Evolution Looks To Bring  Elevated Festival Experience To St. Louis


A new music festival spearheaded by two St. Louis natives looks to bring an elevated — or evolved — music experience to the city, with Evolution Festival boasting a major talent lineup and fully curated food and beverage offerings in year one.

“It’s meant to highlight and showcase St. Louis – our pillars are bourbon, barbecue and music,” says Evolution Festival co-executive producer Joe Litvag. The event takes place Aug. 26-27 in the city’s Forest Park. “We wanted something that St. Louis can be proud of and can show to the rest of the country.”

The music lineup features Brandi Carlile, The Black Keys, The Black Crowes, Brittany Howard, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Ice Cube, Morgan Wade and more. Boasting local barbecue fare, the event will feature well known figures in that space, including “Phil The Grill” Johnson, James “Boatright’s BBQ,” bourbon author and connoisseur Fred Minnick and more.

“So far we’ve had an incredible response to the festival in year one,” says Litvag, who formed his own The Just Listen Company in 2021 after stints with festival producers including AEG Presents and Danny Wimmer Presents.  “We’re not sold out yet but we feel like we’re on a pretty strong trajectory right now in year one. It’s about making sure the consumer feels like they’re getting a lot of value for their hard-earned dollar with us.”

General admission weekend tickets are on sale now, starting at $149, with extensive VIP options available including backstage lounges, cabanas and more. The single-day lineup was announced today.

With a capacity at about 20,000 per day and two music stages, Litvag and partner Steve Schankman of St. Louis-based Contemporary Productions aim to keep the event on the intimate side while offering a premium experience.  

Litvag and his partners saw a need for a contemporary music festival in the city, especially following the dissolution of Lou Fest, which ran from 2010 to 2017 and featured popular touring artists. That event canceled days ahead of the 2018 edition amid financial difficulties, which continue to linger in court.

“We said we can do this here and keep St Louisans in mind, make it better and a more modernized experience than what was done previously,” Litvag said.

Evolution Festival takes place at Forest Park, which includes attractions like the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum and St. Louis Science Center, which allows room to grow and more attractions for people wanting to take in the city over the weekend. 

“It’s really an incredible location,” Litvag said, noting the centralized location that can draw from the overall metro, which includes the Illinois side  of the Mississippi River. “People coming from out of town can experience all of these other attractions while they’re here.”

While not a first festival for Litvag, his partner or their team, Evolution is a first-year branding and marketing experience in what has long been described as a saturated music festival market. 

“The first year is always the hardest. It’s one thing to have an idea and flesh out a concept, but to truly act on it and move forward and execute on it is a whole different thing,”  says Litvag says, noting Evolution will be the 16th festival he’s been involved with.

He is confident in the concept of a curated experience in an underserved market.

“I do see this trend continuing – whether it’s multi-stage, multi-day, a special brand focus or food and beverage focus, a sports focus,” Litvag says, noting established events like Bourbon and Beyond in Louisville and the Spring Training-themed Innings Festival in Arizona/Florida as examples of successful models. “As long as festival creators and producers continue to be creative and come up with something different, I think the sky’s the limit for how the market can develop.”