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
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
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
The festival was, in short, a failure.
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?