A Chat with Evan Bailey of Ubbi Dubbi Festival
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If you're a music head, and you've been to Texas, or the surrounding States, you've probably heard of Ubbi Dubbi Festival; the brainchild of James "Disco Donnie" Estopinal, CEO of 'Disco Donnie Presents'. The festival offers a diverse range of electronic music to suit all tastes, across a whole weekend in April. If you haven't yet been, go check it out!
What is your name and what is the name of your festival?
Hi, I'm Evan Bailey and I'm the Vice President of Disco Donnie Presents. Today I'll be talking a little bit about one of our festivals called Ubbi Dubbi, which is located in Ennis, Texas.
When did the festival start and what inspired it?
Ubb Dubbi started, I don't know, I guess, about three years ago is sort of the brainstorm of Donnie Estopinal, our CEO, Disco Donnie. He came to us with the concept for the name, which I guess was a nod to a PBS show called Zoom that he used to watch when he was a kid. Ubbi Dubbi was the language that was spoken on the TV show, which is a little bit like Pig Latin, that was used amongst the characters on the show to talk to each other in ways that the parents couldn't understand. So Donnie liked the ethos of that name, and we kind of started to work around the brand from that name.
When we first approached a lot of artists, and their management and agent teams about the name, there were obviously a lot of questions of, in fact, to this day, people still mispronounce the name Oobie Doobie and things of that nature.
In terms of the creative process behind the name, we had a brainstorm with our friends at Universal Music Group at the time, who are our social agency, and we kind of tried to develop a narrative for it. We knew we liked a few things, like, for instance, we liked the idea of making characters that were sort of cartoon-like for the brand. We knew we wanted them to use the language or you know, something similar to it, and we basically developed these two different characters Ubbi and Dubbi, who represent kind of like the different tastes people have within the music scene. So for instance, Dubbi is very interested in Bass music, and those sorts of things, more aggressive music, and he's a bit of a younger sort of enthusiastic character. Whereas Ubbi is more interested in things like house and techno and has been around for a while and kind of knows the ropes.
When and where does it happen?
Ubbi Dubbi happens annually in the spring, it's Dallas' Springtime festival event, we usually hold it like the last weekend of April. It's located in a town called Ennis, Texas, which is, I don't know, about 45 minutes or so South-East of Dallas, so it's sort of out in the country.
It's held at the Texas Raceway, which is kind of like a racing facility that has a lot of space, and a great staff there, who we love working with. So it's a pretty big festival grounds that we're able to work with.
Tell us about the site and how it influences the festival?
The site, you know, because it's so big, it's allowed us to do a couple of things we wouldn't normally do. For instance, we can do camping there, you know, racing events typically have a camping component, and Ubbi Dubbi is the same way. So we're able to utilise some of those areas for camping.
Additionally, you know, since out in the country, we can be a little louder, which is nice. You know, sometimes when you're in a metropolitan area, you have to be a little more conscious of those sorts of things. We're pretty fortunate the first year at that space, which was in 2021, that, really, there were no major sound complaints related to the event.
What kind of musical artists play at your festival?
In terms of like the different types of artists that play at Ubbi Dubbi, it's all different types, you know, we're always looking for the artists that are sort of coming up and, you know, to try to help them grow their profile alongside the profile of the festival. So it's kind of a win-win for both the artist and the festival when an artist you know, grows in their stature, even throughout the timeline of the promotional cycle of the festival.
Of course, the main stage is sort of, you know, sort of House and bigger acts and those sorts of things. We also have a Bass stage, which you know, is extremely popular with a lot of different Bass and sort of darker sounds on it, as well as sort of a Techno area.
Typically, you know, with the camping festival, we also have an activation, like a stage out in camping where people can enjoy music, late at night. This year, we had all sorts of stuff, you know, we had artists like Adventure Club there, we had, you know, artists like Mark Farina and Derek Carter, tag-teaming there - so a little bit of everything, hopefully, for everyone.
Who was the first act you ever booked?
In terms of the first act I ever booked, I mean, this was, before I started working at Disco, I've been at Disco for, I don't know, nearly 20 years. But when I first started producing events, one of the first events I ever worked on was with some friends from Cleveland, Ohio, where I live and the event we produced together, we booked a lot of the artists who were very well known in the Midwest at that time. So people like Terry Molan and Terrence Parker, and of course, the legendary Scott Henry of the East Coast. That was kind of the first event I ever worked on, it ended up being pretty successful, a few 1000 people, it was tonnes of fun.
