PromoWest: The Little Midwestern Festival That Could

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Photos & words by Tori Thomas

Created by the Ohio-based event company of the same name, PromoWest fest is a relatively ambitious one year old, three-day festival in the heart of Columbus. Populated mostly by locals (many of whom opted for single day passes), the festival hosted acts ranging from The Flaming Lips and Snoop Dogg to The Black Lips and RJD2. What will come of the event in future years remains to be seen as it forges an identity in a sea of music festivals that seem to come and go like waves on a beach, but what we know for sure is that we had a good time.


PromoWest Quick Facts:

Camping: No

Capacity: Small

Crowd type:  Hipsters/ Young / Family (mostly in VIP)

Music genre: Alternative, Rock, Rap


How To Get There

Located in Columbus, Ohio, getting to PromoWest is pretty straightforward. Attendees flying in should book tickets into the Columbus airport. From there, drive and park at the festival, grab an Uber, or walk if you’re staying close by. Take note that parking is mostly available in garages or on the street, but street parking is limited to two hours. Parking fees range from $5-$20.

Where To Stay

As this is a city festival, there are more than enough hotels to choose from in downtown Columbus. PromoWest’s website offers information about hotel partnerships and more. AirBnB is also an option.

Camping

Camping is not provided by the festival and thus is not a popular option, but there are campgrounds in the surrounding areas. Go here for details on off-site camping options.

Food

There was a good variety of food, but not many vegan options. This year I only indulged in the lemonade, which happens to be one of my favorite fair-type beverages. I’ve tried the Island Noodles in past years and was very pleased. There was a craft beer corner featuring more than ten breweries, but only one water refill station (empty water bottles are permitted inside festival grounds). Ice cold water was sold for $3.

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Production

There were just two stages on site at this small festival, and acts never overlapped. The 2016 schedule on the website boasts a third late night stage, which is actually a PromoWest-owned venue about three blocks from the festival grounds (though the heat made it seem a tad further). PromoWest didn’t put a huge focus on production effects; stages only displayed a PromoWest Fest banner. Occasionally performers walked into the barricade to interact with the audience, and some even jumped in the crowd to party with fans.

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Artists You May Not Have Heard of But Can’t Miss

I was relatively familiar with Moon Taxi thanks to Pandora and was happy to finally get the chance to see them live. It almost felt like I was discovering a new artist, but knowing some of their songs made this performance extra fun. Fitz and the Tantrums was a huge reason I attended. He’s so dynamic on stage (especially from a photographer’s perspective; shooting him is such a joy!), and watching them close out the Columbus Makes Art stage on Friday night was everything I hoped it would be. I was definitely looking forward to Snoop Dogg, and may have actually liked his performance the most despite my short time in the photo pit. His set was comprised of a mix of greatest hits and snippets of songs he’s featured on (think Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”), and it was an absolute blast singing along with the well-versed crowd.

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Things To Do

There are no outstanding attractions at PromoWest, but…

  • A few vendors/sponsors have games with prizes to be won
  • Re-entry means you can leave to explore downtown Columbus and return. I drove past the North Market on my way in one day, and stopped for a donut so good I ended up getting two.

Why Go VIP

VIP tickets are $200 more than GA, but if there were artists you really wanted to be up close for without waiting up front all, it might worth the investment. Stages were split down the middle by a barricade that gave VIP ticketholders special viewing areas at the front of the stages. There was also a lounge to the side of the main stage, and complimentary meals and snacks provided was another notable perk along with air conditioned bathrooms (with hot water) and a PromoWest goody bag. VIP passes were only available for all three days, there was no single-day VIP option.

What Makes The Festival Different?

PromoWest doesn’t necessarily have unique defining features, but it was well organized with an expertly curated lineup. If you’re in to the music, its easy to have fun.

 

Our friends at The Sounds of Bustown did a super fun podcast for all three days of the fest; go here to listen to my friend and I chat with them on their Day 2 podcast, or find them on iTunes.

 

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