“Orlando has a rich history of outdoor rock concerts,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said at a press conference announcing a lineup that includes more than two dozen acts on four stages over two days. “This takes it to another level. This puts Orlando at the center stage for American music in November.”
The lineup will include major stars in rock, hip-hop andcountry music.
The Killers, who have not toured in the United States this year, will headline the festival’s opening day on Nov. 12, on a bill with the Raconteurs, Pixies, the Avett Brothers, The Roots, O.A.R. , Iron & Wine, Pete Yorn, Jenny & Johnny, Gavin DeGraw, Drive-By Truckers, Dr. Dog, Civil Twilight, Lucero, the Felice Brothers, Ben Sollee and Renee & The Translators.
On Nov. 13, Seger will perform on a lineup with Kid Rock, country star Blake Shelton, the Doobie Brothers,Dwight Yoakam, Buddy Guy, the Warren Haynes Band, Chris Isaak, Brandi Carlile, Robert Randolph & the Family band, the Flatlanders, Los Lonely Boys, Blues Traveler, Michelle Brand, Justin Townes Earle, the David Mayfield Parade and Orlando’s own ska band the Supervillains.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ticketmasteroutlets. If purchased before Sept 1, the cost is $80 (plus fees) for a one-day pass and $145 for a two-day admission. After Sept. 1, it’s $87.50 for one-day, $160 for two days.
The diverse lineup is the vision of concert promoter Melvin Benn, the CEO of British-based Festival Republic, a promotion company with a long record of successfulEuropean rock festivals, including iconic events at Reading, Leeds and Glastonury.
On Thursday, Benn said that he has been looking for a home for his first festival in the United States for several years. He picked Orlando for a variety of reasons.
“The climate is fantastic, especially at that time of year,” he said. “Plus, every single decent-sized airport in the U.S. has direct flights to Orlando and many airports around the world. You never need to explain to anyone where Orlando is.”
Benn also said that he has received a “very enthusiastic” response from the city, but nothing in the way of financial incentives. “I wish I could say one of the reasons is that they have given me millions of dollars, but it’s not the case,” he said. “I’m paying them money.”
City officials said the promoters are paying a standard $75,000 lease fee to use the Citrus Bowl and surrounding area.
For its part, the city also gets a $2 facility fee assessed on each ticket sold. Orlando also gets the lion’s share of the parking and concession revenues, but gives up a portion to the promoters, or about $4.50 per attendee, said Allen Johnson, the city’s venues executive director.
“The city is [financially] protected,” Johnson said.
“They sought us out,” said Dyer, who has seen Bob Seger in concert. “And we were really excited about having this in Orlando.”
Dyer said that one of the city’s main goals is to expose folks outside Central Florida to the fact that this area is more than just theme parks, and that a thriving arts and music scene lives here, too.
“We were trying to expose the world to the other side of Orlando,” Dyer said.
The local music scene will be exposed through Orlando bands performing at the event and free after-shows shows at other downtown venues on concert nights.
The mix of musical acts — from alternative country (the Flatlanders) to alternative rock (Pixies) and hip-hop (The Roots) — reflects Benn’s vision of a musical event with an American slant.
“I’ve been obsessed for some time, with matching country crossover acts with classic rock acts and alternative rock bands. I want to create a sound aimed at American audiences.”
Festival Republic is well-known in the concert business, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of industry magazine Pollstar.
Benn is “a major figure in the festival world in the UK,” Bongiovanni said. “He has a reputation for being able to produce well-run, quality events.”
Orlando Calling is the latest edition to a slate of Florida-based music festivals that include two roots-oriented events — Suwannee Springfest and Magnoliafest — at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. That outdoor space also hosts the annual Wanee Festival, brainchild of the Allman Brothers Band, the Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival and, in August, will be home to the inaugural 311 Pow Wow, a three-day festival hosted by rock band 311.
In a tough economy, festivals can help attract bands to Florida, a peninsula that sometimes doesn’t fit conveniently into tour itineraries.
“The individual bands aren’t faced with selling all the tickets,” Bongiovanni said. “With a festival, the success or failure isn’t tied to an individual act. From a career perspective, it’s less risky and if you like playing for large crowds, it’s a plus. Plus, all these bands have likely played Festival Republic events in Europe. Everyone in the industry knows who Melvin is.”
Bongiovanni says that Orlando’s theme-park destinations and availability of hotel rooms make it a different kind of destination from other music festivals, where fans tend to camp.
“For music fans who want to come to Orlando and have the festival experience, they can tie it into visits to the theme parks and other attractions in the area and make it more of a mini-vacation,” he says.