Local businessman and president of Tommy G. Productions, Tommy Giodone, has been promoting entertainment in Southern Colorado for years.
While his most notable productions include bull riding events and demolition derbies it’s the now-annual Bands in the Backyard Music Festival that draws visitors from across the country to Southern Colorado each year.
The Vineland festival that takes place each June typically has a star-studded lineup that’s a rare find in Pueblo. This year the event includes Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion, Billy Currington and other up and comers.
The following is an interview with Giodone on building the festival what he has planned or the future.
So how exactly was Bands in the Backyard born?
Bands in the Backyard started as a one-day idea five years ago. A lot of people are looking for choices of music festivals on the Front Range. There was only one or two in the state at the time that were of any significance and people had to drive from Pueblo to Colorado Springs or Denver, a minimum of four to five hours, to get to some of these festivals.
I had the property, so I thought, “Why not try it one time and see what happens?” So I did, and I got real lucky in one stance and jinxed in another. We booked Florida Georgia Line and nobody knew who they were. All of a sudden they exploded a few months before the event. At the end of the day, it was a very inexpensive ticket, I think $35 or something, to see Florida Georgia line, Gary Allen, Parmalee and a couple of other smaller bands. We were so successful so we decide to do it again the next year and we did.
Did you see a hole in good music entertainment in the region?
You can go see some of these regional acts, some are C and B caliber acts. But when you want to see A caliber acts there aren’t many places other than Denver that have them on a consistent basis. Every now and then they come to Colorado Springs at the World Arena, but a festival is a different animal. It’s not actually about the cost; it’s about the socializing, the experience, and the music. It’s not like a concert at Red Rocks where you pay $150 and you sit in one spot. With the festival, we have water slides, volleyball this year. We have the tailgate situation where you buy your own tailgate. It’s not about going to see one show and with it being on private property, makes it a little more relaxed. People have a good time.
You’ve really crafted an aesthetic around this event. Can you explain that a little bit?
We have created a cut-loose event where you are literally in my backyard. It’s the ultimate backyard party. It is not only the music but also the waterslides, the volleyball, the base-jumping, the VIP suites and the tailgate parties that make the experience unique. Our beer prices are a lot cheaper than at venues like Red Rocks. It’s a great bargain for anyone living on the Front Range. I think Pueblo has a lot to offer and this is just one of those things that brings people to the community, and it definitely brings a lot of money into town.
How many people are turning out to this backyard party?
Last year, about 15,000-17,000 people attended. We have the capacity to host 22,000 people. We have a lot of room to grow.
Bands in the Backyard is attracting some of the more relevant names in country music — more so than other music events in Southern Colorado — how do you land these guys?
Basically, you make the offer on them and they’ll let you know what it’s going to cost to get them here, and you start negotiating. At the end of the day, it’s about how risky you want to be. It’s not a secret on booking them, and if you want to put yourself out there, it’s kind of a risk.
Our budget for the two-day event is $850,000-$900,000. Other festivals are in the millions, compared to Cheyenne and Frontier Days that are probably into $3–4 million. We are very affordable when it comes to a two-day festival with 10 acts for $75 and especially for the acts that we have. I mean, you can’t really go see Thomas Rhett anywhere else for that. The Pueblo folks don’t have to leave town and they can still make a heck of party of it because we sell camping; we can accommodate $2,500-$3,000. People across the country are starting to talk about it.
Where do you see this festival going in the future?
I’m not, by any means, married to country music and that’s why the festival is called Bands in the Backyard because we believe things cycle. We include various music acts, including classic rock, and those seem to be real popular, but we happen to stay more with country this year. I’m really looking at doing other things. We’re looking at putting a festival together with reggae in it and more hipster kind of stuff. We’d like to include acts like Nathaniel Rateliff and not just one festival a year. We’re down to the point where we are looking at two to three a year.
Do you see Bands in the Backyard as a building block for entertainment here?
I think the unique thing about it has gathered attention from people up north that might have a bad taste in their mouth about coming south. But once they get here, they realize Pueblo is a pretty nice town and not what everybody says it is. We get a lot of our patrons that come to the reservoir with their boats, camp out and water ski during the day and then come to the festival at night. We promote things for people to do around town on our website, including the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk.
Additionally, the event allows people to have fun over two days, and then drive home on Sunday and back to work on Monday. It’s a niche event.
What’s unique is that we often book top name acts but also up and coming ones, who end up being number one acts the following year. It brings money into the community and I’ve been really lucky with that and excited about it.
You’ve done a lot of bull riding productions. How is that similar to a concert festival, if at all?
Bands in the Backyard is a much bigger production because there are a lot more moving parts to it, and it’s far more expensive to produce than a PBR event.
What are you biggest challenges with organizing an event of this scope?
It’s a combination of things. In part, it’s looking toward the future and seeing who’s going to be hot and deciding whether we are paying too much for these acts. Also, we are constantly looking at creating more inventory for our sponsors on both a local and national level so they get a return on their investment. Sponsors for this year’s event include Big R, Budweiser, Champion Windows, Cornerstone Roofing, Pepsi and Outpost Harley Davidson.