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