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September 3, 2014

40 bands, 4 stages: Old Salt Union joins eclectic Loufest lineup

Loufest 2014 promises to be bigger and better than ever.

The two-day music festival in St. Louis' Forest Park will feature 40 bands on four stages. Last year, it was 30 bands on three stages. About 31,000 attended in 2013, up 12,000 from 2012.

Indie rockers Arctic Monkeys will headline the event on Saturday and Atlanta based hip-hop duo, Outkast, will head the bill on Sunday.

"Outkast are huge for us. They are in the middle of one of the biggest tours of the year, so for us to be a stop on that is a very big deal. ..." said Loufest founder Brian Cohen, 45, an instructor and media specialist in the Department of Education at Washington University in St. Louis.

"The partnership with C3 (concert promoter) has raised the profile of the festival," Cohen said. "And with a profile that's more prominent, you do gain more traction with management and bands and they're more willing to say 'yes.' As a first-year event, it was sometimes a struggle to get bands to say yes because we were unknown. They didn't know us. They didn't know the event. We were unproven. At this point, five years in, we have a track record."

In addition to an expanded lineup and the fourth stage, the food area or "Nosh Pit" will be expanded to accommodate the larger crowd. The main entrance will be moved north closer to Lindell Boulevard, near the intersection of Theater and Grand drives.

There will be three bands from the St. Louis area: Pretty Little Empires, Big Brother Thunder and the Master Blasters, and Belleville-based bluegrass band Old Salt Union.

Old Salt Union was formed in 2011 by Belleville natives Ryan Murphey, 31, on banjo and vocals; Dustin Eiskant, 31, on acoustic guitar, ukulele and vocals; and Justin Wallace, 29, on mandolin and vocals. In May of 2012, the band added Jesse Farrar, 25, of Belleville on bass and vocals, and John Brighton, 28 of Belleville on violin and vocals.

Their unique bluegrass sound has earned a strong following. They have been touring nationally for the past 1 1/2 years and have built a solid reputation as a live band. Recently, they released their second album "Bridge."

The music at Loufest has always been eclectic, but the members of Old Salt Union are not concerned about sharing the bill with rock acts like Grouplove or hip-hop groups like Outkast.

"We live in a mix tape generation so people aren't necessarily interested in albums any more," Farrar said. "It's all gray area now. There are no specific genres, and new bands like us are trying to blur the lines even more. It's really exciting and it makes it easy for you to be passionate about one kind of music and also really dig another genre."

Old Salt Union will perform at noon Sunday on the BMI stage.

The organizers have always tried to minimize the festival's impact on Forest Park. They provide recycling bins and free water to concertgoers.

Attendees are encouraged to leave their cars at home and use MetroLink or ride their bicycles. The Forest Park Shuttle will provide an extra stop at the venue till 5 p.m., then the shuttle will run directly from Forest Park Station MetroLink station to the venue.

The festival has outgrown the bicycle valet service, so self-park bike racks will be provided. Cyclists should bring their own locks.

"Let's produce a festival that we would want to go to as fans -- that informed all our decisions," Cohen said. From keeping the food prices reasonable, offering free water, keeping the ticket prices reasonable -- that's a guiding principle we will continue to use as we move forward."

For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, visit www.loufest.com.

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