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Learning from Locals: John Liipfert of C3 Presents

We’re keepin’ it moving here with our Learning from Locals series and since Washington, D.C., is the newest city on Localeur we wanted to check in with someone who knows a thing or two about the city. Turns out my friend John Liipfert, a producer for Austin-based C3 Presents, is the perfect guy since he leads the music-and-event production company’s Washington office.

I first met John in early 2009 here in Austin not long after I returned from my own stint living in D.C. We’ve remained in touch, often catching up around music festivals, and most recently during my summer visit to D.C. where I caught up with John in the Adams Morgan area of D.C. where he’s taken over a house that used to be the studio for the band Thievery Corporation, D.C. natives themselves. Needless to say, with his gig at C3 and fistbumps with the President, he’s found a nice niche between music and politics, and – as a result – Austin and D.C. Let’s learn some more… – Joah


Localeur: Describe your journey – if you could briefly, how did you get to where you are today? What are some basic tenets you live by?

John: My mom was a docent at the National Gallery of Art when I was a kid. I loved the art, and at a very young age, I could recite the names of most of paintings, the artists and movements that were associated with them. I think I have been cataloguing images, sounds and experiences ever since. I shamelessly follow my passions for politics, music, art, and experiences. Obsessively even. That’s led me a lot of unexpected places. I went to art school, worked at the White House, and now I work for one of the biggest music festival and event producers in the world. By pouring my energy into my passions, I have built an extraordinary career.

Localeur: You had the privilege of producing the Obama inaugurations. What are the main differences in producing festival, or perhaps a large-scale concert for a massive band, versus the inauguration?

John: The biggest difference is the personalities involved. All of the component parts are the same, but the priorities and angle of approach are very different. There’s a lot more suits in politics, than rock and roll.

Localeur: Certain types of music can paint your experiences in during travel. How does travel paint your personal views on music, or alter taste? Or vice versa?

John: I travel a lot. The music, food, art, and culture of different places season you a little bit every time you try them. I most enjoy those cities with their own distinctive character – the kind you notice right when you get off the plane. A visit to Austin can have me listening to Willie Nelson and craving tacos for weeks.

Localeur: What cities have taken you by surprise in your travels, where maybe you came with preconceptions?

John: Los Angeles. I even lived there for a little while, and I thought I knew what it was all about. But every time I go there, I discover something new, interesting, and unexpected. I love LA, and I never thought I’d say that. It’s really become a hub for a lot of the creative entrepreneurial spirit that is driving so many interesting industries like culinary [arts], music, and fashion.

Localeur: Where is the best place(s) your career has taken you?

John: Berlin is probably my favorite city I have traveled to, and I have gotten to go there for work a couple of times now.  Grant Park in Chicago will always be memorable for Obama’s Election Night Event and Lollapalooza. But getting to return to my hometown of DC, as a producer for the 56th and 57th Presidential Inaugurals, was as good as it gets for me.

Localeur: Where are some places you have yet to travel to, but have dreamed about?

John: I have always wanted to go to Australia. I have an uncle who lives in Western Australia, and I have always wanted to go visit. But I figure it takes a month or so to do Australia right, and an opportunity to take that much time off hasn’t presented itself.


John on a boat with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio because work.

Localeur: What is your fall back spot, the one place you know you are going to have a memorable time or a great meal?

John: My neighborhood spot in DC is Mama Ayesha’s. Spectacular Lebanese food in Adams Morgan – it’s been there since the 70’s, but a lot of newcomers don’t know about it.

Localeur: Where do you go to clear your mind, or reset, in DC – or anywhere?

John: Whenever possible, I go snowboarding. It’s my favorite way to clear my head. No place makes me happy like the mountains, [especially] in Colorado. When I can’t get away, it’s in-town excursions with my two dogs. They love Rock Creek Park.

Localeur: What should people know about DC that perhaps is overlooked?

John: The National Park Service has some of the best bars in town. You can buy limited selections of beer and wine at GSI Concessions stands around the major memorials. As a resident of DC since 77’, I’ve only discovered this fact in 08’. I visit the memorials a lot more frequently now. Also, I’m amazed by how many people I meet who have never heard of mumbo sauce or go-go music.

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