Writing Sample for WHRO

Always. About the music.

Josh Coplon has been planning a music festival since he was 15 years old. On May 16th, his dream of a multi-band festival will come to fruition with the Hampton Roads first indie-rock festival and the only one of it’s kind in the state of Virginia.

The LAVA Music Festival (Low Altitude Virginia) will be held at the Suffolk Executive Airport and will feature national touring acts, such as Fitz and the TantrumsOf Montreal,MutemathTokyo Police ClubRobert Delong, Kishi BashiCloud Nothings, and A Great Pile of Leaves, along with local favorites Major and the Monbacks and Wyteshayds. And in true festival style, there will be several food trucks, including Stuft, Malbon’s BBQ the Flying Pig, Lucky Peach, Sofrito, Twisted Sisters Cupcakes, Bros Fish Tacos, and the Thristy Frog. Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company will also be there as a major sponsor to help you wash it all down with.

The LAVA Lounge & Barcade will feature retro arcade games and pinball games as well as an interactive outdoor area that will include activities for the Kids AND Adults! The LAVA Lounge and Barcade is open to all tickets holders and stop by and try some select beers not offered at the Main Beer Tent.

Given this was the first festival of its kind, I sat down with Coplan and chatted with him about his background in music, his experiences with live festival planning and his vision for Hampton Roads and the LAVA Music Festival.

Coplon started working at the 40 Street Stage in Virginia Beach when he was only 15 and was immediately hooked on the business of live music. A Hampton Roads native and Maury graduate, Coplon went on to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. While in school, Coplon attended the Bonnaroo Music Festival and had an experience that would change his life. On August 5, 2012 during the performance of Sigur Rós, he realized that planning and promoting shows was what he wanted to do. “This was the most profound thing to have ever happen to me. This is it. This is what I’m doing with my life.” Later on, Coplon entered an internship with the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in Reykjavík and was responsible for putting on over 600 shows, in 48 venues, over the course of one week.

Coplon returned to Hampton Roads after Berklee and began using his experience and love for music to book bands in local clubs. His goal was to get people to start going to shows for the purpose of listening to the music, not just going to a bar that had live music playing off to the side. Booking musicians because they were good, regardless of how many people paid to see them, was how he would start to build bands in this area.

Soon after, Coplon and his father started toying around with the idea of a major festival. The major components would be to create a show that would attract people from all over Hampton Roads, and stretch to Richmond, Northern VA, DC and Chapel Hill / Raleigh to provide more than just a concert, but a true festival. In looking at locations to hold this massive event, they considered Harbor Park and Intelos. Ultimately, holding the festival in Suffolk allowed for the potential growth of a multi-day show where fans would be able to camp and enjoy the festival experience.

Pricing was another component that Coplon considered from a consumer point of view. Knowing that many festivals can charge upwards of $300 or more on one festival ticket, he really wanted to maintain a price-point that worked for everyone, including families. “I never wanted anyone to say that I couldn’t go to LAVA because it was too expensive.” Prices range from $55 to $85, depending on when you purchase the tickets and kids under 12 are completely free.

It is expected that several thousand people will attend the event this year. The festival will only occupy about a quarter of the Suffolk Executive Airport, giving them more room to grow in future years.

To purchase tickets please visit www.lavafestival.com, click on the “Buy Tickets” link and enter the promo code (whrolava) to unlock this exclusive $55 ticket.

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