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MOB Music Fest hits Cathedral Square this weekend.

The growth of the local music scene can be witnessed not only in the growing number of diverse local acts but also in the growing number of events. MOB Music Fest will celebrate its inaugural year with a free, three-day festival in Cathedral Square. When the hype surrounding this festival hit social media, many were curious as to what to expect from this new festival. Curious minds were satisfied with a lineup that is both local and diverse.

Among the many artists scheduled to perform, MOB Music Fest will feature funk and groove goodness from such acts as Yeah, Probably and Multi N Funk Band. The lineup also includes such hip-hop artists as Mob*Ill, 2 Major Twinz and Eternti Everlasting. Bands such as Underhill Family Orchestra and Paid to Pretend will add a little rock to the mix, and Dubkor’s reggae sound will fill Cathedral Square with irie vibes. The full lineup is available on mobmusicfest.com.

Lagniappe contacted organizer Eric Coleman for an inside look at the creation of this festival, as well as what other attractions this event will bring to Cathedral Square.

Stephen Centanni: Eric, what’s your role with the MOB Music Festival?

Eric Coleman: I’m a co-founder. We just kind of put this thing together, and we immediately realized that we couldn’t do it by ourselves. So, we got a team together and some people who knew what they were doing. They knew how to get with the right people and make this thing happen as quick as can.

Centanni: Tell me a little about Opportunities 4 Entertainers.

Coleman: Opportunities 4 Entertainers is a nonprofit organization that we’ve actually been doing for years. It’s all about showcasing and exposing people that live their life full-time as an artist, whether they get paid or not. They can kind of get drawn under the rug, because a lot of people don’t really look at it as a profitable or lucrative field until somebody gets a lucky break.

Mobile is a hotbed for artists in all fields. We thought that we would give everybody an even playing field, whether they’ve been playing for a long time or not. We also wanted to incorporate this with the city. So, everybody can have some type of outlet to allow themselves to showcase their arts. With the nonprofit, it allows a whole bunch of different people to know that we can provide opportunities for people. If they need an artist to paint a building or someone to do a voiceover for a cartoon show, there are a lot of artists out there, and we give people the opportunity.

Centanni: What makes MOB Fest different from other local music festivals?

Coleman: Well, the inspiration behind it is branding those three letters “MOB.” It’s all about Mobile. We’ve got a hot music scene. We’ve got a hot art scene, period. We’re homegrown, and we’re giving artists in the surrounding area a chance to come out and showcase their skills. A lot of them have pretty decent followings.

People have to go have to go out of town a lot just to make a lot of things happen. We want to reverse that. We want to try and do this thing in a different way to where we’re not just holding an event to have people come out. We want to promote everybody who is OK with being a part of this thing. Everybody is a local artist. We’re giving them the chance to showcase their talents on a stage that will be bigger this year.

Centanni: What was it like taking those first steps to get this off the ground?

Coleman: It was like trying to pull a hundred-year-old tree from the ground. It was crazy. You have to do a lot. You’ve got to get people inspired and get permits for permits. You’ve gotta talk to a lot of people and get their blessing to put this thing on. We didn’t look at it that way. We wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and we put it together in a matter of months. We talked about it on a day-to-day basis beforehand and said, “Look, now is the time, and if we wait too long, it’ll be somebody else’s turn to make a difference.”

It was knowing that we couldn’t do it by ourselves and also knowing that we had to get the artists from the area to even want to participate. Like you said, there are other festivals around, but this one is all about our performing arts. People come to our city and hire our artists, and they [artists] can’t get work in their own town. This is to put the city on notice that we have a lot of people here that you can come see.

Centanni: One thing I think is unique is that you not only have musical acts but also spoken word and dance artists on the lineup. When you were putting together the lineup, what was the selection process like?

Coleman: We basically set it up for people to submit through email. We were surprised. We had 70 submissions the first day. Overall, we had about 200 submissions. Of course, everybody won’t be able to supply what we’re looking for. We had a panel of five. When they submitted things, we checked out their social media and iTunes and things like that. We wanted to see how serious and established they already were with their music and talent.

With the spoken word and dance, they do a good job with word-of-mouth. We would be going through submissions, and somebody might’ve already heard of them or seen them. Word-of-mouth is the best way to get exposure. There were a lot of people who submitted, but the people we chose made the most sense for the inaugural year. People think of a music festival as music only. With what we’re trying to do, I think they’re going to get a different look.

Centanni: When people get to MOB Fest, what can they expect to see? How would you describe the layout?

Coleman: The festival is going to give you an overwhelming sense that this isn’t just a fest. This is Mobile. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to let people known that this festival belongs to us and the city. We’re going to have things out there to let people know that this isn’t just your common show-up-and-watch-a-music-show. We’re going to have vendors, and artists painting things. We’ve got a lot of people who just want to be a part of it and do anything to showcase their art.

When you show up, you’re going to feel welcome and think, “This belongs to me.” We’re trying to create an experience. This is a free event. We just want people to come out and see that it’s their festival. That’s what we’re trying to create.

Centanni: Where do you see this event going in the future?

Coleman: In my eyes, the future of this festival has no limits. Everybody gets excited when there’s a big international artist at a festival. We’ve been listening to a lot of people who want this or want that, but we have a lot of things in mind for this festival that’s just going to make it bigger and better. We can’t talk about all that just now, but we want it to be five times bigger next year. We’ve got three- and five-year plans. Of course, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, but at the same time, we’re looking at some pretty realistic things for MOB Fest next year.

Editor’s note: The print edition of this story misidentified MOB Fest co-Found Eric Coleman.