John Rieble and R.J. Largay looked over the music scene in the greater Phoenix area and noticed country music was underrepresented. Largay’s family was instrumental in creating the M3F two day festival which usually plays in the first week of March. What if they brought a similar two day event to the Scottsdale Civic Center plaza, a park surrounded by two museums, a performing arts center, the public library and City Hall?
The YOLO answer to that question was to plan a festival which played on Friday, November 3rd and Saturday November 4th, 2023. Rieble and Largay delivered an affordable, family friendly and comfortable weekend. There was always one band playing at one of the two key stages at either end of the grounds, and in the later hours, a second band also playing on an ancillary stage.
The lineup was strong for a first time outing. Headliners included Midland, Lord Huron, Trampled by Turtles, Margo Price and Luke Grimes. The downline acts were surprisingly interesting. In particular, excellent performances were delivered by Hailey Whitters, American Aquarium, Jamestown Revival, Stephen Wilson Jr., Steely Dead and a bonkers set by Country Night a DJ act lead by Brown Bear who engaged the crowd by playing massive country hits, delivering dancers on stage, throwing canned beer and fried chicken to the crowd and creating a deep engagement with their audience.
This was indeed a curated festival which brought a range of music from the roots flavor of Trampled by Turtles to the rock tinged performance of American Aquarium whose front man BJ Barham delivered an electric set. Dreamy Draw was a tasting menu of Country genres, from the classic performance by Hailey Whitters in her denim dress to the guitar forward highly personal songs of Stephen Wilson, Jr. and the stunning set by Jamestown Revival. Steely Dead was a insider’s favorite: a mash up of Steely Dan and Grateful Dead covers.
Dreamy Draw was in some ways impacted by the Arizona Diamondbacks making their way into the World Series in the week prior to the event, which may have impacted ticket sales. The Friday show was undersold, but there was a strong turnout for Saturday.
The entire event had a warm feeling to it, like a neighborhood party at scale. And, the mechanics of the festival were well planned. Acts went on timely, sound worked, and there never seemed to be too long of a line for food, drinks or merchandise. There was even a VIP riser at the more prominent of the two main stages. This resulted from a sponsorship deal related to Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row club, located one mile from the festival grounds and also the site of the Friday night afterparty which was open to all in attendance.
It is not easy to predict which new entrant into the myriad of musical choices will stick. However, Dreamy Draw has two holds on their population. The emphasis on Country music is accretive, and the goodwill from those who attended this first iteration festival helps build the base from which sustainability will grow. Sometimes just observing the crowd tells a lot about the probability of building the brand. Dreamy Draw turned out a wide variety of attendees. There were families, people on dates, casual groups of friends, attractive singles and true fans of music. It felt comfortable to be at Dreamy Draw, rather than competitive. This mixture is the secret sauce, drawing from across the population which suggests next year’s event sales will be more than just a decision based upon the headliners booked.
Largay’s talent as a music buyer and Rieble’s casual confidence in building relationships are a formidable pairing. The true driving factor leaning hard to the side of integrating Dreamy Draw into the annual “must see” events for their area is the care in which each act is selected, and the ways in which Reible and Largay stay true to their genre. This year’s set list delivered a good balance between well established artists and those on the rise. The festival crowd’s momentum built as each new act took the stage. Next year, get your tickets early. Dreamy Draw’s founders are intent on making it a permanent fixture in town. I don’t think that’s dreamy at all. It’s predictable.