I was super excited to go to BeerX Fest this past weekend as nothing’s better than some live music with some great craft beer! San Diego is known for being a craft beer brewing city and what better way to support the entrepreneurial spirit of the many truly independent small brewers here than have a festival that celebrates them with live music to accompany it. Sorry corporate big shot beers disguised as crafty brews, this one was not for you…well sort of.
I like to be a positive person, but BeerX was a huge disappointment for me. I thought I was alone in thinking this due to some things I personally experienced there, but when looking at some of the comments on 91X’s “SOLD OUT” BeerX Instagram post, I realized that many others were very upset as well. I’m not going to send 91X a private message and keep things under the hood, because we all have the right to have our voice heard by others and express our views – that’s the power that social media gives us little peeps!
Therefore in light of trying to keep it positive, but still being real and getting my point across, I’m going to do a “fake news” article of how the ideal BeerX fest could have been as imagined by me and my ultimate dream BeerX fest scenario. If I can plant the seed by someone thinking that this might be real and possible, well then that’s at least a first step.
Yes, there are bigger problems in the world with the divides in our nation these days, but I believe that change starts at home, in your local community. So if we can stop the division at some of these events, I think that would be a first step on a path to bigger change.
I’m no concert promoter and I don’t know all the ins and outs on producing a profitable live music event that also allows for a premium experience for everyone at a reasonable price while compensating artists appropriately, but there just has to be a better way to make money at these festivals these days than cramming an event full of people to get more $$$$$, as in the end that’s what it comes down to most of the times. Maybe I’m in a complete dreamland and am being totally unrealistic about a concert/beer fest where everyone has a VIP like experience and has equal access to everything and there are no borders or long lines. But hey, if things like a universal income are possible in the world, I think it could happen somehow someday!
My experience at BeerX (Fake News Version)
I arrived at the venue and showed my ID to prove I was 21+, got my appropriate wristbands for being 21+ and the Premium Side Stage seats package I purchased (they stopped labeling these things as VIP and just called them what they really were, as you’re never an important person if you have to pay for it). The view was amazing as it wasn’t fenced in and you could see the sparkling blue water of the adjacent bay. The theme of this festival beyond beer/music was “Breaking through the Borderlines”. They wanted to give a VIP experience to everyone and provide all festival goers with an inclusive environment where they could dance and drink to the music without having to worry about injuring someone with their flying purse or spilling someone’s beer, which can be regular hazards for the average festival goer. If you haven’t been a regular festival goer in a while, you may forget about the dangers of these large densely packed crowds. Southwest airlines was the top corporate sponsor of the festival as they do not separate first class from non-first class passengers and wanted to align with an event that shared its values of not segregating people. Since they sponsored the event and subsidized the cost of the tickets, the tickets were also reasonably priced and the artists were still generously compensated, thanks Southwest! (These big corporate companies can drop millions in a day or so, so sponsoring something like this is a drop in the bucket for them, lumped into some digital/radio buy on 91X perhaps?) To keep the crowds down, there were also a limited number of tickets sold.
The beer tasting was integrated seamlessly into the live music experience and was not separated from each other. You were given 15 tasting tickets which could be used throughout the entire time of the event (as supplies lasted) so most of the crowds weren’t hovering at the beer area in the beginning and then condensed at the stage area at the end of the event. This also helped with crowd control and provided the smaller opening acts with more exposure as people weren’t trying to get their money’s worth of beer all at the beginning and not going anywhere near the stage. If you tasted something you really liked, you could buy a full size pint of it as well, while supplies lasted. The first small brewer to run out of beer won the prize for most liked beer!! Smaller breweries often don’t have the production capacity that the big corporate guys do, so the mass produced corporate beer (and cocktails) were also made available for purchase. My favorite indie brew was from a place called Acoustic Ales, ironic name right; I said music and beer go together! They had a delicious strawberry flavored brew as well as a refreshing ginger/mint brew. There was such a wide variety of beers that were being sold that lines were also not an issue.
As an added bonus, there was a cell phone charging station there. We all know that Apple auto self-destructs your phone’s battery power when you get close to the 2 year mark so you will buy another phone before you normally would. I’m not a phone whore or anything, but it’s nice to be able to take a few pics at a festival and post to social media to share your experiences, and text to meet up with friends that were arriving later without having to constantly turn your phone on and off to save some juice on the off chance that you still might have enough power left at the end of the festival to get an Uber back home. End of that rant!
