Five Questions With… Mike Dunphy (Roxodus)
The driving force behind Ontario's new classic rock fest is optimistic that he has found a winning formula. Here he describes the visit to Sturgis that sparked the idea and his ambitions for the fest.
By Jason Schneider
As some major annual music festivals in Ontario have put the brakes on this year, a new event has stepped in to fill the void. The debut edition of Roxodus is scheduled to take place July 11-14 at the Edenvale Aerodrome, north of Toronto, between Barrie and Collingwood.
It boasts an ambitious line-up of classic rock artists, including Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock, along with CanCon led by Nickelback and Matthew Good. There’s also plenty of blasts from the past, such as Saga, Lee Aaron, and Honeymoon Suite—resembling in many ways a daily Q107 playlist come to life.
The festival is the brainchild of Mike Dunphy, known until now for organizing the annual Wasaga Beach Motorcycle Rally, reputedly the largest event of its kind in Canada. In 2018, Dunphy also organized the Heroes Festival to honour military personnel and first responders that included an airshow featuring the Snowbirds.
For Roxodus, Dunphy and his partner, Fab Loranger, purchased 170 acres of property surrounding the festival grounds in hopes of creating a permanent event site, but as is often the case with new music festivals, negotiations with local residents have been ongoing. In fact, the local council is expected to make a final decision on permits on June 19, coincidentally the shipping cutoff date for advance wristband purchases.
However, it remains all systems go for Dunphy and his staff, and we spoke to him in the heat of the action in May. For updates and more info, go to roxodus.com.
Congratulations on getting Roxodus off the ground. How are things shaping up at the moment?
Now that the weather has cooperated, the site is coming along very well. As far as the logistics of getting the festival ready, we have a great team in place, and we are ready to go.
Roxodus seems tailored to a specific type of rock music fan. Where did the idea for the festival come from, and how easy or difficult was it to get people on board?
The idea came from several visits to Sturgis Buffalo Chip, where I experienced 75,000 fellow [motorcycle] riders enjoying live concerts in a field, even during a thunderstorm. Hence the reason we signed Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd as our first bands. Our plan, once we decided, was to cater to the classic rock crowd that has disposable income and knows how to have a good time.
Large-scale music festivals are always risky, as we're seeing currently with Woodstock 50. Where do you think the biggest mistakes are made?
Music festivals are like any other business. Some fail because of lack of funding, planning, or a variety of other reasons. Woodstock 50 had lots of issues before it even got started. We have tried to build a business plan that gives us the best chance of success. We have partnered with the best in the business and visited successful festivals. We are going in with eyes wide open.
Your lineup includes a lot of legacy Canadian artists. Have any of them reunited just to play Roxodus?
Strange Advance is the only band that I know of that reunited to play Roxodus.
If this year is a success, do you foresee Roxodus becoming an annual event?
Absolutely, and other events as well. We have been approached by larger festivals in the US to consider our site as a possible venue for them in 2020.