Meet the man behind Middlewest Fest

By Jessica Jenks

Weekend warriors, put your war paint on and prepare to conquer DeKalb this weekend. Middlewest Fest is the most exciting thing to happen to DeKalb since, well, corn. NIU graduate John Ugolini put together this amazing weekend for anyone and everyone to attend. This is one bandwagon I encourage you to jump on, and by all means, enjoy the ride.

I decided to interview John to see what his concerns were about putting together the festival, where he got the idea, and his view of the DeKalb music scene. I had never met or spoken to him before, so I emailed him to set up a time to interview. He e-mailed me back almost immediately. Maybe I just caught him at the right time: midnight. We decided I would call him around 9:30 a.m. I stayed up for a few more hours doing homework, and Facebook stalking John, because that is obviously the best way to do research for an interview. I called him in the morning concerned he might a music snob or a hipster with an attitude.

On all those flyers for shows at the House and Otto’s when it reads “brought to you by Kickstand Productions”; that’s John. When he was a student at NIU, he was the president of CAB and had his own radio show on WKDI. Yes, NIU used to have a radio station, but that is a different article for a different time. In fact, he was fired from the radio station, and the radio station was shut down. Scandalous! He started Kickstand Productions, and has been a concert promoter since 2003.

Almost immediately after Jobn answered the phone my fears of him being a hipster music snob jerk subsided. He could not have been cooler. He said that he has had the idea to do a music festival for a long time because DeKalb has venues that are so close together. There have been many nights when he has booked shows at the House and Otto’s for the same night. After realizing that was not so difficult to deal with, he figured he could put together a weekend long festival reminiscent of others like South by Southwest. He hopes Middlewest Fest shows how awesome of a music scene there is here and put DeKalb on the map.

The line-up includes half local and half regional bands, but that’s not all. Many different genres of music will be performed. A film festival will be taking place, and many different arts and crafts vendors will be showing and selling their work.

Some of these bands are not very well known yet, but many very famous bands played in DeKalb before they hit it big including Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, Alkaline Trio, the Violent Femmes, MGMT, and many others.

John said, “DeKalb is what you make of you time there. If you watch the House, Otto’s, and house parties, if you look for it, you’ll notice there’s a really vibrant underground music and arts scene, and I hope that the festival let’s people get a taste of it.”

NIU needs to realize that this could be a huge attraction for DeKalb. This festival will be very appealing to incoming freshmen who are trying to decide which school to go to.

If you go to the festival, John recommends seeing P.O.S. at 9 PM and Frank Turner at 10 PM on Saturday at the Egyptian Theatre. If you are 21 or older, I recommend seeing The Flips at 7:40 at Otto’s Underground. Lead singer of The Flips Nick Sintos says that he is so excited to come back to DeKalb and be a part of such an amazing event.

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