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The Party Maker: John Hampton [People Issue 2019]

John Hampton gives local talent a platform. Photo by Kevin Geraldez

For as long as John Hampton can remember, he’s been the center of the party. Not the guy hanging from the chandelier swigging from a champagne bottle (well, sometimes), but rather he’s the guy tasked with bringing a party to life. Via his company, Hampton Productions, he has thrown events and concerts throughout Orange County over the past 15 years.

People who came of age during the mid-2000s may remember the days when clubs and bars were a bastion for more than ticket sales for touring artists; they fostered a community and championed bands in our own back yard, elevating them high enough to get a shot at breakout success. “Seeing all the bands grow—like the Dirty Heads going from playing gigs on Main Street in Huntington Beach to what they are today—that really pushed me to support these bands,” Hampton says. “We’ve lost a little bit of that over the years, so I wanna bring that back.”

Though the talent has always been here, it requires someone special to give it a platform that can make everyone feel good about shelling out cash to see local music. And Hampton continues to cultivate the deep roots in OC by working with brands such as Wahoo’s Fish Taco, co-owned by local entrepreneur Wing Lam, and Tony Hawk’s skateboard company, Birdhouse. Having been involved with both brands since the ’90s, Hampton has seen the grassroots companies grow into big-time corporations in their respective arenas.

That same scrappy work ethic built on community and friendships has seen Hampton expand his own events, including the OC music showcase, dubbed OCSX. After years of producing events in Austin, Texas, for other companies, he decided to use his skills to shed light on OC’s music scene. In 2015, Hampton began bringing local bands there for shows orbiting the annual South By Southwest. “It was at a time when OC Music Awards halted, too, and that was a really good platform for people to get together and communicate and see who was doing what,” Hampton says. “It was really a good vibe.”

Bringing such bands as Robert Jon & the Wreck, Big Monsta, and Well Hung Heart to the attention of an international audience at SXSW required corporate sponsorships, arranging places for the band members to stay, and driving countless miles so OC artists could melt the faces off unsuspecting fans.

But Hampton’s many efforts mostly focus on OC. With the support of his team, he organizes, promotes and markets boutique festivals all over the county—and Hampton doesn’t limit himself to the beer-swigging rock & roll crowds.

One of his largest events to date started with the idea to throw a “Baby-Chella” at the Great Park in Irvine. Imagine a DJ pumping out EDM replaced by a bubble tent or a DoLab morphing into an arts-and-crafts station for kids. In its first year, the proposed pint-sized festival drew more than 10,000 families. It got so big they had to change the name to Dream Feather so as to not anger the Coachella gods. (The next such event is being planned for later this year.)

Hampton’s strategy is to pair local corporations with the arts-and-entertainment community in putting on memorable, well-run music events carrying the soul of a live music scene.

“It’s all about putting forth the effort,” Hampton says. “Everybody wants to be inspired and believed in, and if you can believe in someone and they believe in you, you can accomplish a lot of things. That’s what we’re trying to do.”