Zac Brown Cooks Up A Festival

Fans of the Zac Brown Band know what they can expect when they go to the band’s concerts: namely, great music and great food. Now, Zac Brown is proud to announce it is all coming together with a three-day festival in South Carolina. The great food will be provided by several awesome chefs, and the great music comes from the likes of My Morning Jacket, Train, Eric Church and Fitz & The Tantrums.

The takes place at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island in Charleston Oct. 21-23. It includes some things that the fans are familiar with – like “Cookie,” the Zac Brown Band’s tractor-trailer-sized mobile kitchen, and “Chef Rusty” – Southern Ground Executive Chef Rusty Hamlin who cooks at the band’s “eat & greets.”

James Beard Award-winners Sean Brock, Mike Lata and RJ Cooper join in on the cooking. The event will feature fare from local Charleston restaurants, along with complimentary beverages such as premium beer and wine. Brown, of course, will have his Southern Ground Grub GA Clay Spice Rub and his Brown Sauce on hand to spice up the a la carte items.

Plus, there are many more artists involved, including Del McCoury Band, Steel Pulse, Warren Haynes Band, Brett Dennen, and Southern Ground artists like Blackberry Smoke and Sonia Leigh. The event will have a main stage and a side stage.

So what exactly does this event entail?

Well, this is the biggest production we do, as far as staging with the Front Porch Stage Boxes. There will be 100 fans per side that are seated and being fed a gourmet meal while they watch the show. They’re up on the stage level with us.

Then, general admission is all out in the middle. The festivals that we’ve done were to just cut our teeth on using all of this stuff. We really know the logistics of it now. We know the setup and the breakdown, the quality of the food. This time we’ve got some award-winning chefs that are all going to be coming out and cooking with Chef Rusty. So there’s going to be a little high-class food competition going on for all these chefs to display to the fans.

On Friday night, we’re playing a full cover set before My Morning Jacket plays. People never get to see us do that kind of stuff.

So that’s just going to be something different and then we’ll be doing our big show the next night. Train and Eric Church are playing before us, and all the Southern Ground artists. They’ve all grown a lot, and we have as well. It’s just going to be the next level. My goal is to super-serve the fans in a way like nobody else can. It’s just because of all the hard work and all the people in the organization it takes to make it go down. Other people are welcome to try and do what we’re doing but it’s a lot of work and we’re maintaining the quality of it by doing it in house.

But it’s been a big process to get to this point so we have everything we need the way we want to present it. We’ve got great chefs coming to help out, we’ve got incredible bands. It’s going to be three solid days, and Charleston in the fall is beautiful. So it will hopefully be a magical three days. You’ll get all this great music and you’ll get all this great cooking, great wine and beer.

Photo: AP Photo
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. Manchester, Tenn.

You’ve been known to offer up some interesting things to your fans, like koozies with your logo on it. What’s in store for this event?

If you get one of the Stage Box seats, you get an All-American-made key chain, made in our leather shop and our machine shop. It’s tooled leather and metal that’s been laser-etched commemorating the event. That’s what we’re doing from the manufacturing side and we have all of our merchandise for the event. This is not necessarily going to be an annual thing for us but it will set the model for how we want to tour. It takes a full 24 hours to set all of this up so it’s the kind of thing you can’t come in and do for one day. You want to do it for a full weekend, bring in some other amazing acts and pull yourself out of the box a little bit.

And we’ve got some amazing sponsors. We’ve got Landshark, which has been great getting us stuff that is co-branded with our name on it to the fans, something that you want to keep such as the koozies or the passports that we’ve done. Jack Daniels is a really great sponsor as well. This is really just our flagship show of the year and we’ve been getting ready for it. The sponsors are behind us. Everything’s brewing, man. It’s going to be a great weekend. And we don’t want to give the fans something like a party favor, something they’ll want to throw away, but give away something that they’ll use, that will remind them of us and make them want to come back to the show.

We really like it if they come to our shows that, especially with all these angles, we can solidify that it’s at least one ticket they’ll buy every year. The acts that are on there because they are awesome, and some aren’t discovered yet. This is our chance to showcase them.

For me, it’s for fans that want something better at a show. You don’t want to drink a cheap white zinfandel wine or a draught beer that will give you a headache or eat a $12 bag of nachos made with Cheese Whiz. Concerts are [usually] so focused on selling the swag, which they make the most money on. It’s not about the experience. The food is such an important thing. Everybody needs to eat. Everybody has a soft spot for food.

Photo: AP Photo
46th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, Las Vegas, Nev.

Before we let you go, just wanted to say we saw you at the ACMs in Vegas and it was a fantastic performance.

You mean with JT (James Taylor)? That was a magic moment for me. There couldn’t be a bigger influence for me musically. It was a day where we worked with him on a tune and then, getting to play with him onstage? It was pretty magical.