Festival Observations


In today’s everybody is a star world you show up to parade and have your own experience, shoot photographs and laugh with your friends. The longest line I saw all day was to take your picture in front of the “Life Is Beautiful” sign.


Every band has fans, but not many of them. Forget the developing acts, even those with established names like the Cold War Kids draw very thin crowds, which may be passionate and singing along, but the rest of the attendees ignore them. This is significant. We live in a winner-take-all society. And we only want the best. Sure, there are left field acts with little traction who have fans, but most acts just aren’t good enough. That’s the story of America, we were taught anyone could make it and found out it was nearly impossible to make it. We live in a country of over 300 million people, walk the festival grounds and be amazed, the thought of gaining everybody’s attention is mind-boggling, it’s astounding anyone achieves it. You used to be able to go viral, now you cannot do it alone. You need to float on the coattails of those who already have a fan base or the people who run the game to begin with. Sure, there are exceptions, but expect fewer and fewer. And these exceptions will be speaking the truth with little agenda, like David Hogg. The right wing did its best to marginalize him, but since he wasn’t selling merch, not trying to get rich, only spreading a message, they couldn’t. So ask yourself, what’s more important, message or money, and therein you will have the answer as to the path of your life. If it’s about message, you might make money in the end, but there’s a good chance you never will. Forget all that hogwash about do what you love and the money will follow. Money’s hard to get. You need enough money to live. People don’t want to sacrifice. Artists do nothing but sacrifice.


I entered the comedy venue for a good seat for Michelle Wolf. There was a singalong going on. To the Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody.” There were endless rehearsals and then a broadcast on Facebook Live, not that anybody saw it. You can make it and it can go totally ignored, there are so many messages. But it was so much fun to participate, to sing along. And then I realized… This song was twenty years old, and it was the bedrock of those in attendance. This is what the baby boomers used to do, grab a guitar and sing folk songs, Beatle songs, the hits…nobody does that anymore.


As in there was no way this act was fully live. The man had fans. They knew the tunes. But as a veteran of shows the whole thing seemed canned, with tracks on hard drive, I’m not sure if Abel was singing to track or there were too many effects on his vocals…then again, every now and again he spoke and it was crystal clear, making me wonder what the rest was. If this is today’s live music, I want no part of it.


Like the comics playing Vegas in the old days, saying all that cannot be said on TV, not even YouTube I don’t think. But the best part of her show was when she remarked how she constantly heard how ugly she was and then said this means she must be A REALLY GOOD COMEDIAN!
We love it when people have a sense of self.


I’m still trying to figure this out. No one has an answer. My thought is that women know how to socialize better, hang with their friends and have a good time. Men go to hear the music and meet women. But they’re clueless at meeting women. So for an event like this, there’s not that much of a draw. They’re at the Rush show, or the metal concert. If only men learned how to talk to women.


Was the dance tent, from opening to closing. It’s part of the participatory culture.


In the artist compound, which seemed to be populated by everyone but artists, people lined up for free chicken sandwiches. We were taught not to waste food, then we learn they’re not starving in Europe anymore, not really starving much of anywhere anymore according to “Factfulness,” but I still find it impossible to throw out food.


The lack of lines at Life Is Beautiful is astounding. They’ve got enough port-a-potties, enough bars. This is not your daddy’s rock festival, not even a music festival of a decade ago. Everybody hates lines, eliminate them and people will be your friend.


Are truly a selling point. Lying on the grass under the dome of lights as the classical music plays is soothing.


It’s too much, most people come when it’s dark.


So what we’ve learned is there is a demand for festivals. As long as they’re well-planned and well-executed. You can’t abuse your customers, no way. But if your draw is music, you’re in trouble. There’s just not enough consensus for three days. As for discovering acts at festivals, forget about it. Not enough people see you. Actually, the biggest festival buzz this year is for David Byrne, an antique. Everybody, pros and amateurs, agree it’s a must-see. The man hasn’t had a hit in decades, but he’s delivering a choreographed show. Proving you can always reinvent the wheel if you’re a genius. But very few people are, despite them and their press agents and the press itself telling us so. Am I gonna stand in this parking lot on the hot tar listening to a band whose music is not grabbing me or go in search of artisan food or just walk the streets looking at the endless parade of people. The latter.

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