Epicenter Festival 2019 – interview with organizer Gary Spivack

For more than ten years near the border of North and South Carolina, a seismic rumbling would occur. The spirit of power chords, cheers, tattoos, and general mayhem would make settle in for a weekend every May at the annual Carolina Rebellion festival. The festival bore witness to many rock and heavy metal acts during its tenure, ranging from Japanese oddballs, BabyMetal, to one of the final performances of Soundgarden before Chris Cornell’s sad passing in 2017.

Now in 2019, a new beast has emerged from the Rebellion’s ashes called the Epicenter Festival. Epicenter Festival organizer, Gary Spivack, hopped on the phone with us to talk about what makes Epicenter Festival bigger, more epic and just more EVERYTHING than any other festival that the southeast has to offer.

My Global Mind: Hey Gary! How are you?

Gary Spivack: Hey David, good to talk to you again. How are you?

MGM: Doing well. I was just looking over some the details I have about the Epicenter Festival, and it looks like this will be a fun little rock venture this year.

GS: (Laughs) Yeah, going to be a little shindig. Right in the heart of North Carolina.

MGM: Tell me about it. This isn’t the Carolina Rebellion any more, so what made that go away and bring the Epicenter Festival around?

GS: Actually, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that’s pretty boring to the rock fans-so I don’t need to get into that-but the bottom line is that this will be the rock festival for the Carolinas. We want to make sure that we can cater not only to true rock rebels from past and present, but also bring this rock festival into the next decade. I think we’ve done that…having a Foo Fighters, Tool, Korn, Rob Zombie, and Judas freaking Priest…I just hope everyone feels we delivered a fastball right down the middle.

MGM:  Yeah, getting Tool is sort of the Holy Grail type of thing for a rock festival, considering they’re not really known for having a heavy public persona and not appearing or recording for years at a time.

GS: Yeah, we managed to strike a very special relationship with that band. They are a band that is very private-you just don’t sashay your way into their inner circle. You don’t just call them up and say: ‘Hey, do you want to barbecue?’ (Laughs) But we have proven to them as festival promoters and producers that we can put on the biggest rock shows in America. We have their trust. They were planning to go to Europe for a few shows and we got them to do just a couple in states for 2019 and Epicenter in North Carolina being one of them.

MGM: I imagine it was easier to get in touch with Tool since you already worked with some of the members in A Perfect Circle a couple of years ago.

GS: Sure. I think us previously working with (Tool vocalist) Maynard put our foot in the door…and you’re right tool is one of the Holy Grail bands. We coveted them for North Carolina for a decade and we’re very psyched to have them.

MGM: I also dig a lot of the newer bands you have on the bill, like Zeal & Ardor and it looks like Counterfeit are making a return. I spoke with those guys last year and they seem like they are really burning up the road in terms of just being a touring rock band.

GS: I appreciate you saying that. We haven’t even delved into the undercard, the support bands. While I am excited to have bands like the Foo Fighters and Tool, these are the bands that we really want fans to discover. There’s a band out of England called Basements, and (Former Rage Against The Machine guitarist) Tom Morello has a new project that he is going to play a special set in North Carolina. A band out of Canada called The Dirty Mill, and just a host of many bands that we want rock fans to discover.

MGM: A moment ago, you alluded to something called the Rockingham Village.  So is this the part of the festival that is not really shutting down, but making this a 24-hour, three-day festival?

GS: It’s going to be an experience. There will be a very big camping element to Epicenter…in our previous venue there was a much stricter curfew. This will not have a curfew. The music may stop on the main stages, but we’re going to keep the party going all night long.  We will have special entertainment that we’re working on right now, so we want to make sure everyone is geared up not only for the regular show hours but big after parties too.

MGM: So if you want to party all night, you can, but if you want to fall over in the middle of the field, that’s also a viable option?

GS: Yeah! You can call it a night after the music is done, or if you want to keep the party going we’ll be there with you.

MGM: That’s nice to be able to do, because I know a lot of times venues can be hamstrung by curfew hours where you can be fined an exorbitant amount of money for every minute that you go over the curfew time.

GS: That was one of the key elements we wanted to begin this new festival with, so that we can have a full sensory overload of rock n roll.

MGM: When I was doing my research I also saw that there were some hints at the possibility of a comedy element being introduced to the festival this year. Is there any truth to this?

GS: Well, the first thing we had to do was get all of the great music acts up and running…and from now until May we will be focusing on the other aspects of the festival:  comedy, spoken word, the after hours events. There’s nothing specific that I can give you on this particular interview, but we have a lot of things that will be ready come May.

MGM: With all of the elements you’ve added to the festival, has it renewed your sense of vigor to put on a great show, or are you mad at yourself for making life 10 times more exhausting?

GS:  It’s both! That’s a good question. It is a 364 day a year siege for 25 hours a day. With creating a new event, it takes extra legwork-and that is an education process-but we feel that first and foremost we are fans. We are fans of rock ’n roll. And we feel it’s important-and have an obligation as promoters and producers of Epicenter-to make sure this lineup is untouchable and the best rock festival, not only in North Carolina but the entire Southeast.

MGM: So is there any kind of a cool story behind why this festival has been named Epicenter? Or is it as straight forward as it sounds?

GS: Well when we were looking at the Rockingham Festival grounds, we noticed that it really was in the heart of the Carolinas. Right in the epicenter, if you will.

MGM: So how is it that you became such an integral part of these festivals? I know you’ve been doing these events for sometime now.

GS: I’m a glutton for punishment I guess. (Laughs) Like I said before, at my core I’m a fan and I like to wave the rock ’n roll flag. I was a drummer, a frustrated musician like many of us, and that led me to a long career at record labels where I became involved in the promotion and marketing department. But what always drove me, what always raised the hair on my arms, was the live experience. Going to a show, being part of a show. So when the opportunity to start a business came up over a decade ago, putting together rock festivals around the country was my calling. I always felt from the day we started this, that one of the areas that were underserved were the great states of North and South Carolina.

MGM: That’s true. I grew up missing a lot of bands because they just wouldn’t come very close to the area in North Carolina where I was. So having something that is this big and only an hour and a half away is pretty awesome. And I got a real appreciation for good we have it last year when I was talking to one of the Carolina Rebellion attendees who told me he had driven down from Jersey to go to the festival!

GS: (Laughs) I love that! That’s the thing; we are nothing without guys like you, or your friend in Jersey, or someone listening to rock radio station who buys a ticket- that’s what it’s all about.

MGM: Gary, I appreciate your time once again. I was told that you were recently getting over the flu so I don’t my questions didn’t beat up your recovering voice.

GS: No, I appreciate you looking out for me. I’m at about 90% recovered now, but thanks for asking. I’m pushing through it. Got to. Thanks again for your support.

A 2019 67 track Epicenter play list exists on YouTube. Check out here:

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