Musician shift gears with plans to make F1 a bit more friendly for locals
By Ari Auber
Last November’s Formula One afterparties had all the high-profile glitz, sophistication and star power expected from the international race’s much-hyped Austin debut. But Ginger Leigh, a longtime local musician who organized two of the swankiest F1 parties at downtown hotels, noticed there were some very important people absent from the weekend festivities: Austinites.
Leigh thinks all the publicity preceding the big race scared off even some of Austin’s most out-and-about residents — but she hopes to pull them back into the fun this year when F1 returns to the Circuit of the Americas track on Nov. 15-17. That’s because Blu at the W, the only returning event from Leigh and Formula VIP Events, will be even bigger and also more accessible for race fans who can’t fork out several hundred bucks or more on a ticket to an F1 party. Leigh and Ian Weightman, the head of Formula VIP Events whose avid love for the race created the educational Formula Expo in June 2012, have kicked the glamorous merrymaking up a notch.
Real: What’s it been like planning such a big, high-profile event?
Last year, it was so stressful and high-energy for about three months. The Monday after F1, I was completely dead. But now that the inaugural year is over, we’re getting ahead of it. Our talent is 90 percent locally based. Last year we also branded Gold at the Four Seasons, but now we’ve narrowed it down just to Blu at the W for Friday and Saturday nights. Our venue is also available for daytime events, and it can run all the way through the early morning to 4 a.m. Then we’ve got a bunch of other things happening I can’t really talk about yet. We did the Full Tilt Fashion Show, and we’re doing it again Saturday evening at 6 p.m. Linda Asaf, an Austin designer, she’s the producer of the show, and she’s in the process of shaping what the lines will be. It’s still being developed but she’s amazing and brings in amazing lines (which included Hugo Boss, Versace and Ermenegildo Zegna). Last year it had a sort of racing theme. One thing that’s cool about this year is that we are supporting Red Bull ATX — we’ll have some Red Bull DJs spinning, and we’re supporting their Sunday afterparty.
What’s different about Blu at the W this year?
People loved the VIP tables with bottle service and were begging to have them added when they sold out. Locals were scared off last year, I think, because of the media frenzy, so this year we’re offering a limited number of inexpensive tickets to draw out the locals. It’s $400 normally, but these will be $100. We had a wide demographic last year of partygoers from Austinites to international business moguls. Celebrities like Matt LeBlanc. Circuit of the Americas executives.
What sort of music should we expect at the party?
Last year we had a lot of house music; this year will be more mashups. Fun dance beats, familiar songs, they’ll go across genres but keep the dance beat going. It’ll be fun and make you get on your feet. We’ll most likely have Red Bull providing freestyle DJs; then we’ll have a bunch of locals. It’s all being figured out right now. We’re transforming the second floor of the W. Last year we changed the entire look and feel; we used a local company called Lighting Vektor. It’s not just club lighting; the owner brings in architectural lighting, these big chandeliers, and everything’s a blue color, of course. We’ll have a lot of contemporary lamps around the entire second floor. It’s just visually stunning.
I just think this year will be even smoother, bigger. More people will be there. You know, we have the Red Bull connection and the cheaper tickets and people will be more curious. A lot of international fans who came said it was the best inaugural race they’d ever seen, the way the city handled it. Our event in particular will be amazing. We’ll have the patio that connects ACL Live to the W so that’ll be an option for people, to watch Second and Lavaca or smoke or whatever they want to do.
What other events of this caliber have you produced before?
I’ve done events with lots of moving parts, but they’ve been primarily music-oriented. I’m a performer, I’m a musician, I’ve released nine albums. I’ve lived here for 20 years. I’ve always provided opportunities for other musicians. I’ll have us share our music with various audiences. My audience will sit with Wendy Colonna’s audience and learn about each other’s music… I love bringing people together. So in a sense I have done this, but nothing quite with this scene. It’s something Austin is not familiar with, these high-end nightclub kind of events, but I think it’ll be a good time all around.