Epicenter 2010: An upstart promoter snags Eminem, KISS, a reunited Bush and blink-182, and more
The arrival this weekend of the second Epicenter festival in Fontana begs the question: Does the world really have room for yet another pop music festival?
“No, not really,” says Gary Spivack, co-president of Right Arm Entertainment, the promoter of Epicenter, which in its sophomore year has assembled an eclectic lineup of rock, hip-hop, punk and alternative acts including Eminem, KISS, blink-182, Bush, Rise Against and Bad Religion on Saturday and Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway.
“There are a lot of festivals out there and some really good ones here in Southern California,” Spivack said. “But if someone is being underserved, we want to serve underserved, and we thought, ‘Where’s the really big rock festival that also is able to include some of the really credible hip-hop artists of the day?’ ”
For Eminem, it’s only his third live performance this year -- and only West Coast appearance -- following recent rap blowouts in his native Detroit and then New York on stadium bills he shared with Jay-Z.
“If you’re going to do a show in Southern California, where people have so many options to choose from, you’ve got to swing for the fences,” says Spivack, who started Right Arm four years ago with partners Del Williams and Danny Wimmer. The three were longtime record label employees who “saw the writing on the wall,” Spivack said, in terms of the drastic downscaling so many record companies have gone through in recent years.
They started out helping coordinate radio station concerts in various markets, then in 2007 mounted the Rock on the Range Festival in Columbus, Ohio, expanding to a second venue in Winnipeg, Canada, last year.
They also branched out to the West Coast last year with the first Epicenter show, which featured Tool, Linkin Park, Atmosphere and Alice in Chains, among others. The diversity of this year’s bill highlights the niche Spivack and his partners are targeting, while so many other events largely focus on one specific genre, be it alternative rock, hip-hop, country or bluegrass.
“We felt we really had to step up our game,” Spivack said. “It all starts at the top, and almost in an innocent way, we said, ‘Let’s go get Eminem,’ and as it turned out, the stars were aligned. The timing worked for him and, being a Detroit boy, he loved the idea of playing with KISS. It also was the only time blink-182 was available. It’s Bush’s first concert in nine years as Bush. House of Pain is doing its first show in 12 years."
Saturday’s mainstage lineup boasts KISS, Eminem and Bush, as well as Papa Roach and OutKast’s Big Boi. Sunday’s headliners are blink-182, Rise Against, 30 Seconds to Mars and Bad Religion. As a Southland native, Spivack points to the strong contingent of Southern California performers. There will be two stages alternating acts to avoid overlapping sound and to allow fans to catch all the performers if they wish.
“No overlapping sets,” Spivack said. “I hate that. When you go to a festival and you want to see a band, you should be able to see their whole set.”
Epicenter has moved in its second year from the Pomona Fairplex to the larger capacity Auto Club Speedway, which can accommodate up to 100,000 people. In addition to the music, Epicenter will offer an art village, a space for the creation of live art, a graffiti wall where attendees can express themselves visually, a “thinking wall” where they’ll similarly be invited to express whatever ideas they wish to share, and a vendor village with food and various merchandise.
Advance sales have covered 18 states, he said, but the bulk have come from surrounding Inland Empire communities in Riverside and San Bernardino.
“I’m an L.A. boy,” said Spivack, who grew up in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood in West Los Angeles and attended the Cal Jam and the US Festival rock gatherings in the '70s and '80s in Ontario and San Bernardino, respectively. “Cal Jam and the US Festival are a big part of the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing today. To have this in the Inland Empire means a lot to me, and to a lot of festival fans.”
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: Eminem performing earlier this month at Yankee Stadium. Credit: Jason DeCrow / Associated Press