LaureLive grows too large for Butler Campus

Planning new location for 2020

Denny Young compared putting together the LaureLive lineup to being the general manager of a baseball team.

“Completion of a lineup is not complicated,” said the president of the Elevation Group, which stages the festival on the grounds of the Laurel School Butler Campus in Russell and Chester townships. “We have a certain budget we adhere to. We know we need to book 15 acts a day. We know what the rate is at certain levels, and we know we need to fill every position.

“We’re always going to have a headliner, but the headliner might not come first. Someone on the third line might come first. Then I know I still need my starting pitcher and have this amount of money.”

Young’s batting order for this weekend’s LaureLive includes Hozier, Dirty Heads, Moon Taxi, Mister Wives and Rodrigo y Gabriela on Saturday and Sheryl Crow, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Lake Street, AJR, Coin, Red Sun Rising and Castlecomer on Sunday.

“I think Lake Street Dive was the first act that confirmed LaureLive this year and Sheryl Crow was one of the last acts to confirm,” Young said. “We’ve tried to get Sheryl Crow every year. She’s a nine-time Grammy Award winner, a household name, a really strong female artist and advocate. We stage the event at a private independent girls school. All those add up to being a perfect headliner.”

Now in its fourth year, LaureLive’s track record may make it a little easier to attract performers, but Young believes they had strong lineups the first three years as well. However, that experience definitely was an asset in creating Wonderbus, a festival targeting a similar demographic that the Elevation Group will debut in Columbus Aug. 17 and 18.

“We booked 26 acts in three and a half weeks,” Young said.

One change past concertgoers will notice this year is an expanded lineup of food options. A few no-shows among last year’s vendors led to long lines on the first day of the festival. This year, Elevation Group is working with chef Fabio Salerno and his Lago restaurant brand to handle concessions for the crowd, while Burntwood Tavern will continue to handle VIP and artist catering.

Young said food is a major component of such music events as the New Orleans Jazz Fest and BottleRock in Napa, Calif., and he wants concertgoers to be impressed with their culinary choices.

“We needed to upgrade that level of our festival and in 2019 I believe we’ll be doing that,” he said.

The booths will offer a wide range of ethnic cuisines to accommodate all dietary restrictions, and many of the stands will have grab-and-go options that should make service go faster.

LaureLive has grown in each of its first three years, and that trajectory is expected to continue this year. That growth is why Elevation Group is looking for a new site for 2020 and beyond.

“The Laurel School Butler Campus is 150 acres, but take away the woods and the water and the athletic fields we can’t touch, and you’re left with about 35 acres of usable space,” Young said.

He would like to have about 50 acres of usable space at a new location, so the event can continue to grow, while also finding a site that has the green space and bucolic setting that made the Laurel School so special.

“We’ve had deep discussions with four different locations that we’re serious about,” Young said. “Each one has expressed an interest in hosting the festival, and leadership from each one is coming to this year’s festival to check it out.”