Playground Festival was doomed before it started. Thirty days before its debut, promoters constantly bragged about the festival becoming "OC's Coachella." They promised a "never-before-seen lineup," but only fooled themselves with an unusual mix of rock, hip-hop and electronic talent. 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."
But that didn't stop producers from continuing "Orange County's biggest music festival," and the concert went on as planned . . . sort of. Here are 10 reasons why the Playground Festival became a "Playground Disaster" and is quickly becoming known as "Failstival" on the Internet.
10. Hidden Valley Park?
Well, it's not exactly the Indio Polo Fields. But is it too much to say that a Coachella could ever occur in a park between the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre and Wild Rivers? If you think about it, Verizon Amphitheatre can barely hold 16,000 people. Wild Rivers, on the other hand, can barely handle the children who go there every weekend. From a festivalgoer's perspective, it's pretty hard to expect a lot of functionality from a festival that is limited to the boundaries of the Hidden Valley Park in Irvine. But the vision is certainly promising. If Playground Festival had actually gone as planned, maybe it would have been nice to take a boat ride on the lake, lay on the grass, or even go on the Ferris wheel when you aren't listening to good music. . . .
But what resulted was an embarrassing and, well, boring day at the park, with 10 stages awkwardly placed on a warm Labor Day Weekend. With no actual map present, no one really knew where to go. The main stage wasn't too hard to find, placed right next to a baseball field used for Youth League on the weekends. And as for boat rides on the lake or enjoying the Ferris wheel, there was no access allowed for the entire festival, limiting everyone to sitting on the grass or benches far away from any talent worth listening to.
9. The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Nick Cannon?
Nick Cannon hosted this weekend's festival, and I can't understand why. Other than constantly wondering, "Where the pretty ladies at?" and always reminding us that this was indeed the Playground Festival, Cannon served no greater purpose at this festival than just being a mediocre name to place on the bill for a terrible festival. I guess, if you really like Cannon, then you got what you've always wished for: His shirt came off when New Boyz came onstage, and he joined in on the singing that no one was really listening to. He also brought his trusty DJ from Wild 'n Out, DJ D-Wrek, to help with hosting. But don't worry; if you didn't attend Playground Festival, you didn't miss any special guest appearances or witty improv game shows. You just missed . . . Nick Cannon.
8. Never-Before-Seen Lineup
In a way, promoters stayed true to their word. This really was a "never-before-seen lineup." And now that I think about it, I don't think I will ever see a lineup like this again. Panic! At the Disco and Game were the headliners, if you can even call them that. Being the biggest font on the poster, my guess was that I was supposed to look forward to these bands. But its kind of hard to, especially when headliner for Day 1, Game, decided to not even show up and disappoint a crowd of about 100 or less.
The rest of the lineup was just as an unusual, offering a very awkward blend of rock, metal, hip-hop and electronic names that haven't really been making headlines since 2008. Maybe the bill would have been effective if some of the artists had bothered to show up. Aside from Game, other back-outs included E-40, Lil Jon, Steel Panther and Too Short. If any artists were worth seeing, it would probably have been Big Sean, the Bravery and Kid Sister, who seemed to take their performances seriously.
As Sam Endicott of the Bravery said, "This isn't the most organized festival we've ever been to, but whatever."
7. The VIP Treatment . . . Oh, Wait, There Was None.
When VIP festivalgoers arrived to Playground Festival, it quickly became apparent that there was no VIP treatment. There was no VIP section at all. Everyone was treated equally, and that's a problem if you paid $215 for special VIP passes. (General admission was priced at $100 for both days.) Ticketing for Playground Festival was a nightmare and, unfortunately, overpriced.
After Day 1, the Official Playground Festival Facebook Page exploded with comments from angry VIP attendees, accusing the festival of being a fraud and demanding refunds. The Facebook page, which has now been taken down, deleted the negative comments and did not clarify what VIP could do or why they were not treated better. Sorry, VIP.
