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Behind the Fest - Shadow Ridge Music Festival 2022

by Mitch West

Photo Credit: Shadow Ridge Music Festival

2022 has been a record-setting year with music in Nebraska. For Shadow Ridge Music Festival 2022 Follows suit. Since its start, the festival has featured bands like Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Blue Moon Ghetto, Violent Femmes, Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet, The Millions, The Hangin Cowboys, Chris Kattan, The Nadas, Everclear, Sponge, Fastball, Gin Blossoms, and Blue October. The 4th Annual Shadow Ridge Music Festival flies high and kicks it up a nostalgic notch with Steve Rannazzisi, Tropidelic, Eve 6, and Lit, and tops off the night with Nebraska's own 311. We got the chance to have a Q&A with Justin and Elen Shanahan of Shadow Ridge to talk more about the festival and how it's all put together.

Where are you both from and how did your journey bring you to Shadow Ridge Country Club?

"We met in 2001 in Ireland. Elen was a student at the University of Galway and I was working at a loading dock in Ireland. My dad started the development and the golf course and we’ve been running day-to-day operations since 2011/12."

Before making this festival happen, were there others that you were inspired by or had attended in the past?

"Edge Fest in Omaha back in the '90s. Believe it or not, I saw 311 and Violent Fems on the same bill when I was in high school. Everywhere's different. There's the K-Rock Fest, the Bridge School benefit with Neil Young when I went to college in San Francisco. The size and scope of them are different from maybe what Omaha has offered in the past. Those people that enjoyed that back then are still here and are my age. Music Festivals don’t only need to be exclusive for people in their 20s. At our age at this stage, you’re always looking for entertainment. There's nothing better than seeing a song live that you know every word to. People love live music. There's nothing better than seeing a band live and hearing their songs you know every word too."

Why put on an annual music festival?

"What we are is a family fun center. It’s a recreational hub to make memories. You’re always thinking about how to make the experience better. We have all of this space, all of this land, what a great idea to have a concert. It’s expanding the footprint of the entertainment opportunity at Shadow Ridge. It’s unique to put on an event that feels clean, organized, and controlled. That's what makes ours special. Combine the music they love"

What makes a good bill/line up and how do you put together yours? and what are the elements that make Shadow Ridge Music Festival successful?

"Creating a lineup that is attractive to our crowd. Figure out who combines with who and have a good balance. You’re on the hook to exceed expectations and continue to grow. You want people to see the line-up and go “There’s no way!”. Every year we want to bring talent that people can’t wait to get a ticket for. In the future, we’ll play with different styles of lineups and continue to experiment. That personal connection has to be there. What we want is to be able to organize an event where there’s no chaos. Where people feel safe and feel like they can enjoy the music along with the other components of the festivals. It’s a big high school reunion in a way. You can be there for like 6 hours straight. There's a lot to enjoy. For it to run smoothly and people feel comfortable and safe it’s the most important part. You have to have a well-laid-out event where there’s good flow."

What have been some of the biggest challenges or most unexpected you've faced since the Shadow Ridge Music Festival started?

"One of the most stressful parts, especially in the beginning is not knowing what all of the bands are going to need when they arrive and how best to accommodate them. We have spreadsheet after spreadsheet of who’s coming in and when, where they will be staying, and how to host them properly."

When does the process start for each festival and how do you go about putting it together?

"The first thing we do after each festival is evaluate how we did it and make changes. We’ve been working with the same fencing company, the same picnic table company, etc. Those relationships are set in stone. That part is easy. We learn every year and throughout it, we work on other aspects when it’s ready. When you’re a start you haven’t built a reputation to get so you can’t get certain bands. We couldn’t get 311 in the past because we didn’t have a history enough to justify them coming in. No we have a pretty good track record. The more shows we do, the more legitimacy you have and more acts will want to come here. The changes from year 1 to year 2 were drastic. From last year to this year there are tweaks. "

Having a solid crew to put all this together and pull it off is a must. How many people in-house do you have working on this festival throughout the year and for the event?

"The team that puts it together is very small. That's the two of us and Sammi and Angela. Working the events we have about 100 people but we recruit that team just for those two days. Leading up to it is just 4 people. It’s all compartmentalized. Different departments, logistics, and resources. During peak season at Shadow Ridge, we employ about 200 people so we can pull from those if we needed to as well."

While music is the main component of this festival, Shadow Ridge Music Festival also has included comedy with comedians hosting the event. What inspired the idea? How do you go about finding the right fit? Is that going to be an annual tradition moving forward?

" I saw Adam Carolla in the bay area during the K-Rock festival and Adam Mc’d it. That is always stuck in our brains. Between sets, you have about 30min of downtime and want entertainment non-stop. To have a face that people recognize and can bridge the gap between bands while engaging the fans. If you combine music with laughter it will be a good time. It’s another form of entertainment from within the festival that makes it even more interesting. We want people to say that they were entertained the whole time."

What information do people need to know for this year's festival?

"Continue to keep checking our social media, especially Instagram for updates. Designated seating is sold out already and general admission is getting close."

Where do you see the future of the festival going? and dream performers?

"There are some names in mind and we’ll maybe try some different genres too. We want to keep people guessing and always wondering who we might have next."

With an expectation of 5,500 attendees, this year's festival will be record-setting. The 4th Annual Shadow Ridge Music Festival is Friday, September 9th at Shadow Ridge Country Club in Omaha, NE. A portion of each ticket sale will go to The Lane Thomas Foundation. Get your tickets quickly! All reserved seating, 311 fan club, and VIP tickets are SOLD OUT! General Admission tickets are still available but get yours ASAP! Click HERE for tickets and more information. Make sure to follow Shadow Ridge Music Festival on social media and stay tuned for announcements regarding this year's festival and future festivals. Read our interview with Max Collins from Eve 6 HERE.

*Updated 4.30.23*


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