Danny Wimmer Presents’ Chamie McCurry Talks All Things Hometown Rising, Bourbon And Beyond, And Louder Than Life

Aug 31, 2023 at 1:14 am
The crowd at Louder than Life.
The crowd at Louder than Life. Photo by Lexie Alley

If Nostradamus himself were alive ten years ago, I don’t even think he could have predicted that by 2023, Louisville would have two of the largest music festivals in the country. Bourbon and Beyond is now the world’s biggest bourbon & music festival with attendance of 140,000 people in 2022. And last year, Louder Than Life saw 170,000 attendees - setting a festival attendance record and officially becoming America’s biggest rock festival. This is all thanks to Los Angeles-based music festival production company Danny Wimmer Presents, who, in 2013, saw something in Louisville that no one else did, and then proceeded to make us the music capital of the entire country, even if for only one month a year. LEO was recently given the opportunity to speak with DWP’s Chief Marketing Officer Chamie McCurry about the festivals, and here’s what she had to say.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity) 

LEO: First, Hometown Rising; any chance of bringing that back to Louisville?

Chamie McCurry: Yeah, there’s always a chance. Coming out of COVID, we are doing things strategically in bringing large scale events back and making sure that the market can support it, that there’s a need and a want for it, the economics of it, and the availability of artists and bands. But right now we don’t have a definitive answer on whether it’ll be back. It’s still sitting in “could come back, could not,” but it is something that we continually talk about and look at the marketability of it. 

What do you look for when putting a festival line up together, and how do you go about picking the bands and artists that play it?

Our talent team works year round on the booking to curate and get it just right. We start about 18 months out from each festival identifying who the potential headliners could be — who’s available, who’s touring, how the routing is working. And it really starts with those headliners; those top three to four bands each day and really fitting the puzzle pieces together of availability, cost, and trying to bring something new or fresh so that it’s not exactly the same from year to year.

Photo by Sam Shapiro - Sam Shapiro
Sam Shapiro
Photo by Sam Shapiro

With Louder Than Life this year, it seems like DWP has added in some different elements beyond just heavy metal and hard rock with bands like Foo Fighters, Green Day, Weezer, etc. Was this a conscious decision on your part? 

No, I mean, it’s a rock festival. It’s never been a metal festival or an alternative festival, it’s a rock festival. Rock encompasses so many genres, and we work really hard to be able to showcase them. We’ve seen a demand from our fans to widen and go into other aspects of rock to be a pretty diversified rock festival. So that’s our focus with Louder is to bring the best rock bands, and hopefully each year we’re bringing something new. And this year with Green Day and Foo Fighters, two headliners that have never performed at Louder Than Life before, that’s very exciting to be able to bring to the fans. 

What all goes into planning these festivals other than the lineup?

Essentially, we’re building a small city when you think about the number of fans that are coming. We’re providing not only their entertainment, but in some cases lodging, medical, security, safety, food, drink, restrooms, all of the things to make sure that their stay is enjoyable. We have an office in Louisville working on Bourbon and Louder year round. And our operations and site teams are in Louisville every month to check out the land, work on the mapping and the CAD, making sure all of the entrances, emergency exits and everything else is in compliance for safety and security. We also work very closely with the city of Louisville and the mayor’s office, the police, fire, and medical offices, and with all of the city officials to help plan everything. We wouldn’t be able to do it without the support that we get from local Kentucky businesses and agencies, and we work hand in hand with them year round. 

With the rising costs of pretty much everything since the pandemic, how are you all able to maintain and grow these festivals without raising the ticket prices up to astronomical amounts?

Thank you for asking that because I don’t think a lot of consumers realize all the work that goes into keeping it an affordable experience. We pride ourselves on the value that we provide to our fans. We know that they spend their hard earned money on these events, and we do not take that for granted. For a lot of our fans, this is their vacation for the year, and we want to make sure we’re providing that value back to them and really giving them those experiences and memories that will last. We work diligently at finding efficiencies and figuring out where we can absorb some of these rising costs without having to pass them over to the fans. That’s at the forefront of everything that we do; making sure that we remain affordable and we remain a top choice for our fans to invest their time and money in, and doing everything we can to ensure that it is the best weekend of their lives. 

What is it about Louisville and these two festivals that keep you excited to come back year after year? 

Louisville is our home away from home, so it is a very important city to us. Between Bourbon and Louder, it truly is the eight biggest days of music in the United States. There’s nowhere else where this many artists perform in the same city over eight days. We sell tickets for both events in all 50 states, and last year in over 30 countries. So it’s a really exciting way to showcase Louisville and the reasons we fell in love with the city when we first started coming there over 10 years ago. Being able to put it on the world stage is really exciting for us. And seeing how Louder Than Life has really grown - last year we had more fans at that festival than any other rock festival in the United States. And it really has become a culture; our Loudmouths have really put Louder Than Life on the map, and there’s a lot of pride that comes with that. But I think for all of us, the most exciting part is opening the doors and seeing all the fans coming in with their family and friends, knowing that they’re in for something special that weekend and making memories that they’ll cherish. It’s the reason that we do this and why we’re so invested in it. We all are so passionate about getting to play a part in creating something really magical for them.

Bourbon and Beyond runs Sept. 14 - 19, and Louder Than Life runs Sept. 21 - 24, both at the Highland Festival Grounds (1016 Phillips Ln). For more information, check out: bourbonandbeyond.com, louderthanlifefestival.com, or dannywimmerpresents.com