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LouFest Founder Reflects On Festival Growth

Flaming Lips at LouFest 2012
File photo | St. Louis Beacon

Since 2010, LouFest has grown from local festival into a nationally known music experience. LouFest returns this weekend to Forest Park. The two-day national music festival includes headliners Arctic Monkeys and Outkast and local bands Pretty Little Empire and Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters. Festival Founder Brian Cohen said he expected this type of growth.

“I didn’t think about a small little indie festival, I thought about a national draw for St. Louis,” said Cohen.

Cohen came up with the idea for LouFest while away from the city. He was in Houston, Texas, and asked himself the age old question: “If I could do anything right now, what would it be?”

His answer was simple. “Really at that moment, the idea of a music festival came to me,” he said.

Cohen was so struck by the idea that he visualized the entire layout of the festival in Forest Park. He spent much of the plane ride back from Houston sketching out locations for stages, ticketing, and vendors.

“Obviously this changed as we did the work of the actual logistics,” Cohen said.

Since that initial spark of inspiration LouFest has hosted some of the top rock bands in the country. Past headliners include, Wilco, Broken Social Scene, and The National. Although Cohen works with professional booking agents, he still has a personal interest in what performers are on the bill.

“You use your gut a lot of the times,” said Cohen. “At the end of the day you really, I think you have to just trust that the decisions you make about the bands you reach out to, all of that will come together as a whole.”

So far Cohen’s gut seems gifted. This year boasts a festival closing set from seminal hip-hop group Outkast who is on its 20th anniversary tour. The festival has grown so much that Cohen expects more than one-third of this weekend’s attendees will be from out of state. Cohen hopes LouFest is beneficial to the St. Louis economy and will contribute not only through its own income, but through money spent at local restaurants, hotel rooms, and gas stations.

The two day festival runs from Saturday at noon until Sunday at 10 p.m.

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