Dierks Bentley, Live Nation’s Brian O’Connell Return To Seven Peaks [Interview]

Seven Peaks Festival, 2018.

Dierks Bentley and Live Nation’s President of Country Touring Brian O’Connell return to Buena Vista, Colorado this weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 1), for the second installment of their unique Seven Peaks Festival.

This year’s event features Bentley along with Luke Bryan, Maren Morris, Travis Tritt, Bentley’s tourmates Jon Pardi and Tenille Townes, as well as Caylee Hammack, The War and Treaty, Larkin Poe, Steep Canyon Rangers, Clare Dunn, Lauren Jenkins, and more.

The event launches with Friday evening’s ‘90s Night, featuring Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Diamond Rio, Deana Carter and of course, Bentley’s own mullets-and-mustaches wearing, ace-pickin’ ‘90s band, Hot Country Knights.

“The Knights are covering Travis sometimes during regular shows, anyway,” O’Connell says. “I can’t wait to see if I can get the Knights and Travis together, and maybe Travis can sit in with them after his set.”

While artist performances are the main draw during the evenings, Buena Vista is the star during the day, where attendees can partake in the area’s array of opportunities including camping, ATV rides, fly fishing, kayaking and rafting—or simply enjoy the stunning mountain views from an approximately 8,000-feet elevation.

“Our goal was put on a great festival not like any other festival,” O’Connell says. “It’s toward the end of the year for touring acts and they’ve been through so many different festivals, so Dierks and I wanted to curate something unique to Colorado and different. We felt we accomplished that on an artist vibe side and I believe last year we had fans from 49 states that showed up.”

“I was honestly overwhelmed with the response from artists like Miranda Lambert and Brothers Osborne [in 2018],” Bentley says. “Some artists changed their travel plans and elected to stay longer with us after their show…they couldn’t leave! The setting alone is enough to take your breath away. I’m really grateful for everyone who took a chance on it last year and trekked out to be part of it. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”

Bentley works closely with O’Connell, Red Light Management’s Mary Hilliard Harrington and WME’s Jay Williams to curate the lineup, a potent mix of rock, ‘90s country, singer-songwriter, R&B, and more.

“A lot of the curating each year is me thinking about who I’d love to personally see,” Bentley says. “The lineup is the anchor of the whole weekend experience, so the ultimate goal to me is to gather a completely unique group of artists so that fans can do everything from hear their favorite radio hits to discover a new roots band that they might not have heard of yet.”

Many of the most memorable moments from Seven Peaks’ first year came from Dierks himself, as he took every opportunity to perform and meet with fans.

“Right when we were ready to open doors on Friday last year, and I can’t remember—I think it was a power issue and Dierks and I had walked the festival site to the main entrance,” O’Connell recalls. “He was hidden around the corner and we had a long line of people waiting to get in. I got word on the radio that we couldn’t open the doors just yet. So we had about a 15-minute lull in the action. I looked at Dierks and said, ‘Send someone to grab a guitar.’ Someone got in a golf cart, ran backstage and brought him back his acoustic and he basically stood on a tree stump with a couple hundred people that could fit in that area and did a song acoustic to welcome everyone to the festival and thank them for their patience, then we opened the doors. That’s the level of involvement and the kind of guy he is. He’s doing this because he’s passionate about it. That was my favorite moment.”

Heading into the second year, O’Connell and his team worked to further enhance the experience, both for attendees and for Bentley.

“Dierks is so heavily involved, so we tried to navigate time for him to experience as much as he possibly could. We had lots of pacing conversations. We made tweaks such as traffic patterns. We moved the Whiskey Row stage to a place where it wasn’t buried in a corner, which opened up more room for the main stage. We worked on activating the Somewhere On A Beach area, because the climate out there is a little weird. It can be 80 degrees one minute and 50 degrees the next. The minute the sun goes behind that mountain you go from sweating to needing a hoodie.”

As the festival continues to grow year over year, Bentley has plenty of ideas for how to both expand and deepen the fan experience for years to come.

“I want as many fans as possible to get a chance to experience Seven Peaks Festival while also maintaining the overall vibe that exists now. And I want to keep exploring ways for fans to immerse themselves in every element of what it’s like to be there—from expanding off-site excursions to DJ sets after the Main Stage is over.” Bentley says.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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