DJ Oski on What It Takes to Organize Las Olas Music Festival

Photo by Marcelo Salup
DJ Oski Gonzalez
Oski Gonzalez is a man of many opinions. No topic gets him as fired up as what it takes to put on a music festival. The former booker at Tobacco Road, Gonzalez has put together bills for shows up and down South Florida for more than a dozen years. As he gears up for Las Olas Music Festival on July 22 at Two& featuring the Macsters, Eunoia, and Xotic Yeyo, he walked New Times through what it takes to put together a local music festival.

New Times: How do you go about picking bands for a festival?

Oski Gonzalez: I have 600 bands in my cell phone from working at Tobacco Road and Churchill's. I have 200 rappers on there and 150 DJs. When I have an event, I send a mass text to all the acts I've worked with and I know telling them the date and venue. Then I do an open call on social media asking for acts I might not know to send me their EPKs (electronic press kits).

What are you specifically looking for in a band to fill out a festival lineup?

Good music. I try to go off a band's live YouTube performance. Sometimes you get a band that was recorded in the studio, and it's all slicked up and auto-tuned and they're no good live. Then I check their Facebook to see if they have forward momentum. I try to give new bands opportunities from all types of music. Good music is good music. I once had a rapper worry that there were too many rock bands going on before him. I told him, "Listen, everyone likes Metallica. Everyone likes Snoop Dogg. That's because everyone likes good music. If you're good, any audience will like you."

How did you get involved with Las Olas Music Festival?

There's huge demand for shows in Broward, but I try to space doing things up there because I'm busy in Miami. Last year, I did Fort Lauderdale Music & Arts Festival at Two&. It was real cool. It's an art gallery and bike shop with a full liquor license. Now it's six months later so we're working with the venue again. The owner already tells me before we do this first one he wants to do it again next year, so we've already marked it down for the third Saturday in July in 2018.

Do you approach booking a festival differently in Fort Lauderdale than you do in Miami?

In my opinion, Fort Lauderdale appreciates rock music more than Miami. In Miami, rock is almost dead. We went three years without a modern rock radio station. What other major metropolitan area goes without a rock station for three years?

But I have a blueprint for festivals that took me years to perfect. People ask me why don't you get a headliner, a famous act? Then it overshadows the local acts. The night becomes about the headliner. For Las Olas, I tried to have more Fort Lauderdale bands. There's some from West Palm and Plantation, three or four from Miami. The local bands bring their fans and friends to the show.

How do you prepare for the show?

I have a meeting with all the bands a week before the show, and I give them all flyers. I don't deal with lazy bands. They have to be promoting it. At the meeting, I also bring out show posters and have every band sign them. I have one of them framed and as a condition of putting on the festival, the venue has to hang it up. It makes the local bands feel like rock stars, which they are.

What can people expect at Las Olas Music Festival?

We have rock bands, rappers, an R&B singer, and a poet. We have over 20 bands on two stages going from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. In between, there will be DJs and they will play the best songs ever made. I tell festival DJs, don't play nothing obscure. Play familiar music people love and let the bands take the risks introducing them to something new and interesting.

Las Olas Music Festival. 4 p.m. Saturday, July 22, at Two&, 1517 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; Admission is $10.