According to festival organizers, LouFest this year brought a record number of music fans to the event in Forest Park. Promoters estimated attendance for the weekend at roughly 50,000 people. Last year attendance was roughly 36,000. Though attendance was high, people pointed out things they hope will change next year.
One of the major criticisms lobbed at the festival as soon as this year's lineup was announced was the low number of female musicians. Only six groups out of 34 acts featured women. Some of the critics attributed the disproportionate male showing to issues within the music industry as a whole.
One band, Misterwives, showcases an explicitly feminist song and views much of its music as supporting women and girl power. Lead singer Mandy Lee of Misterwives is one of the six female musicians to play the concert. She agrees that a lack of gender-equal booking is a problem with the music industry, not just Loufest.
“Unfortunately this is a man’s industry. Even with sound guys, it’s a ‘sound guy’ not a ‘sound person’ because it’s predominantly men,” said Lee.
Yet Lee is quick to point out that she loved playing the festival and felt the band was treated really well throughout the weekend.
Jessica Hernandez of Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas feels the representation of women in music is an industry issue. But she says some festivals are a chance to highlight female musicians.
“Some festivals we’ve played this summer have been primarily females, which has been really cool,” she said, “I feel like there’s this cool transition right now where women are almost starting to, like, take over certain scenes in the music industry.”
C3 Presents is the production company that has been booking the festival since founder Brian Cohen turned over the reins. C3 also books Austin City Limits Music Festival, Big Day Out festival (canceled this year) and Lollapalooza. Each of these larger festivals featured many of the same acts, which touches on a question raised about whether musical acts are spread too thin with so many summer festivals happening across the country. Both Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza, although larger festivals than LouFest, include more than acts featuring female musicians.
Some also criticized the strength of the lineup in general. Previous LouFests have included The National, Broken Social Scene, and Outkast, who performed while on the final tour of their career. This year’s headliners were Hozier and The Avett Brothers, which some thought didn't live up to previous years.
Yet record-breaking attendance for both days demonstrate that not all people were as frustrated by the booking decisions as some we talked to.
David Baker has been to every LouFest to date. He lives near Forest Park and has developed a pre-festival ritual of brunch at his house before biking over midafternoon each day to catch most of Saturday and Sunday’s bands. He’s seen the concert grow from a two-stage event to four stages.
“It’s probably the best music festival in St. Louis, really,” he said.
He keeps coming back because of the energy, and LouFest’s singular nature as the largest music fest in the area.
“Now you can walk around and see music the whole entire time and get a much bigger selection of what you want to listen to,” he said.
Baker acknowledges some of the criticism aimed at LouFest but was still supportive of the concert as an “event.” He said lineups have “ebbed and flowed” and changed in quality depending on the year. Earlier in the festival’s history, he said, Schlafly provided a beer-garden but this yearthe craft beer’s logo was nowhere to be found, having been replaced by Anheuser-Busch.
“Craft beer in St. Louis is a big deal, along with local music in St. Louis, so it’d be good to have that still here,” he said.
Regardless of the concerns and frustrations aimed toward LouFest this year, Baker will be back next year, right after brunch.
Photos by Jess Luther | St. Louis Public Radio