Gus Brandt talks DeLuna Fest, Foo Fighters, bringing music to Pensacola and more
On Thursday, Foo Fighters played at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. That’s an impressive gig for any band and their crew.
But for tour manager Gus Brandt — who’s two weeks away from one of the biggest events of his music career — the timing maybe could have been better.
“Everything’s a distraction,” said Brandt, the man charged with booking the DeLuna Music Festival in Pensacola Beach. But, he says, “I tend to pack the hours in a day. I try to, anyway. You only live so long, right?”
Brandt is happy to put in extra hours for this year’s DeLuna Fest, which runs Sept. 21-23 with its most ambitious lineup yet — Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Zac Brown Band, Florence and the Machine, Dwight Yoakam and many more. For Brandt, who has lived in Pensacola since the early ’80s, it’s a chance to see his hometown shine.
“This festival’s there to do something good for everyone in the immediate area,” he said. “I’m not getting paid. I want the town to be better. I want people to think about coming to our city, our area, and not think of it as the Redneck Riviera. Florida’s not awful.”
Founded in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, the DeLuna Fest has won solid reviews from fans and critics for its lineups and sparkling setting on Pensacola Beach. Still, it’s tended to get lost in the shuffle of other Gulf Coast music festivals, such as New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and Voodoo Music Experience to the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Ala. Last year, organizers also had to deal with the last-minute loss of headliner Linkin Park due to an injury to singer Chester Bennington.
“I kind of watched them in previous years flounder and try to put together a good bill,” Brandt said. “Having done this a while, I can do stuff a little quicker. I have a little more access. Honestly, for me, it was just a challenge, and fun — 'Oh, you know what? I’ll help you guys. Let me try it.’ It’s almost like I dared myself. They needed my help, and I offered.”
In addition to working with Foo Fighters, Brandt has spent time with some of the biggest artists in music, from Green Day to Blink-182 to Eminem. But when festival organizers asked him to take the reins at DeLuna, he told them it was no guarantee those acts would come along.
“The Foo Fighters were probably the last idea I had,” he said. “That was the first thing I said: 'Just because I’m coming doesn’t mean the Foo Fighters are playing. I have to go through the same process that anyone else does.’ It wasn’t guaranteed.”
(For Foo Fighters fans curious about when the band might tour again, he says: “I never know until a couple of months before. I know that they’re working on stuff. Sometimes I’ve gotten calls, 'Hey, we’re going on tour in a month.’ Dave (Grohl) doesn’t stop working. ... I know that there’s new music. I’ve heard new songs. And I’m just waiting to see what the next move is, like everybody else. I’m still a fan.’”)
Pearl Jam, too, said no at first, but Brandt asked again, and they agreed. For his third headliner, Brandt “wanted a curveball,” he said — so he booked the Zac Brown Band, country superstars with an entirely different fan base from the Foos and Pearl Jam.
Artist by artist, the rest of the lineup fell into place, in a process Brandt likens to “outsider art.” Bob Mould said no, but then his schedule changed, and he agreed. Ben Folds Five hadn’t played Pensacola, he said, so they were game. Superchunk didn’t have anything to promote, but they said yes, too.
“I wanted this bill to be the guys you didn’t see coming,” Brandt said. “I wanted people scratching their head, like, 'They’re booking that band?’ ... I’m pretty proud of everything, actually. Everyone that said yes, I was like, 'Oh, okay, cool, that’s pretty surprising.’”
Brandt is already looking ahead to next year. He wants to add a comedy tent and movie tent, and expand the lineup even more. “No one’s getting rich of DeLuna Fest,” he said. “I just want it to be good and want everyone to be psyched so we can do it again and get an even weirder bill.”
The DeLuna Music Festival runs Sept. 21-23 with nearly 90 bands on four stages on Pensacola Beach. Weekend passes start at $199.95, daily passes are $74.95 (both prices do not include taxes and service fees). For more info and a complete schedule, click here. Lineup highlights by day:
Sept. 21: Pearl Jam, Dwight Yoakam, Guided By Voices, Ben Folds Five, Trampled By Turtles, The Gaslight Anthem, Fishbone, Band of Skulls, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
Sept. 22: Foo Fighters, Band of Horses, Diplo, Jimmy Cliff, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, The Joy Formidable, Bad Brains, OFF!, Anders Osborne, Mike Doughty
Sept. 23: Zac Brown Band, Florence and the Machine, The Wallflowers, Bob Mould, Fitz and the Tantrums, Superchunk, Corin Tucker Band, Wood Brothers, Redd Kross, Bonerama
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*