balboa music festival poster*The Balboa Music Festival (in LA’s San Fernando Valley at Balboa Park) went down Saturday as advertised.Well, almost.

Gladys Knight didn’t perform. She was supposed to close out. Instead we got Keyshia Cole. 🙁  Needless to say, Keyshia Cole is no Gladys Knight.

So yes, there were some problems, thankfully none of them involved anybody acting a fool, a/k/a fighting.  In spite of the scorching heat, it was a peaceful and fun event, over all.

But! … as we said there were some problems. The most glaring was the unprofessionalism and unpreparedness of the event’s promoters. That brings us to a review/report from an EUR reader/visitor whose screen name is WrenchWitch. Honestly, we have no idea who WrenchWitch is, but in her description of her day at the festival, she paints a very clear picture of what went down from the time she arrived to the time she left.

In the end, like us, she gives props to the festival organizers for putting together a great line up, but they lose points because of their lack of organization. Oh yeah, did we mention that Gladys Knight did NOT perform? Speaking of which, it seems there’s a direct correlation between Gladys not taking the stage and the lack of professionalism by the festival promoters.

WrenchWitch will break it all down for ya.

We got dropped off about a block away from Victory at around 10am; all pedestrians had to cross over the singular entry driveway to the parking area (holding up cars entering). We joined a line of hundreds of people standing in line, not moving. From the comments on the Balboa Music Festival Facebook page we were lucky as people were stuck in traffic trying to get into the lot for up to 2 hours; some were turned away even though they had prepaid parking reservations and VIP tickets. Some people gave up and went home.

I went looking for the Will Call window to get my ticket, people who had not printed out their receipt with the number could not get their tickets or were frantically pulling up the email on their phones for the number causing delays. My friend said she saw the box office just setting up the cash registers for same day ticket sales at around 10:45am.

As the line, in full sun about 90 deg. F. slowly crawled towards the gate we saw one and then a second woman faint from the heat. EMT/LAFD took at least one away so she never got to “enjoy” the concert. We noticed the golf carts bringing people in but didn’t know why. Also, people going into the VIP entrance (next to the general admission/GA entrance) with coolers and shade covers when neither of those was allowed in those seats so, not sure if they were GA bullying their way into the VIP entrance or having been told no, instead of going to the back of the line, they just cut in front? Attendees were crowding under the little shade from trees and being yelled at by Security for being on the access road; we saw a vendor and someone who said he was performing being told to turn around, no parking here so evidently there was no instructions or signage for them either. Then that employee decided to go into the line to chat with someone he knew rather than direct traffic so more cars tried to drive right up to the gate without direction.

Finally, as we got close to the gate, we saw a man in a uniform (black shirt/khaki pants) direct the gate to just get people in. I guess they had been checking bags & coolers (there was a confiscated broken bottle of wine on the ground) which was taking way too long being thousands of people coming in at the same time and only a handful of security checking bags; we got in at 12:30 pm after just having our tickets checked and yellow wristbands handed to us. Who knows how many weapons came in after that?

The scene inside was a sea of parasols and shade tents set up in back of the paid seating within view of the stage. Venue guidelines on the Balboa Music Fest website stated parasols, etc. were to be set up on the periphery so as not to obstruct the view. We noticed the vendors’ shelters were set up in such a way to block the view if you positioned yourself on the periphery; also there were many vehicles still parked inside near the vendors. At other events we’ve been to the vendors are required to remove all vehicles so paid attendees have a place to sit and be able to see the concert. Not to mention the hazard of moving vehicles with people moving around or sitting on the grass in the venue and we did see some trucks being moved throughout the day.

The Balboa Music Festival website had announced charity groups were going to be selling water for fundraising and the attendees were not allowed to bring water in at all but this was gone when I checked their website the day before the event. So we brought water but drank half of it standing in line and our ice was mostly melted by the time we got in. We saw no non-profits selling water or anything inside. My friend went to buy cold water and came back with a couple of bottled soft drinks – the food vendor told her they were told they could not sell beverages but her husband had gone out to bring water in to sell as people were asking for it (having read on the website earlier water was not allowed)! At some point in the afternoon it was announced from the stage that the rules were being “relaxed” and water would be available at the First Aid station.

LA City Councilmen Dennis Zine and Jan Perry spoke to the audience yet Tony Cardenas flowery summary of the festival is quoted in the LA Daily News this morning? And no mention in the article of other disturbing aspects of this event, it appears the journalists left early.
We were comfortable in the way back by the fence as we were in the shade of trees, could barely see the stage but we had the monitor in view; unfortunately the monitor only worked intermittently, we didn’t see New Edition as it was off during their performance. The sound quality and volume could have been better. I was a little disappointed that we paid $120 for tickets, got there when the gate supposedly opened and yet we were so far out we didn’t really feel like we were in the concert; may as well have had our noses to the fence from the outside….We heard a negative comment from the MC after he asked people to clear the area near the stage; he replied to a woman that she was too old to use that language, etc. Then he tried to soften it by saying he knew her. Not amusing or gracious commentary.
Early in the afternoon the Port-a -Pottys were full, out of paper and no more water to wash your hands!

