Orlando may be an entertainment mecca. But when it comes to music, it's best known as the home of boy bands like 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
If Melvin Benn has his way, that'll soon change.
The British promoter on Thursday unveiled the lineup for the inaugural Orlando Calling music festival on Nov. 12-13, a concert weekend that could bring a crowd of up to 100,000 to the Citrus Bowl. Among the headliners: the Killers, Bob Seger, Kid Rock, the Pixies, Blake Shelton and the Roots.
It's the first American concert for Benn's company, Festival Republic, which has run some of Europe's largest music festivals, including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds in the U.K. Since the event was announced in January, industry watchers have pegged Orlando Calling as a possible counterpart to major festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza, with an attendance of up to 50,000 each day. (To put that into a local context: Tampa Bay's largest music festival, Ribfest, attracts 60,000 fans each year. The Tampa Bay Blues Festival draws up to 25,000.)
"I'm very happy to have that as the target, and I'll be delighted if we get even remotely close to it," Benn said. "As much as anything, I wanted to ensure that it was phenomenal value for the money. I think that probably comes through more than anything. Eighty dollars plus tax — it'll be less than $100 for a single-day ticket — and to have that lineup, either of those two days, for that price, is just extraordinary."
Thursday's announcement included one surprise change: Orlando Calling will be only two days instead of three. Benn said that was partly to avoid overexposure on this first go-around, and partly so a pair of Michigan rock 'n' roll legends could perform on the same night.
"The opportunity to have Kid Rock and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band on the same stage on the same day really just became too much to resist," he said. "Both camps were very clearly excited about the thought of it, and it just made sense."
The first day features mostly alternative and indie rock; the second, country, roots and classic rock. It's a stark stylistic divide that left some experts scratching their heads.
"Why even bother printing two-day passes?" mused Alex Young, chief executive and publisher of the music blog Consequence of Sound, which covers the festival industry. "I'm not sure how much of a fan base there is for both Bob Seger and the Killers. I envision this would be two different fan bases attending each day."
But for the most part, Young was pleasantly surprised with the lineup, especially since Orlando Calling had previously been "so shrouded in mystery."
Orlando Calling will be the biggest event of what was already shaping up to be a busy few months in Florida. In early August, the band 311 will curate its first rock festival, the 311 Pow Wow, at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. In October, the Langerado Festival will return to Sunrise after a two-year absence, with headliners Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Harper and Ween. And on the same weekend as Orlando Calling, the jam- and funk-focused Bear Creek Music Festival returns to Live Oak.
"Music festivals are as popular as ever right now," said Young. "The concert industry's kind of dying, but then you see Coachella and Bonnaroo selling out this year before the festival even begins. They already did presales for next year, and those quantities of tickets sold out within 48 hours. So it's a good time to have a festival."
Benn is confident his show will trump them all.
"This is the festival I wanted to create, and Orlando seemed perfect for it," he said. "I don't need to be looking over my shoulder and be worried."