The Sad Saga of the Playground Festival

[Mental Notes] Plenty of finger-pointing about the epic fail of "OC's Coachella."

It was doomed before it started. Thirty days before Playground Festival's debut, promoters bragged about the festival becoming "OC's Coachella." But two days before the concert began, the State Department of Corporations sanctioned the co-producer of the festival Elevated Sound Productions for fishy behavior with investors and partnerships, ordering it to "desist and refrain from the further offer of sales in the state of California of securities." Producers decided the concert would go on . . . but it was a clusterfuck for everyone involved.

Various acts—including headliner Game, E-40, Lil Jon, Steel Panther and Too Short—were no-shows, allegedly because they weren't paid. People who spent $215 on VIP passes did not get any special treatment or perks. There was no DJ competition, laser tag, Tiki Village, boat rides, VIP stages or "Skullcandy Experience." The whole thing was reportedly a pay-to-play scam, and attendees were furious.

A week after the event, festival organizers released a statement naming a few reasons Playground failed. They blamed The Orange County Register for running a story accusing the funding company/producer of failing to have properly registered its activities with the state. "The Register article alone caused stop-payments on more than 10,000 tickets that were out to numerous promotion companies," organizers claimed.

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They also blamed the city of Irvine for "telling us right before we were to open our gates that the first day of the festival, originally scheduled to end at 11 p.m., now had to shut down at 8 p.m." And then there was a near-death in the family of one of the promoters: "One of the head promoters and operations manager's sister nearly died in a car accident just days before," read a statement.

According to the statement, "We are still firmly committed to the idea of bringing a fun, all-ages music experience to Orange County. . . . We will be making all of the changes and corrections needed to ensure that Playground Festival 2012 is a roaring success for everyone involved."

We're surprised they're still hoping to put on a festival next year; shouldn't they do right by artists and attendees of this year's fest first? At any rate, here's hoping the bar was set a little lower for next time—because, really, two Coachellas in 2012 is going to be enough. From Heard Mentality blog posts on Sept. 6 by Kevin Lara, Sept. 7 by Brandon Ferguson and Sept. 9 by Lilledeshan Bose.

This column appeared in print as "The Playground Festival Saga."

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