Growing up, Pegstar Concerts founder Jagi Katial never saw music as a career. Katial’s parents, both immigrants from India, wanted their son to enter higher education with gusto.
His parents “came over at a time where if you were moving to America you had to have a bunch of college degrees and stuff for them to give you entry into the country,” Katial told Amplify. “They come from the mentality that their kids are going to college no matter what. So there was never a moment where I could just pick up a guitar and say ‘I’m going to try being in a band for a year, Dad.'”
Katial obliged his parents and went to college in Texas, first University of Texas, Austin then completed his degree at University of Houston. During those years he picked up a hobby of booking shows for friends.
“I immediately gravitated towards people in my class that would pass out flyers. Those were the classmates I befriended. As a hobby, I started helping them. We’d study computer science together and then I’d help them book their shows or promote them,” Katial said.
However, it wasn’t until the tragic incidents of September 11 occurred that Katial realized he could be doing more in the music industry.
“The attack happened and everybody in the music community said we should do a benefit show, but nobody could organize it. I took the lead and put together a benefit show,” Katial told Amplify. “That was the first formal thing that I did. That was the first show I did under the name Pegstar. People encouraged me to do it, so I started trying to make a business out of it.”
Katial worked under the banner of Pegstar for several years after that while also working as an IT Manager for an oil company. After burning the candle at both ends for so long, in 2006 Katial decided to get rid of his apartment, quit his job at the oil company, and couch surf while he tried to figure out how to be successful in the music industry.
Since then, Pegstar has put on outdoor festivals in Houston and made a name for themselves in a competitive market. In 2016, the company opened White Oak Music Hall, a three-in one venue with two smaller clubs and an outdoor lawn.
“I wanted to be able to give bands a home when they are only selling 50 tickets up to when they are selling 40,000 tickets. So I need a room that can do small shows, medium shows, even bigger shows, and then we can do festivals,” Katial said.
Amplify caught up with the Houston promoter to find out about five shows that have shaped his music career.
Radiohead at Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, Houston
March 28, 1998
So I have never been a massive Radiohead fan and only fully respected them after getting into The Bends, which I only got into after OK Computer. I’d missed seeing them open for REM twice one summer prior, because their gear got stolen in Texas. In 1998 they were fully in OK Computer world and, at the time, a 3,500 cap show felt and was massive. All of friends including my girlfriend (ex at this moment – we got back together and broke up a few more times) wanted to go to the show. I joined. I was blown away. Spiritualized opened and they were great. Then Radiohead’s set just was blaring. I had never seen such blinding strobes and what felt like perfect sound. It was just perfect.
Smashing Pumpkins at Southpark Meadows in Austin
April 1, 1994
This is one of the most formidable bands of my life. I was introduced to them on the way to number three on this list (Lollapolooza). I lied to my parents and told them I was going to Austin to visit the university counselors over the weekend. It was such a big show and my buddy and I were afraid of getting lost. (Pre-cell phone day problems.) I had just started to dive into what we we calling “alternative” music. This felt like an important moment as I walked into the show. I remember standing in the field when they played “Silverfuck” and being so overtaken that I can make the cliche statement, “something changed in me.” I knew at that moment that I would forge a way to live in and of music. My dad saw in the paper that the Pumpkins were playing Austin and buzzed me. My parents were blowing up my pager (yeah, that’s what we had then), so I had to find a pay phone to get yelled at on. It was worth it.
Lollapalooza at Houston Raceway Park
July 31, 1993
We were in summer school to get ahead. We were privileged kids thinking about college which was the fan base of the alternative scene in the real sense. My friends picked me up. It was my first concert (besides the rodeo once with my family when I was much younger.) We rushed to gather all our friends to get the front of the pit for Rage Against the Machine. Some of the girls were smart and stayed behind on our spot on the lawn. I had no idea what was about to happen. Tom Morello had just picked up his guitar, hadn’t played one note, and boom mosh pit. I was in the ground, trampled. I thought I was gonna die. The rest of the day we spent on a blanket in the lawn awkwardly talking to other teenagers, and listening to Tool, Ice-T, etc. from a distance. I was ruined. This experience served as a major inspiration for starting my own festival.
Free Press Summer Fest at Eleanor Tinsley Park in Houston
Aug. 8-9, 2009
My partner for this festival was doing more of a street party under a different name. The neighborhood, as it gentrified, push it out. I realized that was his last one and I knew that he knew how to work with the city and do a concert outside.
I realized there was a glass ceiling booking clubs at a small level and trying to put shows in other people’s venues. I decided I wanted to do a show outside. Within the matter of a few weeks, we convinced the city to let us put a big festival with five stages in a park. With that, it felt like I had a purpose in the music scene in Houston. At that moment it became, this is where we can fit in and that became our focus for a couple of years.
Pulp at Radio City Music Hall in New York
April 10, 2012
This was the perfect combination of band and venue. I had never been to Radio City Music Hall before. What an amazing place. Pulp was on that list of bands I would have attempted to go anywhere in the world to see just to have been there once. By the time they reunited I was a little less into the idea, but thought ‘Hey, New York is easy.’ I felt really silly for considering it when it should have been a no brainer. Having never seen them before, being at Radio City Music Hall made it even better. That night was inspirational in building my own venue.