Is the shutdown of SGE a sign of things to come?

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Following the shutdown of SGE, festival fans are wondering what's next for the industry.
Image: Sari Cohen / The Burn-In

In mid-August, Synergy Global Entertainment (SGE) announced that it would be shutting down⁠⁠—even after the success of the inaugural Real Street Fest. Considering that SGE is one of the top independent producers in the country, this loss will undoubtedly be felt. Could this mean that there are some big changes in store for the music festival industry at large?

Seems Like Yesterday

SGE is well-known throughout Southern California for putting together some of the best concerts around. In a place that could easily be thought of as the epicenter of music festivals, SGE has been at the helm of so many favorites. Its events span the spectrum. The genre of music has always been irrelevant to the turnout. It’s the talent mixed with a special type of intimacy that has always set SGE festivals apart from the rest.

As an indie promoter, John Reese knew what the people wanted⁠—and he delivered. Since he founded SGE in 2005, Reese has been able to create strong brand partnerships and tie them into the festival experience.

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The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival powered by Gringo Bandito (The hot sauce company created by Dexter Holland of The Offspring) has been a Southern California favorite since its inception. Groups such as The Offspring, Flogging Molly, Bad Religion and Black Flag have all headlined at the Doheny Beach festival. In its six years, Sabroso went from a one-day extravaganza to a two-day festival, even expanding into other cities. Punk music, tacos, craft beer, Lucha Libre wrestling, and a beautiful view appeared to most as a recipe for success.

Goodbye

Now, as the SGE site currently reads “under maintenance,” fans are wondering what the future holds. While statements saying that the company was “re-organizing operations and assessing strategic options,” those who are familiar with SGE’s festivals are thinking about what this actually means. The festival promoter originally had more than 30 events scheduled for 2019. Now, after acknowledging its financial losses, a number of former SGE employees have officially gone on to work for the fellow indie promoter, Danny Wimmer Presents.

Although the recent Real Street Fest was a hit⁠—marking A$AP Rocky’s first appearance following his detention in Sweden⁠—other events have been pulled from the calendar. In July the Mad Decent Block Party at Gillette Stadium was canceled. The Disrupt Festival, which kicked off at the end of June, ended up having its plug pulled as well. The festival was only three days out from its Columbus stop before being canceled.

On The Water, which was to be held in October at Huntington Beach, was also recently canceled. Performances were supposed to include sets by Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, and 311. Just weeks before the Real Street Fest, Reese told his associates at the Honda Center and Real 92.3 FM/iHeartRadio that he had to back out of his role as a partner.

The World is New

Big names might just not be enough these days. Set to headline the Mad Decent Block Party festival were acts such as Billie Eilish, G-Eazy, Major Lazer, and Miguel. It’s hard to believe that SGE still saw major losses in 2019 despite its high demand.

SGE’s shut down is likely to change the game for festivals; particularly in Southern California. One of the best things about the producer’s events was how perfectly curated they were. Each one created a personal experience for its festivalgoers. Reese’s concerts also allowed for a nostalgia factor that is pretty much nonexistent outside of his undertakings.

Surf City Blitz, the two-day sold-out concert that took place in October of 2018, featured performances by acts such as Social Distortion and Pennywise. Back to the Beach survived two years and ended up serving as a platform that honored the best of the ‘90s. With the help of blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Goldfinger’s John Feldman, Gen X-ers got to relive their heyday.

To watch bands like Save Ferris and The Aquabats! headline alongside the English Beat was a reminder that ska and rock were still thriving in the very location that gave it life 20 plus years ago.

Image: Sari Cohen / The Burn-In

Blame it on My Youth

It’s not just SGE that seems to be experiencing a lull in the festival world. As the year progresses, and favorite festivals such as Cal Jam, Arroyo Seco Weekend, and FYF Fest, show no signs of making their scheduled appearances, it leaves even more to contemplate.

Certainly, staples like Coachella don’t seem to be in any danger. While that’s reassuring to some, it’s disheartening to others. Independent producers, such as Reese, have created something that stands as a bright, shining beacon in the festival world.

Sadly, at this moment, it’s those festivals that seem to be in danger of disappearing. Bigger events, like Ohana Fest, a partnership between SGE and Live Nation, show no sign of distress.

All the Small Things

These days, new festivals pop up and go away all of the time. However, there was something really special about SGE festivals and Reese.

A good music festival is not just about the artists; it’s about the experience. Hopefully for SGE and its fans, this is only a brief hiatus and not the end of an era.

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Sari Cohen is a journalist based in the Greater L.A. Area. She began her career in the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedy writer/performer and over the years has developed scripts for both the stage and screen. She currently covers music and live entertainment for AXS, reviews movies for Hollywood First Look Features and writes for InLove Magazine. She also pens funny stuff for popular sites such as Cracked and Screen Rant. You can often find her at concerts or on a red carpet somewhere, talking to someone about something. From on-the-scene reporting to exclusive interviews, she tackles every topic from music, movies and television, to fashion, lifestyle and politics. You can check out more on Twitter at @ask_sari or follow her adventures on Instagram under @thesavvyscribbler.