It’s time to load up the car with camping gear, a cooler full of beer, and a portable grill; the Outdoor Camping Music Festival (OCMF) is coming back to town! For the first time since 2013, Ted Tesoriero, President/CEO at DJE Sound and Lighting, Inc., out of Lake Forest, is producing this three-day music festival, which will feature two stages and close to twenty jam bands. Tesoriero and a tight group of friends, including promoter Bill McCoy, who has handled OCMF’s online marketing and band logistics, are committed to the jam band scene and to bringing the fans together through community-oriented festivals such as this. The Weekly had an opportunity to speak with Tesoriero about the return of his festival and about the culture that surrounds the jam band scene.
OC Weekly (Scott Feinblatt): After a hiatus of several years, what was the inspiration for the return of the festival?
Ted Tesoriero: We used to do concerts at Irvine Lake, and then Irvine Lake stopped having them because of something with the county, I guess. We decided to resurrect it after five years. It will be next door to Irvine Lake. It’s now at Lakeview Park.
Did they put the kibosh on you over at Irvine Lake?
You know, we put the kibosh on it because we’re a sound and lighting company; we got real busy and decided to not do the festival for a few years. So we’re really excited to bring it back.
I noticed that you were involved with the Skull & Roses Festival, the festival of bands paying tribute to the Grateful Dead.
Yeah, we’re the production company for that.
Long Beach-based Grateful Dead tribute band Cubensis, which headlined at Skull & Roses, is headlining this festival as well. To what extent is there a connection between the two festivals?
They’re both jam band music [festivals] that revolves around the Grateful Dead and Phish. Anyway, we produce Skull & Roses, [and] we made it a priority at our company to [be part of the] the jam bands [scene]. And so we did the Overnight Camping, which is what the OC stands for (not Orange County — the OC is a play on Orange County). A friend of mine, Gary Westwell, who is a Huntington Beach resident, is so into jam bands he started OC Jam Band Society that basically highlights bands that maybe don’t get a lot of credit because they’re not a tribute band, or they’re not covering a particular genre — they’re kind of all genres. And so he’s one of the inspirations for the event as well. I really think he’s important because this whole festival is designed around like a club event, like the Jam Band Society, so most of the people that are coming have been kind of our, for lack of a better word, community of people that like jam bands.
Since you were involved in its production, would you say that Skull & Roses may have kept you too occupied for the last couple of years to do OCMF?
Actually, it’s kind of inspirational to see my friend, Chris Mitrovich, that promotes Skull & Roses. Seeing him do this the last couple of years kind of inspired me to bring it back. Chris has been an inspiration to me because he hired me to do his production last year, and watching him bring together just Grateful Dead bands was super fun, and it just reminded me how fun the OC Music Festival was in the past, and Craig Marshall and Cubensis have been a huge support because there’s an era now where the bands only make money touring, so some of the price tags for seeing a regional band are really high, and since we are just like a jam band society / club and we all kind of know each other, we decided we’d just kind of put our PA where the campgrounds are, so to speak.
So you would definitely say that your involvement with the Skull & Roses festival influenced this year’s OC Music Fest?
Yes. Inspired. There’s one more festival that someone’s been helping me with, it’s called the June Lake Jam Fest, and [its organizer’s] name is Janet Hunt, and she’s been great too. We produced her event up at Mammoth Lake, and she was so fired up about it that she said she wanted to help me with my festival. So, she’s been a great part of the logistics of this one. And jam bands are kind of alive; with Skull & Roses, the OC Music Festival, and June Lake Jam Fest, we feel like we’re starting to really hone in a lot of jam bands from Orange County because for the June Lake, she pulls a lot of bands from LA and Orange County to head for the mountains for a weekend in September.
How were the bands selected for this one?
Through band submissions and friends of the Jam Band Society. As a matter of fact, a lot of the bands are basically a pick-up of where we left off in 2013. Bands like GrooveSession that started playing as a band with our original music festival in, like, 2009, and they’ve got a great career going. The Higgs, Cubensis, Hempstring Orchestra, all those types of bands basically played the very last festival. We thought it would be appropriate to have Cubensis play two nights of music, since the last one we had was those guys playing two nights, four sets. It’s gonna be pretty epic. Gary Westwell has been very adamant about: “We need to have a campout because the community’s so tight!”
For the people who attended the previous festival, are there any big changes apart from the new location and the fact that it’s going to be three days instead of two?
The new location, at Lakeview Park, is so much more community-oriented that the old Irvine Lake was like…camping the in way back, in a grassy field. This is like in a setting where you can play horseshoes; you can play miniature golf. There’s picnic tables and a secondary stage. It’s more based on like a community getting together, and you can bring your ice chest, bring your own food, that kind of stuff. There will be food trucks and some vendors there, but for the most part it’s bring your propane and cook up your stuff and, you know, share it with your neighbors.
What are ticket sales like, or how many attendees do you anticipate?
We’re expecting between 300 – 400 people. We kind of knew, coming into this, that it would be “let’s dip our toes in the water and see how it goes.” But we do plan on growing the festival into probably the biggest jam fest that Orange County has ever seen.
Apart from this, Skull & Roses, and June Lake Jam Fest, are there any other jam band festivals?
There really aren’t. There’s nothing. That was the other inspiration for the original one, but you know now that we’re a relatively successful production company, we have the gear to do this, so the concept was that “Let’s put the gear out there, and people will come.” So, the sound and the lights, and everything will be first class and geared towards more like 1000 people. We think that’s how we’re going to build a following — by having great production quality, great bands, and not be known as a nickel and dime festival.
It kind of reminds me of the Grateful Dead’s humble origins, when they were more of a cult act and they had a relatively small but very committed following.
Part of us wants to fly under the radar because we want to have a great time and just enjoy each other’s company out there. I’ve been pretty adamant about it, and I don’t care if it’s got 300 or 600 people because we’re in a good place where we own the equipment, we have the technical skills to put this together, and that’s more important to me than grabbing another 100 tickets and [having to] advertise more. We kind of just built the word up through traditional flyers, going to local jam bands at the bars, and most of the bands that we’ve booked have played all the usual places (Golden Sails, King Neptune’s, etc.) that will have jam bands on a Friday or Saturday night, which isn’t very many people. We recognize we’re in kind of a smaller market, in Orange County, we know we’re probably not going to get 10,000 people out at the lake. [We’re a pretty tight group, though.]
For a complete listing of the bands scheduled to play at OC Music Fest and ticket information, visit their website.