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Interview With Drew Wajnert Before He Leaves For Colorado

originally published: 10/13/2016

Interview With Drew Wajnert Before He Leaves For Colorado

There are just two shows left in the area - and potentially - the career of long-time jam band promoter, Drew Wajnert.  Known throughout the area for his Phan Phest shows and music festivals, he is moving to Colorado to become part of the cannabis industry.  His final shows are at The Saint in Asbury Park on Thursday, October 20 (Formula 5, Waiting on Mongo, Ufotofu) and Friday, October 21 (Jimkata, Newton Crosby).

We decided to take this opportunity to have one more interview with Drew about his favorite shows, his importance to the jamband scene, and his plans for the future.

How long did you promote shows in Jersey? 

I've promoted music events and shows in and around Asbury Park, NJ, for just over 14 years.  We started out as a backyard party in Wanamassa, NJ, in October of 2002 that we grew into a full fledged music festival that topped out at 1,400 people in 2009 out in Pennsylvania. As Phanphest, we produced well over 200 shows from 2002 until present.


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What were a few of your favorites along the way? 

Some of my favorite events that we have done have been New Year's Eve with Juggling Suns at the Stone Pony, shows at our weekly music series at The Saint (from 2007 to 2012), holiday weekend shows at Paul's Tavern in Lake Como, NJ, Phan Phest 5 (music festival in 2009), and our festival events Phan Fare: Ushering in the Season out at Snipe's Farm in Morrisville, PA.  Some of my favorite acts to have worked with over the years have been Juggling Suns, Jimkata, U-Melt, Zach Deputy, Ryan Montbleau Band, Kung Fu, Twiddle, Karmic Juggernaut, Waiting on Mongo, Days Awake, Matt O'Ree Band, and UFOTOFU. I pretty much hand picked each act on every show that we produced, so there was a personal touch and taste involved in almost every show.


Do you think you ever really got credit for being instrumental in developing the jamband scene to the area? 

I've heard appreciation from the attendees and the bands at the shows.  The fans would have to drive pretty far to see shows in the past (I know, because I was one of them doing it), and after many conversations with friends, we saw the need for the jam band scene to be developed in Asbury Park, NJ.  Of course, some bigger shows were going direct to the Stone Pony back then, but there wasn't much on the developmental front happening.  We had started doing the occasional event, but a weekly show didn't seem feasible with the lack of jam bands to be support acts.   Then, my friend, Chris Vidal, had run a series at The Saint called Jam Tree that was a $5 show...he paired two bands up and then they would mix members and do a jam at the end of the night.  Once I saw that happening, and with the announcement from Chris saying he was moving to San Francisco, his suggestion to work with Scott Stamper of The Saint was a natural progression for Phanphest to pick up where Jam Tree was leaving off.  I approached Scott, and he was open to the idea.  I think he really loves many of the bands I have debuted in NJ there.

I had a handful of articles mention our shows, but it's really been pretty rare to be recognized.  I do believe I've been instrumental in the growth of the jamband scene by providing a platform for them to do debut, as well as return, performances in Asbury Park, Monmouth County, or even the state of NJ.


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What are your plans now? Is a move to Denver definite? 

My move to Colorado is imminent.  I leave in early November and will take my time seeing some friends and family on my trip out.  A friend actually took 4 tubs of belongings and two guitars out for me already, and I will take what I can fit into my car.  I am keeping some Phanphest paraphernalia, most of my clothes, music, computer, and tv, but have pretty much purged everything else at this point.  My plan is to find work in the cannabis industry, especially because I lost my biological mother to breast and bone cancer when I was six.  With all of the independent studies showing that cannabis is helping those with cancer and all sorts of other ailments, I can't wait to get out there and learn absolutely all that I can about the plant, the growing process, and how I can be of service to the industry and my fellow people.


I know how hard it is to book shows and I knew about your extra jobs, but can you list a few of the things you’ve done over the past decade to help pay the bills? 

You're right. Promoting shows isn't easy. There is a lot of work that goes into it. Putting together a festival (and having it run as seamlessly as we did) takes a well oiled machine when it comes to organization, and one must have great people in all the positions a festival requires.  I have done all sorts of jobs to keep the dream alive.  I worked as a bank teller and customer service representative when we started out, but have driven a cab (several times), delivered food, washed dishes, and worked for a frozen vegan food company shipping out orders.  I guess I like doing jobs that are in service of others.


Finally, what was the main reason you got into music in the first place?  And do you think you’ll ever give it another try? 

Music has always been a huge part of my life.  I remember riding my Big Wheel to a garage sale down the street from my house in San Francisco (where I grew up) with my best friend when I was six, and I bought Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band for a quarter because I liked to cover.  I then started collecting Beatles records.  My first concert was the Beach Boys at a casino in Reno, NV, when I was 10 years old. But, I have a wide range of musical tastes thanks to singing in a cathedral choir growing up, my parents wide musical tastes (from classical to classic rock), and taking piano lessons.  I went to the American Boychoir School in 6th grade, and had the distinct pleasure of singing at Carnegie Hall under the direction of Leonard Bernstein with that choir and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.  I played cello in high school orchestra and sang in a madrigal ensemble in high school that took me to England for an 11-day performance tour.  I guess I delved into music when my mother had died, and have always clung to it as a source of inspiration and community.  I plan of delving into the marijuana business with as much passion and drive when I get out to Colorado.  I can leave New Jersey knowing that the jamband scene in Asbury Park will be alive and well for years to come thanks to the good people like Scott Stamper, Kyle Brendle, and the other promoters in the area who have embraced that style of music.

Long-time jam band promoter Drew Wajnert died on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. You can read his obituary here. He will be remembered in the Asbury Park music scene for his Phanphest shows.  We also have a feature article about Drew and Phanphest from 2007 that might be of interest.  R.I.P. Drew.

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