6. Ticketing Nightmare
Being a photographer for the Weekly, I don't have much to worry when it comes to tickets. Usually, I just had to show up, ask for my press pass, and be on my way. What was really embarrassing was when the ticketing told me they had ran out of media and special-guest passes. Standing outside with a group of outraged press and special guests, we were not allowed into the festival until someone could sort out what to do with us. One of those people happened to be the festival's special guest Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. But when security radioed that Pete Wentz was here, another official reported back, "Pete who?"
Pictured here is the mainstage pass for Playground Festival. There's not much to show because, really, these wristbands were just purchased at an Office Depot on Alton Parkway. It didn't take long for people to realize that an orange wristband could grant access to any part of the festival, though the only part really worth it was behind the Main Stage. Soon, many festival attendees were wearing orange wristbands, getting into places they weren't supposed to be and avoiding the ridiculous $60 to $215 tickets.
5. Beer Cage
One concern with most music festivals is how to handle attendees who want to drink alcohol. Of course, its hard to discipline unless you have a carefully thought-out system in place. Coachella's solution: the Beer Gardens. Playground Festival's solution: the Beer Cage.
Attendees could have as much $7 beer as they wanted, as long as they stayed within the gated zone where drinking was permitted. Beer was not allowed anywhere else in the festival, and the security staff stood by the gate to make sure this was enforced. Sitting alone in a semi-shaded spot that is usually a basketball court, beer drinkers looked like they were imprisoned. Meanwhile, behind the Main Stage, people could drink as much $7 beer as they wanted wherever they wanted.
4. Coachella-like Crowd? Not Even Close.
I think its fair to say that only 100 or so people actually showed up to Playground Festival. When taking photos for the OC Weekly slideshow, I had to apologize numerous times to people because I had already taken their photos earlier that day. Very few people showed up for Day 1, and even fewer attendees returned for Day 2. What I expected was a large crowd of people, just like the picture on the festival's website. But that wasn't what it really looked like.
Should I even compare this to a Coachella crowd? I think I'll save them the pity.
3. Security and Staff
The staff was not only unhelpful, but also unnecessarily aggressive. Between sets on the Main Stage, photographers (including me) were shoved toward the speakers. Anyone not standing along the wall was kicked out. But it didn't make sense to me when one security staff member allowed obnoxious teenage girls into the pit just so they could be in front for Cataracs. I guess their charm really won over the rules. For everyone else, though, they were not so charming. One person was kicked out for running in circles. Another was taken away for throwing a water bottle, even though a water fight ensued shortly after when free water bottles were passed out for the crowd. Did I mention water was $5?
2. 10 Stages!
It's kind of hard to call this a "stage."
However, nine of these "stages" were placed around the park. But no one could really find them. Once entering the festival, there was no map directing anyone to where any of the stages were placed. If you did find a stage, you could tell by the stapled piece of paper hanging next to it what stage it was.
Although the website did the favor of providing a small image of the festival's location, it did not stay true to its word, as there were things out of order. It's unfortunate for the other bands who actually showed up to perform because they performed to no one, really, unless someone was able to stumble upon their location. And even if you did find a stage, you would never know who was performing because festival organizers did not provide set times for any stage other than the Main Stage. Not sure if they cared about these bands, anyway, as many of them stood outside because the festival had forgotten booking them to perform.
1. Big, Fat Fraud
It shouldn't take long to realize that Playground Festival was a very big fraud. Although bands actually showed up to perform on Day 2, it's hard to say whether they were paid or not. As for the "festival experience," there were a lot of promises broken. There was no DJ competition; there was no laser tag; there was no Tiki Village; there were no boat rides; there were no VIP stages or "Skullcandy Experience."
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The festival was, in short, a failure.
When Playground Festival ended, its Facebook page statuses were bombarded with angry attendees demanding refunds and ultimately calling it "FAILstival." Not handling the hate, Playground Festival's Official Facebook Page was taken down and has not been seen since.
It was an unfortunate experience for many who attended and wasted their Labor Day weekends at Hidden Valley Park. For those who were unlucky enough to attend, at least you got your photo taken, right?