After Yearlong Hiatus, ICT Fest Returns
ICT Fest returns this week with a new location and greater visibility than in past years.
ICT Fest began in 2004 as an independently organized music festival held at a variety of independent spaces in the city.
Early festival attendees can likely recall trekking across railroad tracks and ducking into the Eternal Speed and Iron Body shop somewhere in the shadows of a grain elevator near the city's north side, or driving up to the Eagles Lodge on North Broadway to catch a few sets from a local or touring band.
Co-organized by Matthew and Tereza Zardoz, the festival will reach its greatest visibility to date when it launches Thursday at Wichita Skatepark followed by shows Friday and Saturday at Naftzger Park.
As is tradition, the festival is primarily an all-ages event, though Kirby's Beer Store will host a 21-and-over crowd from 10 p.m. to midnight all three nights.
Attendees can expect a pop-up market and food trucks this year, a further sign of the festival's growth and continued vitality after a forced hiatus in 2020.
Matthew Zardoz recently spoke with Jedd Beaudoin about his personal history with the festival and picking up where he left off in 2020.
Jedd Beaudoin: Tell me about how you first got involved with the festival.
Matthew Zardoz: I got involved while I was the gallery manager at Naked City Gallery, which was tied to the magazine [Naked City]. In 2012, ICT Fest was at the gallery, so I only booked one band that year. But I worked with Chandra Dickson; she did all the legwork on that one and put the fest together, kept it going. The next year, Dan Davis, who started the festival, moved back to Wichita. I played a show with him on purpose; I booked it. I wanted to hang out with him and become better friends. I asked him if I could take a swing at [organizing the festival] and that's when I did it. That's about 10 years ago now.
What did you not know when you did that that you very quickly learned?
Oh man … so much. How do you shrink down 10 years of lessons learned? Actually, I used to make text documents, just sheets of notes, I made myself do it the day after the fest, of all the things that I screwed up that year so that I wouldn't do it again the next year. The biggest thing that I didn't know was just how supportive the community would really be and how receptive people would be.
The first year, I did send out something like 400 or 500 emails to bands, trying to find people that would come, trying to find every band in Wichita. I didn't know anywhere near as many as I do now. That was one of the biggest struggles, just finding people, even from that first one. I wanted to find the best lineup that I could. I went to the festival back in 2008. I didn't go to all three days, but I saw 10 to 15 bands that just blew my mind, changed my whole view of what I thought music could be or was like.
[Before that], I'd pretty much seen shows at the State Fair, a couple of punk shows here and there at The Bottleneck. But seeing this many bands back-to-back doing something I had never imagined in my life, I wanted to dedicate myself to putting together a lineup like that. So, that first year took me literally hundreds of emails [to do that]. I spent so much time; hours and hours and hours trying to put that together. But now, by the end of January, the lineup is done. It's been that way for probably five years. People who come to me and ask about it in February are already on the waitlist.
What happened in 2020? If you were like me, you were talking to musicians who were saying, "We're pulling the shows, but we'll be back in late summer." Then it was fall, then it was early 2021. What happened with the festival once COVID started to take hold?
It was pretty devastating. As you know, I booked a lot of shows outside of ICT Fest at venues throughout Wichita. The lineup for that spring was the best lineup that I had ever had, the best three or four months of shows that I had. I was very excited to bring those into Wichita and that was going to lead into what would have been the biggest ICT Fest yet.
Really, as soon as all those canceled, I feel like I had a pretty strong feeling for [what was going to happen]. Just the way these things get booked out fairly far in advance, it wasn't going to happen. And if it did, it wasn't going to be on the level that we wanted it to be. We definitely did toss around the idea of trying to do an all-digital fest. But, again, things just continued to get worse and worse, day by day, as far as numbers. We thought, "Are we really going to take recording equipment into all these peoples' studios or are we going to still bring all these people into one place?" It just became logistically impossible. So we just took the year of rest and [planned] for this one.
This is going to be the biggest ICT Fest yet. It's going to be hosted at Naftzger Park, right in downtown Wichita, St. Francis and Douglas. We really appreciate the city and Wave opening up their arms to us this year. That's where we were planning on doing it last year, after 2019 being at the pop-up park.
Did you have holdovers from last year's lineup? When I think about the life cycle of a band, I would imagine that there are some groups that aren't together anymore.
I did have about 10 acts booked that ended up dissolving in one way or another, or at least reorganizing and needing more time to do that reorganization. So we actually don't have anybody that was originally booked in 2020 for 2021. We really did start from scratch. Really, right there in March there was so much enthusiasm when there was a vaccine and people realized that they were going to have access to that and everybody, on the whole, started to feel fairly comfortable with doing shows outside. I decided to commit, throughout 2021, to only doing shows outside. Right at that point, right when it came back, people were just very excited. It did end up getting booked just within a couple of weeks.
There have been some last-minute lineup changes. Even within this last week, we've had three acts pull out just because it's been a crazy year. That's really normal. If there are 5% of people on the flier that don't actually play the fest, there's some kind of miracle.
I remember going to the festival early on and seeing some of the performers who were probably just out of high school at the time. Now, all these years later, they're bringing their kids to the festival.
One of the bands that actually is playing ICT Fest this year is Satellite Pilot. The leader of that band, his name is Alex Moore. And his dad is Logan Moore. [Logan] is actually from here in Wichita; he's from the band Sunshine Dreamers, who played a lot of the early ICT Fest. Like you said, a lot of the people who played those first ones were right out of high school. And we've really tried to keep that as a big focus. [We're] always looking for young performers, who are needing to get on their first stage. It's super exciting to me when somebody is in their first year, and they're doing something really cool and maybe they don't even know how cool what they're doing actually is. And then they play ICT Fest, and they see all these other bands. And they all you know, a bunch of people come up to them and say, "Hey, that was great. Do you want to play a show with us?" And just seeing those connections get made, and that helps for playing in town. And that helps for touring. That's a big part of why we have so many regional acts come into play as well.