UP+DT Spotlight: Ian O’Donnell

Ian O'Donnell

26 Feb UP+DT Spotlight: Ian O’Donnell

UP+DT members, Nathan, Jamie, and Lindsey met with Ian O’Donnell of the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton for a brief interview to get his take on what makes UP+DT so vital and influential for the city. Ian is a long-time supporter of the UP+DT Festival, advocating for its presence throughout downtown Edmonton by reinforcing the fact that more live music events create increasingly fun atmospheres and spaces to congregate in. In other words, UP+DT is totally making downtown Edmonton a wicked place to be.

With this in mind, allow us to set the scene for the interview: It is Caribbean Night at Red Star on Jasper Ave. Reggae DJ mixes have filled every nook and cranny of the pub. Scents of jerk chicken, rice ‘n peas, and vegetable curry linger, much to our pleasure. Although the guys are drinking Guinness, we can respect the meshing of Irish and Caribbean traditions.

UP+DT: Ian, how did you discover the UP+DT Music Festival?

Ian: In the festival’s first year, I saw some advertisement – probably a poster – and tried to find out more about it, which led to me attending some shows. I found it very interesting and unique that there were several venues. It’s great to have so many establishments downtown playing a part, working together to create a successful festival.

UP+DT: You’ve recently started as the Executive Director of the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton. How would you describe your role?

Ian: My role with the DBA is to help downtown Edmonton become the most desirable place to live, work, play, invest, and visit. Downtown has changed so much in recent years, so it’s an exciting time to be a part of it.

UP+DT: As Executive Director, how do you see your role influencing UP+DT?

Ian: Part of my role is promotion and marketing for UP+DT – festivals like UP+DT are great to showcase downtown. They fill hotel rooms and bars – essentially, they bring people to enjoy what downtown has to offer. I will be working to ensure that we can maximize the resources we have downtown to create an enjoyable festival for everyone.

UP+DT: Have you had any favourite acts in past years?

Ian: Last year, the Lucette and Tokyo Police Club shows were amazing. The Wet Secrets a couple of years ago was an incredible show.

UP+DT: Were you a music connoisseur before discovering UP+DT?

Ian: I enjoy a variety of music, but I don’t follow music very well. I certainly don’t involve myself in music very much. It’s not so much the music – it’s the experience. It’s the room, band, crowd, and lighting all coming together for the experience. The genre, to me, is sometimes less important than the atmosphere, as great music transcends the type.

UP+DT: Do you have a favourite band or genre? Like, if you were to put on some morning jams, what would we find you singing along to in your car?

Ian: The White Lies, all day long… I went to see them in Paris and it was my favourite show. They’re The Cure meets Depeche Mode.

UP+DT: What would you say to someone who was new to Edmonton to encourage them to check out UP+DT?

Ian: You’ve not been to something like this before. It’s kind of like when you go to a weekend festival in a field – multiple venues and stages. It’s so unique. These are shows you might have gone to individually, but this collective experience is different and allows you to experience so much more in one weekend.

UP+DT: How do you see UP+DT improving Edmonton as a whole?

Ian: It’s very clear that cities that have live music downtown are great cities – Nashville, Portland, and Austin are great examples. We have to make sure we create great rooms; great spaces.

Build it and they will come.

UP+DT Music & Arts Festival will be taking place October 6-8, 2017. Mark your calendars – this year is going to be incredible. Wristbands will be available within a couple months, so stay tuned.

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