The Sounds of Autumn

It looks like the Bang Music Festival may already have seen its last days.

When the festival announced it was postponing this year's concert without much of an explanation, it wasn't surprising. There was practically no hype surrounding the event, ticket sales were low, and the concert lineup was confusing.

Bang started primarily as an electronic music fest in 2005. Two years later, instead of sticking to its roots, it looked like it was trying to be Lollapalooza. Before the promoters called it off, they said they had Kanye West, Smashing Pumpkins, Explosions in the Sky, and Riverboat Gamblers confirmed to play: a handful of big names and no theme.

This is too bad for dance fans, who had been able to fill up at Bang until the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival in the spring. The good news, though, is that a promoter has managed to inadvertently fill Bang's slack with a new, local electronic music festival.

Local DJ and promoter Mark Ivan is introducing the Autumn Music Festival, which kicks off Saturday, November 17, from noon to 10 p.m. at the Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale. The all-day event promises more than 50 DJs spinning house, trance, breaks, and drum 'n' bass from four stages. Ivan and his Full On Productions company have packed the lineup with national and local talent, including well-respected DJs such as Keoki, Starkillers, Cato K, and DJ Monk. And it's all free.

It's hard to get ten hours of free music these days unless you're illegally downloading it. A local music fest with no admission fee seems like a miracle.

"It's a way to give back to the community," Ivan says. "We want everyone to be able to experience it, and having the event free is the best way to do that."

Sponsorships will cover most of the festival's costs, he says.

The Autumn Music Festival seems like the kind of event you'd see in Miami, where electronic music is king — which makes it all the more unusual that it's happening here.

"So many different electronic events take place in Miami," says Ean Sugarman, a Hollywood-based DJ scheduled to play Autumn Music Festival, "and if you go to the house clubs, a lot of people have to travel long distances to hear some of this music. I really think it's good to have [this festival] here in Broward, especially in Fort Lauderdale. I hope folks in Broward and the neighboring counties can support it and enjoy it."

Ivan says he didn't want to be associated with other Miami festivals. "Broward doesn't have an electronic festival, especially not one that's free," he explains. "There are hardly any festivals that are free any more, so when the opportunity presented itself, I ran with it."

The folks at the Downtowner Saloon were already gearing up for a music festival this weekend, though on a much smaller scale and featuring a handful of rock and blues artists. The surrounding streets will be blocked off, as they are for events like Bluesfest. Much of Autumn Music Festival is slated to take place outside, with just one stage indoors.

It looks as if Ivan may have gotten lucky already. When he started planning the festival, Bang was still on. Now that it's postponed, music lovers in need of a party can head to Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami and catch a ton of good DJs for free instead of a few good acts for $70.

Most of the annual music festivals in the Southeast are done for the year, Ivan says, so this one could even be a regional beacon. "I'm getting lots of email and MySpace posts from out of state with people planning to come down for the festival."

Nick Terranova, who DJs as Starkillers and is based in Las Vegas, says the festival is already getting buzz in the DJ community throughout the country.

"A lot of people are keen to see how it's going to go," Sugarman says. "I don't think a lot of people get to hear electronic music often if you're not going to clubs... Everyone I talk to is really looking forward to it."

 
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