Portola Festival’s Creator On An Event Six Years In The Making – Billboard


This weekend’s debut Portola pageant in San Francisco took six years to make occur.

Launching tomorrow (September 24) on the metropolis’s Pier 80, the two-day occasion was conceived by Danny Bell, VP Expertise Purchaser for AEG Presents in San Francisco, who got here up with the idea after a 2016 music-fueled traipse by Europe’s digital hubs.

Bell had simply left his job as Expertise Purchaser for HARD Occasions in Los Angeles, the place he’d labored earlier than after graduating from USC. (“I graduated on a Friday and was full time [at HARD] on a Monday,” he says.) With eight months off earlier than he was on account of begin his new gig at AEG, he needed to take the kind of prolonged Euro journey many embark on after school.


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“Fortunate for me, I used to be 27 and I had some cash within the financial institution. So I used to be really in a position to take pleasure in myself as an alternative of slumming it on couches.”

He began in London, seeing 4 Tet and James Blake headline the town’s Discipline Day Competition, hit Paris, then went to Barcelona for Sonar, the place he was struck by “the digital music offered in a really grownup method.” A plan to spend three days in Ibiza became a 12-day marathon with highlights together with a set by the legend Sven Väth. “I used to be sporting flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt anticipating to cease by for quarter-hour,” Bell recollects. “Subsequent factor I do know, it’s 6:30 within the morning.”

After a run by Berlin, Bell returned to work in San Francisco with the inspiration for what would, in time, turn out to be Portola. He envisioned a pageant that will current digital music in that grownup method — a tough flip from the neon kandi raver type then experiencing mass enchantment amongst the children driving the U.S. EDM increase and one nonetheless standard immediately at most mega-fests. He imagined an occasion that was cooler, extra rock than rave, and one thing that centered on artists who play principally their very own music slightly than banging out the identical outdated requirements.

“That’s the actual factor I needed,” Bell says, “a pageant the place you don’t hear repeat songs all through the day.”

He tinkered with the thought for years, even having mates make mock lineup posters to maintain the idea high of thoughts. After Bell efficiently launched the hip-hop and R&B centered Day N Vegas in 2021, Goldenvoice and its dad or mum firm AEG green-lit the thought he’d been conceptualizing since that flip flop membership night time in Ibiza.

“That’s one of many issues I discovered from from [Goldenvoice CEO and Coachella Co-Founder] Paul [Tollett], simply how private you may make these lineups and see how persons are extra taken with a pageant with a character and an idea behind it as an alternative of only a assortment of artists that on paper appear as if they might promote a specific amount of tickets at a sure ticket value.”

The results of this singular imaginative and prescient is definitely the most effective U.S. digital pageant lineups of the yr, with the invoice amalgamating among the scene’s most credible veterans (The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, DJ Shadow), a gaggle of this generations finest and brightest (Arca, Jamie xx, Kaytranada, James Blake, Flume, 4 Tet, Caribou, Charlie XCX) and white scorching rising acts like HAAi, Fred Once more.., DJ_Dave and extra.

Whereas it’s taken six years to make occur, Bell says the timing for a group of artists like this “wouldn’t have labored just a few years in the past, given each the way in which many of those acts have risen to headliner standing over the previous few years and the way U.S. audiences have turn out to be extraordinarily hip to the form of “esoteric digital music” (as Bell calls it), performed by a lot of the lineup.

Danny Bell

Misha Vladimirskiy

So too is the timing proper for this pageant to occur in San Francisco. Whereas the town has a protracted historical past as an digital music hub, it hasn’t had a standalone digital fest since throughout the metropolis limits since Treasure Island ended a seven yr run in 2018. (The touring digital fest Breakaway will make its California debut in October with an occasion in Oakland, whereas Porter Robinson’s Second Sky pageant, additionally produced by Goldenvoice, will return to Oakland for its third yr on the finish of October.)

Portola is occurring at Pier 80, 1,000,000 sq. foot maritime transport pier owned by the Port of San Francisco. Amidst ongoing provide chain points which have affected the worldwide transport schedule, the ability had one weekend in 2022 out there for such an occasion. The Portola crew, a gaggle of 27 unfold between Los Angeles and San Francisco, took it. They count on 30,000 attendees per day.

Portola marks a second not only for the town as an digital vacation spot, however for San Francisco itself, significantly amidst headlines that largely deal with the town’s pandemic exodus (and the following inhabitants return), homeless disaster, the existential dilemma of the tech increase and the intense price of dwelling. Bell, a local New Yorker, presents another view, citing the “new guard” shifting to city, the good eating places, selection dive bars and normal rise of tradition within the post-pandemic period.

The truth is, the pageant is called after San Francisco’s Portola Parade of October 1909, hosted by the town to indicate the world it was open for enterprise after the devastating earthquake and subsequent fires of 1906.

The way in which Bell sees it, this Portola serves the same perform.

“I really feel like the town is on the mend, and I’m betting on it massive time shifting ahead, and I actually hope Portola will get to assist be part of that.”

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