And most grievous is the fact that the headliner, Gladys Knight, did not perform. There was no apology or explanation for this by the promoters. The concert ended abruptly as Keyshia Cole had not even completed her set an announcer said come back next year. An insider confirmed that the Fire Marshall stopped the event due to the fact that the organizers did not have a light permit (nor lighting equipment) and it was getting dark (public safety issue). Their permit must have been for daytime use only. We noticed, as we walked along Lake Balboa towards the Balboa Blvd exit to the park (not the event which had only ONE entrance) there are no lights in the park as it closes at dusk. This means all the people who were breaking down their tents, shade covers, etc. would be left to find their way out in the dark and find their cars in an unlit temporary parking lot while others tried to drive out of the lot. From the comments on the Balboa Music Festival Facebook page, this delayed people another hour getting out of the lot. One reported a car drove into a ditch in the dark and a tow truck had to pull it out.

The music was as good as we expected, and Robin Thicke let us know he was not pleased with having his set cut short (thanks for the honesty) all of the acts were professional in contrast to the organizers/promoters. I would imagine Gladys Knight is not amused that her image was used to promote this event yet her fans did not get to see her perform. Many assume she didn’t show up which is not true but there was no explanation from the promoters. They had a great lineup although we did not get Gladys Knight nor the Mystery Band they asked us to vote on in the beginning that came down to 7 finalists (I never saw who got the gig but then they never went on anyway). We also really enjoyed some of the DJs in between acts.

The selection of food vendors was impressive, lobster rolls, BBQ, Creole & Southern food, shave ice & other goodies to sample (which we didn’t as we brought enough food for 2 days). Budweiser ran out of beer and wine at some point in the afternoon much to the consternation of a few (or many).

All in all, while we made the best of it we were disappointed with the disorganization. We didn’t get the worst of it as reported by those who bought premium tickets /parking and found the seats they paid for were not available, GA and volunteers refused to relinquish those unmarked seats, GA attendees crowded into the aisles and in front of the stage, prepaid parking was unavailable, parking varied from free to $25 in the same lot depending who spoke to you. Some who paid for VIP seats never got the backstage privileges, meals or bottle service they paid for, etc. Birthdays and anniversaries were ruined, etc.

I suggest if there will ever be another music event at this park:

1) The date should be closer to the summer solstice for the maximum daylight before it gets dark (i.e. July) and before the hottest days of summer. Or get a light permit guys and make sure lighting equipment is set up.

2) A separate VIP entrance, fenced off from the GA seating section with security to make sure no one but paid ticket-holders can re-enter (if they go out to the vendors). Seats with seat & section numbers to ensure ticketholders get the seats they paid for.

3) Multiple entrances for GA ticket-holders. There are several bridges on the Balboa Blvd side of the park, couldn’t they set these up as entry points?

4) Promote public transportation to the event and set up offsite parking along the Orange Bus Line which runs right next to the venue. Add additional shuttle buses if the City of LA will/cannot supply additional buses on the day of the event on the Orange Line.

5) The vendors should be located elsewhere in the venue to allow more people to set up seating within view of the stage. All vendor vehicles should be removed from the area before the public is allowed in (before 8:00 am).

6) Professional security to enforce your rules & for the safety of everyone. More directional signage.

7) Misting/cooling tents & available water when temperatures are extreme. The line to get in could have been rerouted along the eucalyptus trees next to the golf course in the shade.

8) Open the gates at 8:00am and start the concert on time.

9) Maintain your Port-a-Pottys and have water available – one week ago everyone knew there would be extreme heat – the organizers should have responded by providing for basic human needs to avoid medical emergencies and heat injuries. Water belongs to no one and should be denied to no one, especially in triple digit heat.

I will include the City of Los Angeles as culpable in this as well. Someone had to approve permits for this event and I’m wondering did anyone review a traffic/parking plan, make any suggestions or requirements? Honestly, it’s not the first concert or large event in this park.

Thank you WrenchWitch for your more than comprehensive review/report on what went down at Saturday’s Balboa Music Festival in the San Fernando Valley’s Balboa Park.

By the way, in WrenchWitch’s report/review, she alluded to a comment that a perturbed Robin Thicke made from the stage about his set being cut short. Specifically, he said: “I’m the wrong mutha f—er to do this too!” Yeah Robin.  The blue-eyed brother was definitely workin’ his ‘hood pass to the max. Oh yeah, one more thing, speaking of Mr. Thicke. Homeboy drove himself to and from the concert in his little sleek convertible roadster. No bodyguards, no entourage. No wifey. just him. We thought that was so cool.

Meanwhile, on the positive tip, we understand the attendance was said to be in the 10,000 range. That’s a very encouraging and respectful first time number for a first time for this event.

Also, we’ve contacted the promoters of the event for a comment about what went down and specifically why Gladys Knight didn’t perform. So far, they have yet to respond.