in 1971] play at the Vineland High School stadium and he drew 5,000 to 6,000 people. I thought that was great then. But this blows my mind."
Lelli said the festival "will have a great economic impact. . . . It's good for local businesses. People have to eat and spend money."
He added, "I have no concerns over that many people coming. I'm sure we'll take proper steps. . . . We will draw many from the Shore because this is during the summer. We are only a half-hour ride away."
According to Billboard, this year Austin and Lollapalooza grossed $9.8 million and $11.3 million, respectively. C3 says Austin City Limits has generated an economic impact of $129 million since its inception in 2002, and Lollapalooza $106 million since 2005.
Larry Magid, head of Electric Factory Concerts, was not available for comment yesterday. On Monday he said that although he had reservations about the Fairmount Park site, he was still interested in putting on a scaled-down two-day festival next year in and around the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.
Jones didn't rule out putting on a festival in Philadelphia in the future.
"The Fairmount Park Commission worked tremendously hard," he said. "I had full confidence that it was going to happen. We just ran out of time. . . . Unfortunately it got caught between the current administration and the new administration, and for whatever reason, it kept getting tabled. But we're still in a venue where we can service Philadelphia and its surrounding communities."