There will be plenty of Trey Anastasio at the 2020 installment of SweetWater 420 Fest.
The annual jam-leaning gathering – heading into its 16th year – will top next year’s event with a reunion of Oysterhead – the supergroup of Anastasio, Primus bassist Les Claypool and Police drummer Stewart Copeland – as well as the Trey Anastasio Band.
Others on the initial lineup are Gary Clark Jr., Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Lake Street Dive, The Floozies, Dr. Dog, The Marcus King Band, Larkin Poe, Delta Rae and Funk You. About 30 more artists will be announced in January.
SweetWater 420 will take place April 24-26 at its usual home of Centennial Olympic Park. The festival is being staged a week later than usual because of the production logistics that will be involved with Final Four events at the park earlier in the month.
While SweetWater 420 has always navigated a musical path that winds through jam and Americana (with some reggae and EDM on the edges) and wrangled familiar names such as Widespread Panic, Jason Isbell and Tedeschi Trucks Band, the inclusion of the reincarnated Oysterhead is a marked achievement.
Jennifer Bensch, president of Happy Ending Productions, which produces the event, said they put an offer in for the band about a year ago when there were rumblings of a reunion.
“We’re always thinking of what we’re going to do that’s better than last year,” she said. “(Oysterhead) has always been kind of thrown out there and (this year) it ended up coming to fruition. We’re stoked, and we hope the audience will be.”
The trio’s first concerts in 14 years will take place two months before SweetWater 420 Fest in Colorado. But their inaugural Atlanta performance will mark their first music festival appearance since 2006 at Bonnaroo.
The 2019 SweetWater 420 – its 15th anniversary - endured a spate of wet weather, but still, about 55,000 attended. Bensch is looking for growth in the 60-65,000-range for 2020 and has listened to patrons’ suggestions about how to improve the festival.
A reduction in stages from four to three will minimize schedule overlapping – something fans complained about in years past – and the mixture of musical genres is something that consumers seem to appreciate.
“You have to see who mixes well from a genre perspective,” she said. “We’re different than other Atlanta festivals. We’re not the indie festival or the rock festival. We have our own niches. I would say that our consumer demo is very passionate for sure about the music, the lifestyle, the brand - all of it across the board.”
Bensch also appreciates the stability of staging the festival at Centennial Olympic Park – whom she calls “a great partner” – with its appealing resources such as ample hotels and public transportation.
The other aspect of SweetWater 420 Fest is its focus on the environment. Next year’s gathering will maintain a focus on waste diversion and compost creation, showcase the Planet 420 environmental village and use recycled cups (over the years, the event has diverted more than 240,000 pounds from landfills by recycling and created 60,000 pounds of compost). As well, their 4:19 Got a Minute to Give charity auction – which is heavy on artist involvement – has raised nearly $50,000 in two years.
Tickets for the 2020 SweetWater 420 Fest start at $125 (three-day general admission) and $353 (three-day VIP) and can be purchased at www.sweetwater420fest.com/tickets/.
The festival’s association as a Peachtree Road Race qualifier continues as well with the 420 Fest 5K on April 25. A 5K/Fest combo package is also available.
“This has always been about having an amazing patron experience more than making a ton of money,” Bensch said. “We try to keep that in mind.”
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