Dave Foran, seen here at the Florianopolis leg of the recent Snoop Dogg Brazilian tour, is the founder and promoter of NYC's inaugural Catalpa festival and believes the event has staying power.
Dave Foran, founder of this summer's inaugural Catalpa Festival slated for this weekend (July 28-29), says NYC is a "graveyard for music festivals." And if you consider such ill-fated tri-state area music confabs as Field Day, All Points West, Bonnaroo N.E.,Vineland, Creamfields, and Across the Narrows, Foran has a valid point. So what makes this confident Irishman -- who has never promoted a U.S. show -- think he has the answer to claiming a stake above the ground instead of below it?
Foran, 28, who founded Dublin-based event management company Frisky Productions in 2011, has a long history of working in the music promotion business. He learned the ropes with his family's promotion business in Ireland, Pat Egan Sound, which he says promoted shows for the past 30 years, including concerts with Queen, Bob Marley, Elton John and George Michael among others.
Foran believes that Catalpa's strong lineup -- which includes the Black Keys, TV on the Radio, Girl Talk, Snoop Dogg, Black Keys, A$AP Rocky, Zola Jesus, Felix Da Housecat and Umphrey McGee's -- and especially its non-music offerings -- including Frisky's Church of Sham Marriages, bumper cars, the world's smallest most exclusive nightclub, and a fire-breathing sculpture/DJ stage -- will catapult Catalpa into becoming NYC's perennial go to music fest..
Billboard.biz: What was your inspiration for Catalpa and why bring it to New York?
Dave Foran: Bringing Catalpa to New York was trying to fill what, in my eyes, is a void for a large, well-done, comprehensive destination festival in New York. It's one of the best cities in the world, and it doesn't really have a festival to call its own. There've been a few attempts at it, and [New York] is a graveyard for festivals. But what I'm trying to put together, if it's done right, will have longevity. Essentially, it's trying to establish something substantial that isn't really here and is calling out to be done.
What sets Catalpa apart from other festivals like Coachella  or Lollapalooza  or Governor's Ball, which shares a patch of grass with Catalpa?
It's hard to put across to people in advertising or in words, but there's a very strong emphasis on experience-based elements people wouldn't expect from a music festival that heightens the overall experience. Anybody can go to a festival and of course they're going to have great lineups and the best basic elements; but it's the things beyond that that people remember if they're interesting and entertaining enough. If I was to list off some of these things, you'd think I'm nuts. We have the Frisky's Church of Sham Marriages going in, which is a 60 foot inflatable church, and we have a pimp pastor marrying people. We actually have two couples getting legitimately married at the festival - the wedding dress, the whole family coming in. I'm trying to get Snoop Dogg to actually do the marriage. That'd be ridiculous, right? It's elements like that. Of course you had a great time seeing the Black Keys, but you're going to talk for a lot longer about the day you saw the Black Keys and got married to some random person.
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Where do ideas like that and the art installations and bumper cars come from?
Just out of my strange head. We have the world's smallest and most exclusive nightclub - it's going to be called the Pink Flamingo. It's big enough for two people, and has a strict door policy where the bouncer only lets one percent of people in, and it has a red carpet and velvet ropes. When you look at that it sounds stupid, right? But when you're actually there and you're having quite a bit of fun with these different elements, it's what really brings a level of fun and interactivity. Silent Disco is another one, and there's the High Times magazine reggae stage - all kind of bizarre leftfield quirky elements.
There's also a huge emphasis on the artistry and aesthetics of the site. For me, it's got to be visually really stunning. I think if people don't walk into it and kind of go "What the hell is going on here?" I will have failed at what I'm trying to do. Strange works. People like that; it's what keeps people talking about it.
Can you tell us about the "Afterburner" sculpture by Arcadia?
[Arcadia] takes recycled military scrap from the U.K. and around Europe and creates these intense structures. The Afterburner shoots 30-foot flames from the top with DJs inside it. Again, we're trying to come up with really interesting and visually amazing things that are going to blow people away. It's just another element adding to the overall aesthetic and visual overload I'm trying to achieve and it's pretty nuts. One look at that thing and people are like "Whoa, that looks dangerous, but amazing." It'll be the electronic music stage, and it's its first time in North America. They've been at Glastonbury in the U.K. for about six years. It should get quite a good reaction - it's definitely something new and out there.
How long have you and your team been planning Catalpa?
I came up with the idea of doing it in New York about two years ago. This is the first thing I'm doing in North America. I just couldn't comprehend why there wasn't a very well-done comprehensive festival in New York. That's when the idea developed and here we are, a year-and-a-half, two years later... It's a big investment, and I fully intend for it to be here for a long time and really nail it down as New York's festival. When people think of Chicago, they think of Lollapalooza and I want the same kind of idea here. New York's quite a savvy market and people want a heightened experience and something that's a bit more design-based and creative. It can be a picky market, so we need to cater to that.
How have you spread the word about Catalpa? What kind of crowd are you expecting?
We're trying something a little bit more high-end with a bit more of an emphasis on the artistry and the overall experience we're trying to give to people. We have things like wine and cheese bars in and a VIP area. We have private cabanas with your own private hot tub and bottle service - it's something that's a little higher end. I'm really looking to come in with some big names, which I think we've achieved reasonably well this year - the Black Keys are probably as popular as you can get right now. I'm not Live Nation - I'm one Irish fella, trying to pull off something as substantial as possible.