In an interview Tuesday, Saffan said the first event, tentatively scheduled for next Sept. 17 and 18, “will be more indie/Vibes artists” with “contemporary” acts performing Sept. 24 and 25. The combined audience would be at least 100,000.
“Both festivals are appealing to the 30-to-60-year-old,” Saffan added. “There’s no over-night camping. There’s no anything you would remember as the Vibes.
“However, having said that,” Saffan said, “It will be incredibly produced because our partners are Founders Entertainment.”
Established in the mid-1990s to celebrate the music of late Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia, the Vibes, spearheaded by Ken Hays, first came to town in 1999, during Mayor Joe Ganim’s first stint in office. It became a Bridgeport tradition and matured into a diverse event for music lovers of all ages before ending in 2015.
Founders Entertainment’s claim-to-fame is last month’s annual Governors Ball at Citi Field in Queens, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary with major acts including Billie Eilish and the band A$AP Rocky.
Jimmy Koplik, Live Nation’s regional president, said Tuesday the festival deal came about in part because Live Nation owns part of Founders and executives with the latter reside in Fairfield County. The amphitheater’s initial success was a big factor as well.
“We found Bridgeport to be a very good market. The amphitheater had very good business this year,” Koplik said of the shuttered ballpark-turned-concert venue that, after two years of delays, opened July 28. “And Seaside (Park) is a good fit for a festival.
“I wouldn’t have tried it without the Governors Ball people involved,” Koplik added, emphasizing that producing festivals is different from concerts. “And we want to partner with festival organizers that have proven success.”
Their proposal, submitted under a new limited liability corporation — Bridgeport Music Festivals LLC — already has the blessing of the city’s parks board, which received the pitch in August. At that time Saffan testified “there was a tremendous void when the Gathering of the Vibes left” and the shared goal was to make Bridgeport “the entertainment capital of Connecticut.”
Saffan acknowledged Tuesday a practical business reason as well — the plan is for each festival to kick off on Friday night with a related concert at the amphitheater.
The contract with Bridgeport Music Festivals was provided to the full City Council Monday night and will be reviewed in the coming weeks by its economic and contracts committees.
Under the proposed deal, Bridgeport would receive: 5 percent of “gross ticketing revenues” or a minimum $100,000 payment, with a fifth of that going to the parks department; reimbursement for “all direct costs” to the city, including for policing; an annual $50,000 charitable donation to benefit the parks; and a $100,000 annual performance bond.
Police overtime in particular was often an issue with the Vibes. In 2012 Hearst Connecticut Media reported that, despite assurances from then-Mayor Bill Finch’s administration that the festival was paying for officers, the city, in fact, was eating much of those costs.
The last contract between Finch and the Vibes, struck in 2012, required the festival pay $50,000 rent, a $100,000 annual security deposit, a fixed $250,000 annual police overtime amount with increases for inflation, and money into the parks development fund.
Four years later, Ganim had ousted Finch in 2015’s Democratic mayoral primary and returned to his old job, and his administration claimed the Vibes owed the city $500,000 worth of police overtime. Bridgeport sought to pursue the matter in court but the municipal attorney involved, Russell Liskov, recalled Tuesday that never went anywhere.
“We couldn’t collect,” Liskov said. “There were no assets to collect.”
Following the 2015 festival, Hays at the time announced “we need a timeout” and there would be no Vibes in 2016. He pledged a “triumphant return” in 2017, but added, “the venue … is definitely in question.”
Then in February 2017, Hays announced there would be no festival that year, either, citing “greater competition.” He made no mention at the time of the then-ongoing financial dispute with Bridgeport.
Saffan on Tuesday sought to reassure any skeptics that the members of Bridgeport Music Festivals will pay its bills.
“This is … three parties that are financially well off,” Saffan said.
Seaside Park is located in the South End, the neighborhood represented by Councilman Jorge Cruz.
“I’m extremely excited,” Cruz said Tuesday of the proposed September festivals. “It will highlight the beauty of what Seaside is.”
Cruz also liked that these would not be overnight events like the Vibes and “everybody goes home.
“The Vibes took over the whole park,” Cruz said. “They fenced just about 90, 95 percent of the park (and) people that came with cars, RVs, they took over. The people of Bridgeport were limited as to where we could have went in the park.”
“No doubt about it, eliminating the camping will completely change the feel of the festival and having the level of security and sophistication of operation will be completely different,” Saffan said.
This content was originally published here.