What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?
In terms of like, I guess, the, you know, the most memorable parts of Ubbi Dubbi. I mean, this was literally the first you know, festival after the end of the pandemic, we took a lot of risks, throwing the event and took a lot of precautions to ensure its safety.
One thing I'll never forget, was just the sort of feeling of joy from so many different people, whether it was fans, staff, artists, the energy was really palpable. I'll never forget at the end of the event, you know, I was sitting there watching, I think it was Griffin, and Illenium, kind of close things out, and I was sitting there with some of the agents and managers and those sorts of things, and everybody was just kind of looking at each other in disbelief, like we just pulled this off, you know, the music industry is sort of back and it was something I'll never forget and extremely memorable.
Who is the target audience for your festival?
I guess you know, a little bit about the target audience for the festival. You know, Ubbi Dubbi is held in Texas. So, you know, we're looking at fans from all over Texas, one of the great things about Texas is people will drive extremely far, you know, all the way up to things like eight hours, so we fans from the Rio Grande Valley, of course, Dallas, Houston, Austin, even as far as places like Denver, Oklahoma City, El Paso, New Orleans, basically anywhere in the South, you know, within driving range.
That, you know, the typical, I guess, audience Member for Ubbi Dubbi is, you know, anybody from like 18 to 35, I would say the majority of the audience kind of fits into that demo. A lot of Texas people, as I mentioned, you know, in recent years, I've noticed the crowds getting a little bit older, which is kind of nice, because you tend to see people I don't know, you know, enjoying themselves a little bit more safely. And, I don't know, just more interested in higher-end experiences, those sorts of things.
What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?
Some things that are unique about the festival, Ubbi Dubbi obviously has a really interesting storyline. So we always like to have a lot of fun with it in the promotional cycle. So even before the event, you know, we're trying to develop storylines for these different characters and developing new characters, we've sort of developed this whole universe of different characters around the event. This year, in fact, we introduced a new category, a new character called Cubbi and she's our first female character, varied interests, kind of the patron saint of doing good. So we wanted to kind of, I don't know, accomplish a couple of things, you know, increase character diversity, but also, you know, use these characters as methods and tools to talk about things that are important, you know, whether it be the environment, health, and safety, consent, etc.
Some other things that make it unique, you know, it's a camping festival. If you've never been to Texas, you know, it's a very unique place and has a lot of its own kind of style and flair, and I think to enjoy that with Texans, and others, you know, in a camping environment is one thing that kind of makes it unique, you know, there's not typically too many of those.
What are some of the challenges you've faced in organizing your festival?
I guess you know, a little bit about the challenges we faced when we were planning Ubbi Dubbi. I mean, this was, as I mentioned, the first festival after the pandemic so it was extremely stressful. Mostly because everything was changing.
So, you know, the health and safety concerns related to the festival were constantly changing. You know, for example, things like our knowledge of the virus of COVID-19, both a legal, kind of political environment in which the festival existed where it's changing rapidly. So one of the big challenges was, was just that just the state of flux. You were kind of changing your health and safety plans on a dime based on new executive orders and those sorts of things, and we had to partner with a lot of different companies and technologies to kind of pull off a safe event. You know, we had everything from on-site staff testing there to you know, health and safety questionnaires to COVID detection beagles, a lot of different communication channels going to, whether it be artists, or fans, etc. So it was, you know, something we were very proud of, but it was also very stressful to produce, especially in a short timeline.
You know, to be completely honest, we weren't even sure if we could produce the event in say, February and by March, we kind of had the go-ahead. So we sort of had a month to build this new model for events post-pandemic, and that was extremely challenging.
Anything else you would like to tell us about?
I guess some other things you may not, I guess know about me or you know, Disco you know, as I said, I'm the eldest employee at Disco Donnie Presents. I met Donnie here in Ohio, where I live, right after Hurricane Katrina. He was a promoter in Columbus, Ohio, and I live in Cleveland, and that's kind of how we met and I guess I've been with him ever since. So he's a great guy, a loyal guy, and a very innovative and interesting promoter.
So, just wanted to thank you guys for having me today, and hopefully, that gives you a little bit of insight into Ubbi Dubbi. Thanks.