Interview: Monolith Festival director Josh Baker - Reverb - Reverb

Interview: Monolith Festival director Josh Baker

josh baker
Monolith Festival director Josh Baker is in high spirits for this weekend’s event, which takes over Red Rocks on Saturday and Sunday. Photo by Laurie Scavo.

Town hall-style communication is catching on. The Obama administration philosophy has made its way to music festivals as the organizers behind this weekend’s Monolith Festival (running Saturday and Sunday at Red Rocks Amphitheatre) are opening the booking process to the fans — and seeing promising results.

“People have been writing us and Tweeting us and telling us who they want to see, and we’ve been listening to them,” said the festival’s Josh Baker. “We’ve gotten some great suggestions, and we’ve booked a lot of our bands that way.

“A bunch of people wanted to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and we got them. We also heard a lot about Passion Pit, Phoenix and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and we got all of them, too.”

There were those who didn’t work in the lineup. Radiohead got a lot of votes, “but that’s never going to happen for us,” said Baker, who is running the midsized festival (with partner Matt Fecher) sans a promoter partner for the first time. Portland indie group Blind Pilot also got votes, “And we tried, but we just couldn’t make it work,” Baker said.

Listening to the people is working for Monolith. Advance ticket sales for Sunday (featuring the Mars Volta, MSTRKRFT, Phoenix and others) have already surpassed last year’s final numbers for Monolith Sunday, which fell flat under headliners Justice and TV on the Radio.

If last year was a toe-dip into indie-dance music for the festival’s organizers, this year has them jumping all the way in.

“Our lineup skews a little younger toward the dancey, party vibe this year,” Baker said. “It’s been more indie rock-centric in the past, but now it’s more like a giant dance party — a big basement party at Red Rocks.”

Baker and Fecher realized the need for the change when they spent more and more time on the Monolith Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are abnormally active for a festival of Monolith’s size. Instead of launching a final lineup a month or two out, they leaked names one at a time on Facebook and Twitter. The steady trickle got people excited, and now the promoters are hoping for their first financially solvent festival.

“Matt and I have always wanted people to know that Monolith is thrown by a couple of guys who like music,” Baker said. “And that’s why you’ll see Matt or I on Facebook at night answering questions and asking people what they want to know.

“This isn’t just something we want to do. It’s something that needs to be done.”

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post. He is also the executive director of the Underground Music Showcase, Colorado’s premier indie music festival. Follow his whimsies at Twitter, his live music habit at Gigbot and his iTunes addictions at Last.fm.

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  • Name

    Wish the Post music staff would step up and recognize that Monolith is the best music weekend Colorado has seen in a long time. Your UMS is a local blast, but pales when compared. Come on? Deer Tick is the best you could do? Why no mention of Monotonix epic show at the Bluebird with the Silver Jews a few years ago? Very disappointing, but it's about what I've expected from you.

  • ricardobaca

    Monolith is one of the many great music weekends we have in Denver. I couldn't be more psyched about heading up to Red Rocks in 30 minutes.This is why we fronted our Friday section with the festival and devoted three stories (in print and online) to Monolith. What's your issue with Deer Tick? They're an amazing band worthy of more attention. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's weren't doing interviews, and as much as we love some of the other big names on the bill, we've already interviewed them in the last year to 18 months, so we're not going to go back and interview Girl Talk when we talked with him before he headlined the Bluebird last year. And we're not going to interview Of Montreal again, since we talked with Kevin Barnes last year.It's funny that you've come to be disappointed with Post music coverage, but here you are saying Monolith is the best music weekend of Denver – and we've interviewed ALL of the bill's major acts at some point in the last two or three or four years. (I've interviewed all three members of the YYY before, including Karen O on the first EP in '01 or '02.) If you did a comparison of similarly sized daily papers, you'd see that we cover more independent music than most. Do we also cover the big stuff – Toby Keith, Green Day and Whitney Houston? Absolutely we do. I love Justin Timberlake almost as much as I adore the Dandy Warhols.

  • http://www.denvereverb.com Ricardo Baca

    Monolith is one of the many great music weekends we have in Denver. I couldn't be more psyched about heading up to Red Rocks in 30 minutes.This is why we fronted our Friday section with the festival and devoted three stories (in print and online) to Monolith. What's your issue with Deer Tick? They're an amazing band worthy of more attention. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's weren't doing interviews, and as much as we love some of the other big names on the bill, we've already interviewed them in the last year to 18 months, so we're not going to go back and interview Girl Talk when we talked with him before he headlined the Bluebird last year. And we're not going to interview Of Montreal again, since we talked with Kevin Barnes last year.It's funny that you've come to be disappointed with Post music coverage, but here you are saying Monolith is the best music weekend of Denver – and we've interviewed ALL of the bill's major acts at some point in the last two or three or four years. (I've interviewed all three members of the YYY before, including Karen O on the first EP in '01 or '02.) If you did a comparison of similarly sized daily papers, you'd see that we cover more independent music than most. Do we also cover the big stuff – Toby Keith, Green Day and Whitney Houston? Absolutely we do. I love Justin Timberlake almost as much as I adore the Dandy Warhols.

  • http://www.denvereverb.com Ricardo Baca

    Monolith is one of the many great music weekends we have in Denver. I couldn't be more psyched about heading up to Red Rocks in 30 minutes.This is why we fronted our Friday section with the festival and devoted three stories (in print and online) to Monolith. What's your issue with Deer Tick? They're an amazing band worthy of more attention. The Yeah Yeah Yeah's weren't doing interviews, and as much as we love some of the other big names on the bill, we've already interviewed them in the last year to 18 months, so we're not going to go back and interview Girl Talk when we talked with him before he headlined the Bluebird last year. And we're not going to interview Of Montreal again, since we talked with Kevin Barnes last year.It's funny that you've come to be disappointed with Post music coverage, but here you are saying Monolith is the best music weekend of Denver – and we've interviewed ALL of the bill's major acts at some point in the last two or three or four years. (I've interviewed all three members of the YYY before, including Karen O on the first EP in '01 or '02.) If you did a comparison of similarly sized daily papers, you'd see that we cover more independent music than most. Do we also cover the big stuff – Toby Keith, Green Day and Whitney Houston? Absolutely we do. I love Justin Timberlake almost as much as I adore the Dandy Warhols.