"He is spending between $200,000 and $250,000 on talent alone," said one insider about first-time promoter Chris Wepsic's Festival Del Mar, April 16 and 17, at the fairgrounds in Del Mar. Twenty-six bands will perform on four stages, including Etta James, Macy Gray, Taj Mahal, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Wepsic, a 38-year-old dentist who "lives in an old house in Del Mar...[and drives] a VW bus," says the two-day festival is dedicated to the over-30 crowd who, Wepsic maintains, has been abandoned by Rob Hagey's Street Scene.
"They changed their lineup to go for a younger audience," said Wepsic about Street Scene's abandonment of blues, jazz, and zydeco. "They left a vacuum."
Last week Wepsic said he had only sold about 1000 tickets. "He is going to have to sell 5000 tickets each day to break even," said the insider.
Wepsic said he is not worried about his advance sales. "My friends in the music business say this is normal [for advance sales]. We are doing fine."
One reason Wepsic may not be worried is because San Marcos developer San Elijo Hills has signed on as a $100,000 sponsor/underwriter, according to the insider. Wepsic would not get specific about exact dollar amounts but confirmed San Elijo Hills was the underwriter.
I asked Wepsic if there is any truth to the rumor that Ben Harper may make an unadvertised appearance Saturday at the festival. "It wouldn't surprise me if he showed up. He did just win a Grammy with the Blind Boys. Anything is possible."
Besides the above performers, Festival Del Mar presents the Yonder Mountain String Band, the Charlie Musselwhite Band, Zigaboo Modeliste, Lito and Celino Romero, Peter Sprague, Chris Klich, World Anthem, A.J. Loria, and Randy Fontaine on Saturday April 16; Jason Mraz, Third World, Donavon Frankenreiter, Blackalicious, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Desmond Dekker and the Aces, Mikey Dread, Dave Wakeling, Common Sense, Willie K, John Keawe, Walli Ingram, and King Tone, April 17. All ages; $30 one day, $50 both days. Visit www.festivaldelmar.com for more info.