INTERVIEW: Booking agent Jason Parent talks past, present and future of Cleveland’s Spring Fling festival

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Jason Parent has come a long way since his humble beginnings booking shows around Northeast Ohio. Affectionately referred to as “Peanut” by his friends, Parent has had a hand in booking bands for a number of years, eventually becoming a full-fledged member of APA, one of the biggest booking agencies in America. Parent is the man responsible for bringing many of your favorite bands to a venue near you, including Modern Baseball, Real Friends, Citizen, Knuckle Puck and Have Mercy. But even though he now resides in New York City, Parent is still an Ohioan at heart, which is why he created the Spring Fling festival in 2013 in Cleveland and continues to grow it each year with the help of BravoArtist. This year’s Spring Fling is the biggest yet, taking place at the Agora Theatre & Ballroom in Cleveland on May 15 featuring nearly two dozen of the brightest lights in contemporary punk, emo and hardcore, including the Story So Far, Turnstile, Pianos Become The Teeth, Defeater and Gates, as well as highly anticipated reunion sets from the Movielife and Crime In Stereo. Substream editor in chief Scott Heisel caught up with Parent as he was finishing preparations for this year’s Spring Fling—including booking a super-secret special guest.

Let’s start at the beginning: What made you want to create Spring Fling?
I was promoting shows in Cleveland throughout my college years for a wide array of bands, and my friends would always ask me to book shows for them in Cleveland on the way to Bled Fest in Michigan. Little-known fact: Technically, the first Spring Fling was in Ashtabula, Ohio, at West End Art Space the day after Bled Fest 2012. The first real legit Spring Fling was at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in 2013 with Tigers Jaw and Pianos Become The Teeth headlining, and then last year we did it at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern with Man Overboard and Citizen headlining. This year we decided to make it our own weekend with our own lineup that was separate from Bled Fest. I am excited to see how it goes.

Had you ever attempted putting a festival before Spring Fling?
I have never done a true festival, no. I did a show at Kent State University with a ton of bands one year, maybe 2011? I think it was Man Overboard, Tigers Jaw, Hostage Calm, Aficionado, End Of A Year, Light Years and Citizen. That show did really well, and it got me thinking that we could build something cool in Cleveland.

What’s your best memory about the first Spring Fling? How about the worst?
The best memory was the first year we did it at Mahalls’s. Everyone told me it was too many bands and the show would not work. At the end of the night everyone came up to me and told me how awesome the show was—that felt really great. The worst is just the stress leading up to the show, you have so much to do. I feel like we have a great time around us.

This is the third Spring Fling, and every year it’s grown significantly. What challenges have you faced with this rapid growth? Do you think you’ll continue to expand next year?
Just trying to stay creative. A big thing for me when putting together this year’s lineup was to stay true to this scene of music while having something for everybody. We have stuff for the younger-age demo and stuff for the older-age demo, but at the end of the day it is under the same umbrella. I think it is important to expose the older fans to younger music and vice versa. I always want to keep the show fresh and exciting.

Take me through the process of booking this year’s Spring Fling. When did you start working on it? Was there anyone you really wanted to get that you just couldn’t make happen?
We started talking about ideas for it in the fall, but we really started going at it in the winter, after the new year. I wanted to swing for the fences this year, but I am going to leave that to next year—I don’t want to give away any ideas I had. I will say I really wanted American Nightmare to play this year, but we sadly couldn’t get it to work out.

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You know as well as I do that there are countless festivals of all sizes these days, with more sprouting up every year. In your opinion, what makes Spring Fling better than others?
I think there is enough for everyone to go around. Spring Fling is cool because it is a festival, but at the end of the day it is still a club show. I am not saying it will always be a club show, but this is where we started and it will always be important to us to provide an intimate atmosphere where you feel close to the artist.

I imagine you’re going to be pretty busy on May 15, but if you can pull yourself away from behind-the-scenes work, what bands are you most looking forward to seeing?
The Movielife and Crime In Stereo, definitely.

Any chance I can get a hint as to who “Special Guest TBA” is?
Sure: Everybody is going to Spring Fling. S

Spring Fling takes place May 15, 2015, at the Agora Theatre & Ballroom in Cleveland. Tickets start at $35 and are available here.