Loufest founder and Cortex CEO launch new festival | St. Louis Public Radio

Loufest founder and Cortex CEO launch new festival

Feb 25, 2016

Brian Cohen, one of the founders of the LouFest Music Festival, is leaving to start a new venture with the Cortex Innovation Community. The new enterprise will be aimed at showcasing various innovative projects from the city’s tech, science, art, and music communities.

“There are incredible things happening but they’re happening in labs and office buildings," said Cohen. "This is an opportunity to bring it to the street and let everyone see the incredible things that are going on.”

The project will be launched in partnership with Dennis Lower, Cortex's CEO. A year ago, both men were working separately on developing an event like the one they’re now calling the Murmuration Festival.  Lower was initially inspired by Cortex's @4240 building opening and the celebratory attitude of attendees.  They'd planned for 300 guests and 1,400 showed up.

"It really was a regional catharsis almost. People felt excited to be St. Louisans. They felt excited to be in a creative environment with other people," said Lower. So he turned his attention to a project that would do just that.

Lower and Cohen met a few months ago, discussed their individual projects and decided to join forces.  The festival they’re developing will take place from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25.

The festival is named after flocks of starlings that form detailed patterns during flight. The festival hopes to embrace the idea of complex patterns: "The Murmuration Festival will explore the interwoven patterns that develop when science, technology, art and music collide," according to a news release.

“The key elements of the festival are what we’re calling the thought-side of it," said Cohen. "Those are the speakers, the conversations that we’ll put together, the panels of both national personalities and local personalities.”

Still, the event is intended to feel more like a music festival than a series of TED Talks. It will include a juried art competition, musical concerts, multiple stages with concurrent presentations and a food court. Many of the event’s details are still in the works.  The organizing team includes other Cortex members as well as people from Venture Café, TechShop and CIC.  Cohen sold his controlling interest in LouFest to focus on the new project full time.

LouFest was founded in 2010 and quickly grew into the city’s largest outdoor music concert. It included acts like Broken Social Scene, Outkast, TV on the Radio, Wilco, Ludacris and the Alabama Shakes. In 2012, Loufest partnered with C3 Presents, a production company that puts on both Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza. In recent years, the project received some criticism for no longer maintaining its founding spirit. 

St. Louis Alderman Joseph Roddy, D-17th Ward, supports the project.

"To have thought leaders in technology at an event that has great food, has music, has art, it's really a different idea and much different than we're used to in the St. Louis region," Roddy said. 

Cohen says the project is committed to highlighting various innovative work produced in St. Louis, while elevating it to the national stage.

“There’s high-level talent in town. Just because you’re local doesn’t put you on a lower category than a national speaker,” he said. “So mixing and matching the local and the national is a nice way, not only to bring new people to town, but to put a spotlight on the significant talent we have locally.”

More details about the event’s programing and timing will be announced in coming months.

Follow Willis on Twitter @WiilisRarnold