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St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Five questions for Evolution Festival impresario Joe Litvag

Joe Litvag, founder of the Just Listen Company

St. Louis hasn’t hosted a major St. Louis summer music festival in Forest Park since the final Loufest in 2017. This year, on August 26 and 27, that will change with the inaugural Evolution Festival. The event will bring together headliners The Black Crowes, Brandi Carlile, The Black Keys, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Ice Cube, The Sugar Hill Gang and other popular national artists.

Joe Litvag, founder of the Just Listen Company, is planning the event with his mentor and former boss Steve Schankman, the head of Contemporary Productions. Litvag, 53, who attends Congregation Shaare Emeth, offered some insight into the logistics of organizing a music festival.

How did Evolution Festival come about?

When I decided to start my own company a couple years ago, Steve and I decided we were going to try to do some things together if it made sense. One of the first things that came up was the possibility of a new festival for St. Louis. There was definitely a need and a demand for it. We wanted to do something that the city could be proud of.


You’ve curated a fairly diverse lineup. Was there a philosophy you used as inspiration when you selected artists?

Steve, myself, and Jeff Jarrett, who works at Contemporary Productions, helped collectively decide what we wanted. We spent months putting pieces together. It’s like a puzzle. The most important thing was to provide a little something for everybody and for people to explore new music they hadn’t heard before.


How complex is the process of stage crews prepping for bands to keep the schedule running on time?

To put on a successful festival takes an incredible team of professionals with special skill sets. It is no easy job. And you have to have a certain skill set to be able to do those things because there are timetables. We put together a run of show schedule, and we like to try to be as sticklers as we can. The crew that’s working has to know exactly what they’re doing to get everything set up.


Evolution Festival will feature not just music but also bourbon and BBQ. How did you come up with that trifecta?

Bourbon is a spirit that has exploded in the U.S. over the last 10 years or so, and we didn’t see anything significant around bourbon happening in St. Louis. So we thought it would be a perfect tie-in. And with drinks comes food and the pieces were pretty easy to put in place. We just wanted to kind of make it unique and something that St. Louis hasn’t really done before.


Now that you’re just a few weeks from the festival, have you seen enthusiasm increase among music lovers?

Yes, the feedback really from day one when we announced the full lineup has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve noticed an incredible pickup over the last couple of weeks and buzz and chatter on the socials and sales. Our goal has always been to create a multi-year plan to grow the festival. Steve and I said, let’s do something new that people can be proud of and have great feelings about and build new memories.

Evolution Festival

When: Aug. 26-27; gates open at 2 p.m.
Where: In the areas known as Langenberg Field and the Boat House at Forest Park
How much: Weekend general admission starts at $169.50 for both days and $89.50 for single day
More info: evolutionfestival.com

Check out the Evolution Festival Website for tickets and additional information. The festival F.A.Q.s offers details about parking and items allowed in the festival grounds, including lawn chairs and sealed water bottles or empty plastic refillable water bottles. Litvag recommended that attendees drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.


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About the Contributor
Bill Motchan, writer/photographer
Bill worked in corporate communications for AT&T for 28 years. He is a former columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Bill has been a contributing writer for the Jewish Light since 2015 and is a three-time winner of the Rockower Award for excellence in Jewish Journalism. He also is a staff writer for the travel magazine Show-Me Missouri. Bill grew up in University City. He now lives in Olivette with his wife and cat, Hobbes. He is an avid golfer and a fan of live music. He has attended the New Orleans Jazzfest 10 times and he has seen Jimmy Buffett in concert more t han 30 times between 1985 and 2023.