Music festivals are some of the largest melting pots of culture and art to be found in a given place at a given time. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to festivals every year to hear not only their favorite bands, but to explore new music and experience the atmosphere that only the alcohol-fueled, singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs communal concert can provide.
The Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, put together by Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, aims to provide that atmosphere in the mountainous setting of Asheville, N.C. – just two hours from Knoxville. The three-day festival spans Oct. 25-27.
For Jeff Cuellar, vice president of strategic partnerships for AC Entertainment, all festivals start with an idea.
"There has to be a concept, an idea that can stem from the location itself," Cuellar, a UT alumnus, said. "What are we trying to produce? What are we trying to bring to life?"
From 2010-2012, AC Entertainment produced Moogfest, which occupied the same weekend Mountain Oasis now does. For Cuellar, the new event is the result of a new focus in the music industry.
"There is a push right now for different genres of music that are pushing, constantly reinventing how we hear sound, what we call music," Cuellar said. "There are more established artists that are constantly evolving and changing. There are new artists that are bringing in new elements and new technology to change those things."
The arrival of visual arts and how that is sculpted into a live performance is becoming very important, according to Cuellar.
"Our role with Mountain Oasis is to bring those things together and showcase them on an international level," Cuellar said. "The inspiration (for the festival) is looking to some of your artists who have been innovators from the very beginning – your Nine Inch Nails, and pairing them together with your Cut Copy, your Bassnectar, and your Pretty Lights – people who are right now at the height of their game, pushing the limits."
These big-name electronic bands are just a few of the more than 40 bands included at the festival. The process of making a festival happen is multifaceted, and it is one that is often taken for granted.
Cuellar, who has worked with festivals like Bonnaroo and Mumford and Sons' Gentlemen of the Road tour, explained how everything is chosen for a reason.
"If you've ever been to Asheville, N.C., I think you can understand why we picked it," Cuellar said. "It's a picturesque mountain town that is pushing the limits in terms of art, culture, culinary arts. Their downtown is just so vibrant, nestled in the heart of the mountains. It's breath-taking."
When comparing Mountain Oasis to Bonnaroo, one main difference stands out for Cuellar.
"With Bonnaroo, we have to create a city," he said. "It's on farmland, so everything we build is basically starting from nothing. With Mountain Oasis, the city is already there and we are just tapping into resources and making something truly memorable."
The resources Cuellar mentioned include the various venues included at the festival.
"Downtown is so walkable and they have several arenas and all are within walking distance," Cuellar said. "You get different experiences – from an arena show all the way down to a small club show, which helps provide the vision we were going for."
With many festivals, smaller towns are chosen to encourage visitors to engage with the city and its local businesses and culture. According to Jessica Tomasin, who deals with community relations and special programming, Asheville businesses experienced their highest grossing weekend during Moogfest.
This is a statistic Tomasin hopes to recreate with Mountain Oasis. One of the ways this occurs is through the late hour of the headliners. Bassnectar and Nine Inch Nails won't perform until midnight on their respective nights.
"We want to encourage people to explore all the different things Asheville has to offer," Tomasin, a 14-year resident of Asheville, said. "I love Asheville, and part of my job is to speak to business owners and make sure their voices are heard."
In addition to the music, Cuellar and Tomasin encourage attendees to explore Asheville and do as much as they can. This includes the various music and writing related panels, workshops and artist spotlights the festival is presenting.
"Open your mind," Cuellar said. "There's more to it than just the music. Of course you're there for the music, but there's so much more."
"Take time to soak it all in, and pace yourself because there's a lot to do."
Cuellar encourages UT students to go simply for the experience that Mountain Oasis is centered around.
"If students are looking for an experience that's going to touch on all five senses, this is what they're looking for," he said. "You're going to have world class music, visually mind-blowing experiences and some of the best food and beer in the world.
"It's your getaway. It's a reason to cut out early on Friday and go have a good time."