The ninth edition of So What Music?! Festival (March 19th-20th) that is held in Grand Prairie, Texas is only a month away. This year will serve to be one of the biggest for the festival yet with such heavyweights as Underoath, New Found Glory, Saosin with Anthony Green amongst many up and coming acts where many fans from all over the country will flock to. MEB Writer/Photographer Murjani (M.J.) Rawls recently spoke the man behind the production, Mike Ziemer. Along with Evolve Media Management and Third String Productions, Ziemer has an eleven plus year background in promoting concerts across the state of Texas. They discuss what to look forward to this year, what’s to come in the expansion of So What, and more.
MEB: If anybody follows you on social media, you’ll notice that you are an open book. You share your stories and struggles and it’s refreshing because I think a lot of fans relate and it enhances So What Music Fest because it’s like “look what I did – I got through this and started my own festival”. How does it feel to be looked up to by many who have dreams of doing what you do and do you hear that a lot?
Going from a fan who would go to shows and look up to the performers and try my best to meet them, pick their brains, and even interview them back in the day to someone that people want to interview, want to meet, and look up to is a strange thing to me. I often feel that I don’t understand the scope or importance of what I do, but when people ask me questions every day and post about wanting to meet me or support what i do. It reminds me that whatever I am doing is working and I’m very thankful for the support I receive from everyone. It’s cool to see people looking up to industry people and not just the bands, they recognize our hard work and wanna do what we do. It’s sweet.
You recently made a move to California. With that, even though this is the 9th iteration of So What?! Music Fest, it feels brand new. (alteration of name, possible expansion, shortened to two days). In what ways did moving fuel you creativity on this year’s festival?
Los Angeles is an inspiring place. Anyone that tells you differently has never had a real experience here. It’s the same with New York City. Anytime I’ve visited either place, it totally changed my perspective on a lot of things. When I lived in Texas, it was a comfortable bubble of routine, but moving to LA created a daily motivation to be better than the day before. Go bigger, go better, meet everyone, network, plan, repeat. We have big plans for 2017, so we wanted to do a 2 day event this year, with a pre-party, after-party, and all that fun stuff and save the three day (maybe even four day) event for 2017. 2017 is our 10 year and we wanna go all out.
With the move, you still have Third String Productions to which you regularly go back to Texas for. I saw that you’re doing a string of shows with Myke Terry who I interviewed earlier this year and and Tilian Pearson. How do you keep that balance between the festival planning and Third String especially with it being in two different locations?
I have the best team in the world. Every market that we do shows in, I have a promoter there who runs their local scene and has their own team. I have a full time marketing director and team that believes in everything I do and supports my ideas that sometimes take me out of office for a bit. To be honest, I am more focused on the road because you’re bored if you’re not doing something productive on those long drives.
So What Music Festival has been shortened to two days this year instead of three in the past years, but still as packed with talent. What went into the decision to shorten the festival by one day
We had a lot of people unable to attend either friday or sunday last year because of work, school, whatever. When we first started shooting emails around to book bands, we decided we didn’t want to water down this line uu. We wanted to go real big, real strong, and not force a third day. I think we made the right move because everyone seems happy. Plus we added a fun pre-party to basically make it three days of fun.
Were there any bands on this year’s wishlist that you couldn’t get for this year and who are you looking forward to see the most?
We got approached to book Deftones, Coheed & Cambria, Glassjaw, and more late in the game and it REALLY sucks we couldn’t include them, but I am very much looking forward to Underoath, New Found Glory, and Dance Gavin Dance. Basically everyone on day one because I’m a pop punk kid haha.
I’m from New Jersey and I came to Grand Prairie to photograph the festival last year. There are a lot of fans in my shoes that came from all over to check out So What Music Festival. Is there any pressure you feel to keep raising the bar as this goes on? It’s more of a destination more than a festival.
I think you nailed it by saying it’s more of a destination. I think we are at a point where our loyal attendees are going to come no matter what. They trust us on the bands we book, they know it’s going to be a great time, and they wanna keep coming back. It’s hard to top the lineup every year. Some years will be stronger than others, but we have 100% support of the fans in the scene and that makes it easier.
Are there still plans to expand So What into other states? I remember there was talk of there being an California iteration possibly?
We will be expanding in the near future – we are just being careful about the planning, who we partner with, and where we go. But yes, we are going to bring it to other places!
Name some of the bands that you are listening to in your playlist right now.
Turnover, Kanye West, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, FIDLAR, Power Trip to name a few. I’m all over the place, haha.
Check out the full lineup over on the festival website. Single, two-day, and VIP passes are going quick, so grab one there.