The Lilac Festival will be in full bloom this year, and festival-goers are excited to rock out. The release of the musical lineup has Rochesterians giddy for nice weather and good outdoor music. Most of the 41 bands on the lineup are from Western New York, and more than a handful will be playing for their hometown.
“All of the headliners are regional which is really cool because we have a lot of good music around here that doesn’t really get appreciated enough,” said Brandon Enright, a Rochester native who attends the Lilac Festival every year.
One of the headliners is Rochester’s very own Zac Brown Tribute Band (ZBTB). ZBTB is no stranger to the Lilac Festival having performed in Highland Park multiple times.
“We’ve been a really good draw [for the festival]. In 2019 we had the best draw of any of the nights,” ZBTB lead vocalist Pete Frank said. “It’s a good feeling when they call you after and say hey this really helped the festival.”
The live music industry has taken a hard hit over the past few years. Locals got a little taste of the Lilac Festival last year. There were some vendors and food trucks, but it was missing its biggest attraction—the performances. ZBTB was scheduled to headline in 2020 but was devastated as it all went away.
“We had $60,000 worth of gigs contracted for 2020, and it all got canceled. We started doing concerts again last summer with outdoor shows and that’s when we were able to really start working again. But, even when it was parking lot shows it wasn’t the same,” said Frank.
The genre selection is diverse with the smooth sounds of blues in one set, the cool rock noises of another. During one night of the festival, attendees will even experience a few hours of folk rock with two Grateful Dead cover bands.
“Even as a Dead Head, I think it’s a little overkill. But I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen most of the bands that are on the lineup and as long as the Lilac Fest is bringing good music into town, I’m happy” Enright said.
Event organizers have been working hard to make sure everyone is looking forward to this year’s event just as much as Enright. Jeff Springut, the owner of the Springut Group Inc. has been in charge of Rochester music for decades, as well as Rochester Events.
“When Jeff builds the list of performers he does it in a way to keep the music diverse. We have a nice spread of genres and that’s all done on purpose,” said Communication Director of Rochester Events Jenny LoMaglio.
When festival-goers and music lovers come together in the park they come to celebrate the cultural diversity of the city as well as the music industry. Rochester has a plethora of venues and schools designed for the creation and celebration of music.
“We have a tightknit music scene. Jeff has done such a great job making it so it’s not just the same type of music over and over again. Every time the names get announced there is some push back but he has done phenomenal putting it together,” said Frank.
The lilacs bloom at different times all throughout the month of May, so organizers are excited about the format they tried out last year. Instead of ten consecutive days of festivities, the festival will take place over the course of three weekends.
“We’re letting folks enjoy the festival for the whole month of May,” said LoMaglio. “It’s a good format for the people, the flowers, and the weather throughout the month.”
The Lilac Festival is the largest event of its kind in North America drawing more than 500,000 people annually. It will have been 1,096 days since Rochester citizens got to enjoy live music in Highland Park, so the pressure is added to make this the best one yet.