Downtown Concerts
5:33 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Two Lollapalooza-Like Concerts A Year Possible In Downtown St. Louis

The city of St. Louis took an initial step today toward locking in a decade of music festivals featuring big-name performers in downtown St. Louis.

Under the measure introduced today, Los Angeles-based ICM Partners would stage Lollapalooza-like concerts on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. In exchange, the city would not issue permits to other for-profit events on those weekends. ICM and the city are still negotiating whether the limits to that restrictions.  It's unclear if it would apply only to the area where the festival would take place, a zone that stretches along Market St. from about  Broadway to 20th Street, or whether for-profit events would be banned from all areas of the city on those weekends.

The non-compete clause is essential, said co-sponsor Christine Ingrassia, the 6th Ward alderwoman.

"I don't think it would be possible for the city to support the high caliber of artists that ICM is going to be able to bring into St. Louis," she said. "I don't think that should be a problem at all." ICM represents Beyonce and Elvis Costello, among other musicians.

But local event producers had mixed feelings about the legislation. Scott King, who does freelance event production work, conceded that big national acts will bring more attention and revenue to the city.

But, King said, there are long-standing, locally-produced festivals on both of those weekends.

"I think a lot of those local producers have put a lot of time, money and effort into trying to attract people back to the city of St. Louis," King said. "I feel like if this would go through, the city would almost have to turn their back to those same local event producers who have done a lot of work to get St. Louis on the map."

For example, the Big Muddy Blues Festival happens Labor Day Weekend. It's taken place on Laclede's Landing for 18 years. Emily Kochan, executive director of the Laclede's Landing Merchants Association, which produces the festival, said she had not heard of the pending legislation. However, the Merchants Association is a non-profit so it's not clear if the new law would shut down Big Muddy.

One event that would not be affected  is the St. Louis Bluesweek Festival, which announced earlier this week that it is moving to Chesterfield. Organizer Mike Kociela told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the decision was driven by costs. He did not return a phone call asking if the proposed legislation played any role. 

Mayor Francis Slay and board president Lewis Reed, who was also a co-sponsor, referred all questions to ICM Partners. Company representatives did not return phone calls for comment.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann