An Interview with John D (2016)


The Rock ‘N Derby is set to invade the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds on May 20 for three days of music, camping, and all-American family fun without all the mainstream baloney associated with a high-profile festival.  We’re talking about wall-to-wall entertainment with a roster that promises to provide a little something for everyone regardless of where one falls on the heavy metal spectrum.  Artists scheduled to appear include Five Finger Death Punch, Lamb of God, Clutch, Wolfmother, Ghost, Megadeth, Anthrax and A Day to Remember among others.

Not too shabby for the inaugural run of a festival whose venue doesn’t exactly conjure up hallowed memories a la Bonnaroo or Coachella, right?  This is a small-town event with big city talent at the helm and, with more than 40 quality bands on the bill, you won’t be disappointed should you choose to attend.

Why Buffalo hasn’t been able to put together something of this magnitude yet is anyone’s guess, because we certainly have the real estate and top-level promoters necessary to get it done.  All the bands listed routinely sell out or draw large crowds whenever they play western New York individually, so packaging them into one mega ticket in the future is a possibility worth pursuing.

I spoke with festival coordinator John D’Esposito regarding the festival’s origins and what fans can expect upon entry.  He struck me as a dyed-in-the-wool music aficionado who wouldn’t deliver anything but the best for his customers.

David Hens: How did you first become involved in the concert industry?

John D: Well, I started out in artist management just to survive, so I’ve always had an emphasis on promoting and developing bands from all platforms.  I had a 10-year run with The Bamboozle festival in New Jersey, but I left following a dispute with Live Nation regarding the creative direction of the event.  I’ve always felt that the best way to test the value of a band is to put them on stage in front of a festival crowd, because there’s no escape.  They either leave a mark or they don’t.  After a while, we’re able to see which bands are selling tickets consistently and build the festival around them.

DH: Where did the idea for the Rock ‘N Derby come from?

JD: Last year, we launched the Food Truck and Rock Carnival in New Jersey, which went over well, so this year we wanted to do something that would separate us from all the other festivals out there.  The demolition derby is what makes us stand out.  When you look at Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Firefly, they’re all basically the same touring festivals with the same boring look.  The Rock ‘N Derby doesn’t look like that.  Other than having an affordable ticket price, a successful festival needs to offer something beyond just the music, and the combination of the derby and the wrestling does just that.  The wrestling guys have been with me for six years and have always gotten a good response, because who doesn’t like wrestling?

DH: How were the lineup and venue decided on?

JD: Because the venue has the derby track already built in, the amenities were in place to have a successful event.  The crazy part is that I was able to get every band I wanted except for Disturbed, which speaks to the great relationships I’ve developed with these bands.  Many of them are also playing Rock on the Range the same weekend, so, once I locked one or two of the big ones, the rest all fell into place.  The lineup is pretty much set other than a few smaller tour packages that we’ll announce closer to the date.

DH: Have you faced any backlash from the surrounding community?

JD: The community has been overly welcoming, which is nice.  We never faced any resistance during the early planning stages, because local businesses can’t afford to miss out the income generated by everyone coming out for this event.  We’re talking about a small town where they appreciate any economic boost they can get, so politics didn’t really play as much of a role as you might think.

The Rock ‘N Derby goes down May 20-22 at the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds in Schaghticoke, NY.

Ticket packages are on sale now.  See for full details.

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