Keeping it Local with Four Winds Music Fest

by Sonja O’Steen

Disclosure: During the interview for this article, SoDak Music Magazine unexpectedly became a sponsor of Four Winds Music and Art Festival. Our philosophy is that if one thing in the arts community grows, we all grow.

That special time of year is upon us, folks. When we throw caution to wind, grab a beer (or something N/A for some), kick back and open our ear holes for the amazing sounds of festival season.

Four Winds Music and Art Festival is gearing up for three days of awesomeness with its seventh festival taking place July 28-30 at ICON Lounge, Club David and Full Circle Book Co-op.

Church’s favorite thing about Four Winds are the connections musicians have made with each other.

Named after a Bright Eyes song, Corey Church started Four Winds eight years ago because he felt that music events were more focused on alcohol than the actual music.

“I’ve always thought it was weird to piggyback those two things,” he said. “Fests didn’t have a focus in Sioux Falls.”

It was this motivation that led Church to start a Warped Tour-style festival that’s flush with local talent.

“The first year, we threw it at the wall to see what stuck,” he said.

Since then, through Church’s promotion company Nice Enough Ent, it has grown from two stages and 10 bands with 300 attendees and one venue to hosting nearly 60 bands at three venues and four stages, and around 30 local artists. The art show part of the festival was added during year three and continues to grow.

“Other fests charge artists or they take commission on what they sell, and I always thought it was bullsh*t,” he said. “We just want to build a community, take every show to give everyone a platform.”

About a quarter of the people that attend Four Winds come for the art show.

Spreading the festival over two days last year allowed Church to involve as many people as possible from bands to artists. With loose guidelines – this year bands are asked to bring 40 people, up from 25 last year – Church discovered that bringing in as much local talent as possible was the key to growing the festival. The last three festivals have had national headliners, last year featuring The Spill Canvas, and a Nodes of Ranvier reunion. Those two bands just happened to be from Sioux Falls.

“I used up all my favors last year,” he joked.

Getting a national headliner this year would have sacrificed at least 20 bands from the roster, which is not something Church wanted. It would have taken away from the core purpose of the festival: Keeping it local.

He has his sights on growing Four Winds into something like SXSW in Austin, T.X., featuring as much local talent as possible.

“My vision for it down the road is to add a ton of components,” he said. “I’d love to do a thing where maybe there’s a coffee shop where there’s a photography section. And further down Phillips there’s a yoga section or a film section. But we aren’t quite there yet. This year is the test to see if we can take it to the next level.”

For tickets and to find out more, check out the Four Winds Music Fest ticket website.

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