Mesa’s burgeoning music scene calls for festival’s return | Get Out

Since the Mesa Music Festival was founded three years ago, naysayers have told organizer Indian Antao what the event can’t be.

He knows exactly what it is.

“This festival is truly unique,” he said. “It actually took somebody else to point it out to me. It’s the only one of its kind. It’s the only emerging artists festival where 100 percent of it is free.”

Set for Nov. 10-11, the Mesa Music Festival is designed for musicians to learn from and network with industry professionals, trade ideas with others in the music community and show off their talents to industry professionals and fans.

City officials expect more than 200 bands from across the globe to perform in downtown Mesa businesses and on outdoor stages. Musicians applied for free for a potential spot in the festival.

Thanks to his 30 years in the music business, Antao has introduced bands to keynote speakers former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield and Chester Bennington. This year, Randy Jackson will discuss his career during a free talk at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Mesa Arts Center.

“It’s a musicians’ event,” Antao said of the Mesa Music Festival. “Musicians get to come and network with people and other bands. First year we had Matt Pinfield. The second year – G*d rest his soul – we had Chester Bennington. He gave such an incredible speech. It was the first and only time he did it.”

Bennington, who received the keys to the city, was inspirational. When Antao went to dinner with the former Linkin Park singer after his keynote, Bennington said, “You’re onto something here.”

“That meant the world to me,” Antao said. “Chester also came to the VIP party. He took a picture with every last attendee.”

Other speakers this year include Leigh L**t, vice president of A&R at Pledge Music; Rene Mata, artist management at AAM, A&R at Red Bull Records; and producer Jay Baumgardner, who has worked with Ugly Kid Joe, Helmet, Papa Roach and Bush. Baumgardner is making a return visit.

The headlining concert this year is by the San Diego-bred metal quartet, P.O.D. They will play a free show on Nov. 11 in downtown Mesa. Time and location are TBA.

Since 1992, these SoCal rock vets have released nine albums, including the triple-platinum “Satellite,” earned three Grammy nominations, have songs in numerous major motion pictures and have collaborated with other musicians such as Katy Perry, H.R. (Bad Brains), Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies) and Sen Dog (Cypress Hill).

The Mesa Music Festival is much more influential than most think, Antao said.

“We get comments like, ‘We thought the Mesa Music Festival featured bands playing in a park with tents,’” he said. “Shame on you. Do the research.”

The New Jersey-based Antao is impressed with Mesa and its ever-growing arts scene. He visits about once a month and is continually impressed with the number of home studios and venues in downtown Mesa.

“I feel there’s a groundswell happening,” he said. “Pretty soon there will be more happening in downtown Mesa. It’s because art attracts art.”

It frustrates Antao when he hears that the Mesa Music Festival is ripping off South by Southwest, an annual tradition in Austin, Texas.

“It’s anti-South by Southwest,” he added. “I want to be what South by Southwest was at the beginning. If you’re an artist from Des Moines, Iowa, or Lawrence, Kansas, and you come to Mesa and you’re hanging with Chester? Nothing for nothing, that’s pretty cool. Those are the little points I really want people to know about.”

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