Festivals In Focus: Hookahville Q&A With ekoostik hookah’s Dave Katz

Get insights about independent festival promotion and the challenges and rewards of hosting memorable music events.

By Team JamBase May 3, 2024 12:20 pm PDT

Live music festivals continue to grow in popularity and diversity as the landscape shifts and responds to trends and technological changes. JamBase reached out to several independent promoters of music festivals for insights into the challenges and rewards of hosting memorable events. This installment presents a Q&A with ekoostik hookah multi-instrumentalist Dave Katz .

Hookahville, the Ohio-based music festival, has a storied history that dates back to its inception in 1994. The festival, hosted biannually by ekoostik hookah, evolved significantly over the past 30 years. First held on a farm in Fredericktown, Ohio, Hookahville grew in scope and scale, and by 1999 the festival had expanded from initially drawing a few hundred people to attendance reaching upwards of 15,000 people at various venues across the state of Ohio.

Hookahville takes its name from a song written in 1991 by ekoostik hookah multi-instrumentalist Dave Katz. The 30th anniversary of Hookahville will be celebrated on May 31 – June 1. This year’s event returns to a frequent Hookahville host, Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio. Joining ekoostik hookah on the 30th anniversary Hookahville lineup includes Chicken Wire Empire, Mama Said String Band, Houseplant, Boogie Matrix Mechanism, Baccano, The Hose, Camel Butter, Probably Just Paranoid and Lake Irie.


Ahead of this year’s Hookahville 58, ekoostik hookah’s Dave Katz shared his thoughts and insights into the world of independent music festival promotion. Scroll on to read his Q&A.

What got you into the world of independent festivals/promotions?

It was sort of an accident. The band decided to play an outdoor show on the property where I was living at the time. This was in 1994. It was basically ekoostik hookah playing on a hay wagon and rustic camping. We ended up with a lot more people coming than we thought we would have, so we decided to do it again a few months later but did it at an actual music venue instead. We had a real stage, much better sound and lights, and brought in a few bands from around the country to play. The attendance was around double what the first show was, so we just kept going with it. Next thing we knew, there were 10,000+ coming to the festival.

Did you have a mentor(s) or an education in the space?

Nope. It was 100% winging it.

ekoostik hookah – Hookahville

What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?

I wish I would have known more about managing money. For years and years, we were throwing the festivals on a wing and a prayer. We were very young and spent everything as fast as we made it. Sometimes even faster. Of course, our ticket prices were extremely low, so there was never that much to spend.

What are 3 things you wish concert attendees knew about hosting and promoting an independent music festival?

I wish they could comprehend the amount of time and effort it takes to put on the show. There is so much more than meets the eye. When you do two of them every year, it is basically never-ending.

I wish they knew that most promoters, especially those who put on smaller festivals, actually lose money long before they make money.

I wish they knew how much they can help small promoters by doing simple things. By leaving as small a footprint as possible. By partying responsibly. By following the basic rules that are set up for the safety of everyone. And by just generally being good people. A small amount of assholes can really make things hard on promoters, and ruin what should be a great time for their fellow festival-goers.

What is your favorite thing about promoting independent music festivals?

That’s an easy one. It’s being able to create an event where people can have a great time, and forget about everyday life for a couple of days.

Hookahville 1999

ekoostik hookah
ekoostik hookah (See 6 videos) and Bob Weir (See 218 videos)

What’s a favorite festival that you’ve attended or worked on and why?

When I went to Peach Fest, I left thinking that it was the best run festival I had ever been to. It was easy to navigate, the staff was very friendly and helpful, everything was on time, the grounds were perfectly set up, and everything seemed to run as smoothly as could be in front of, behind, and on the stages.

How do you prefer to engage with brands or sponsors who want to come on board? What qualities do you look for?

We’ve been home-grown for the entire run, and have had very few sponsors. Basically, I just like them to have products that are safe, and that our attendees can relate to.


How has the indie festival promotion business changed post-pandemic?

It’s definitely more difficult. People don’t seem to have as much money to spend on festivals. The big festivals keep trucking along, but the smaller ones have a harder time. Everything gets more expensive over time. The venues, staging, sound, lights, security, bands, etc. It makes it harder and harder to give people the most bang for their buck, so to speak.

Do you think that the effects of the pandemic are over/complete for people promoting independent live music events?

I do. I think we’re past blaming the pandemic for everything. I don’t think the repercussions from it are still affecting festivals. It was a problem immediately after, but you have to move on.

Are there any trends you see taking shape over the next couple of years?

I don’t think things will change much. It seems like the festival scene has been fairly set in its ways for the last 20 years or so. I don’t see why anything would be different in the near future.

Hookahville | May 2023 | Legend Valley | Recap

What is the best advice you can give to someone looking to attend a festival in 2024?

I’d say spread your wings. Huge fests are great because of the giant lineups, big headliners, endless vending, etc. but there is a feeling of being at the smaller shows that you can’t get at the huge ones. A sense of community, a sense of intimacy, and a sense of what it was like when the scene was just starting up. I think a lot of people just think, the bigger the better. Someone once said “Smaller can be better and less can be more. It all depends what you’re looking for.” There’s no reason you can’t do both.

Oh, and always be safe!


The JamBase Festival Guide is consistently growing with the addition of new music fests happening globally.



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