The live music experience was just as amazing as the beer tasting, as it was so integrated. I brought a beach towel and was just hanging out with a couple of my friends drinking beer while listening to most of the bands. We’d get up every once in a while and dance around to our favorite songs. A couple of the guys in one of the headlining bands were hanging out in the general crowd area watching the other opener bands and I went up to say hi to them and show them this cool native ad promotion I was going to do in my app that is launching soon that would help promote their music. I know the dudes as I’ve been a fan for a while now and have gotten to know them, they’re super cool most of the time, however we all have our moments! They were pretty stoked that I was thinking of them and thought the ad fit in perfectly with the search results area of the app and linked directly to the iTunes store where people could check out their music! I told them I bought the premium side stage seats even though I could have asked them for a backstage pass as I’ve gotten before for some San Diego shows but I wanted to help support the band since I don’t buy a lot of merchandise anymore, as I seriously have an overflow of band t-shirts, ha! They told me they needed to get somewhere asap and didn’t have much time but that they’d tell one of the guys in charge in the back to get back with me and let me backstage so I could show some of the other guys the ad promo idea in my app! I was able to get back there for a bit and say hi to the rest of the guys and saw one of my old co-workers back there as well, talk about a small world! After that I went back to the elevated side stage viewing area where I watched JBoog and Iration’s sets. Iration played their new song Borderlines, (aligning with the festival’s Breaking through the Borderlines theme since they were the headliner). Their Borderlines song is about trying to understand the other person’s perspective that may feel trapped and confined within their “borders” and just can’t understand “why” no one will give them any time and listen to them and try and understand where they are coming from (at least that’s my interpretation). While this song was playing, the band had the security at the side stage let us all backstage as Iration wanted to make a point and illustrate how we can easily remove the borderlines/barriers from the people that paid extra for the premium side stage seats vs. the people below who got their on-stage access for free. I thought that was a super cool move on Iration’s part – showing their appreciation to those who really do value their music and actually love and embrace it!
The whole day was an amazing experience and I left with a feeling of optimism that the human race isn’t as bad and divided as all the horrible things the media focuses on. Simple acts of kindness to both strangers and people you know, a short conversation or a simple hello, opening a door for someone and letting them in, a tap on the head, or an e-mail reply can change your day and mine too. I definitely saw and felt my own positive energy passed on to the next person I saw and then the next person they saw, it’s contagious!
If there’s a way to change these festivals to make them be more inclusive and get rid of the “VIP” status symbol I think that would be one step in the right direction. Just the simple things about the VIP area like better bathrooms, shorter lines, and more space, are not that hard to imagine being possible for the masses. I’m open to feedback and other ideas as there has got to be a way to make a profitable music fest with my imagined version of the ideal scenario where everyone has a VIP like experience.
Live Kindly (and be more aware of your clumsy behavior that could be perceived as not being kind!).
Now if you are still reading this blog post/letter, I’ll give you the “real news” version and highlight the frustrations that I experienced (with a “VIP” ticket) as well those that the average festival goer had with this event.
My Experience at BeerX (Real News version)
I named this blog Borderlines at BeerX because there were definitely tons of long lines and quite a few borders keeping everyone in their place and in the overall venue in general (no in/out privileges).
The lines were out of control. Since I fortunately bought the VIP side stage ticket I was able to get early entry an hour early (as I’m all too familiar with how things go at these things so I hedged my bets, plus I get claustrophobic and really appreciate the space that the VIP area had and not to mention nice bathrooms and shorter beer lines). It was an amazing time that first hour because the crowds were actually at a perfect level, busy and hopping and social, but you could taste a wide variety of samples before the hour was up so you knew where you could go back later when the stampedes marched in. However my friends that joined up with me later only got to sample two shots of beer because the lines were so long. People were doubling up and splitting the lines they were standing in for the tasting. One person would take their glass and another friend’s glass and wait in one line and then bring them those beer tastings while the other friend was waiting in another line. The breweries got a hold of this trick and some started filling only one beer shot per person.
When we went to buy our beer after the tasting ended, we literally waited in line for 50 minutes for a drink, but that’s not a newsflash, as that’s been noted all over social media. My dumb self then realized at that point that I had VIP access so I could go into the VIP area and get beers for me and my friends and wait in the shorter inside that area and then just bring the drinks to them after. I just wish I would have bought my friends VIP tickets vs. getting the VIP side stage upgrade because it’s hard when you want to enjoy the space and comfort of the VIP area but mostly want to hang out with your friends as well. But my friends came at the last minute and it’s hard to plan these things sometimes as ya never know when people are going to be around.
Two of the guys in/with one of the bands barely had time to say hi to me even though what I wanted to show them would have taken just literally 30 seconds and was all about promoting them. This was the most infuriating/depressing part of the whole day and the negative energy kept with me and I really couldn’t enjoy watching the show from the side stage as I just kept thinking about it – and looking at the border that was in between the side stage area and the freeloading backstagers area, and then I just couldn’t deal and had to leave. They should have at least had the backstagers on the opposite side of the stage so the side stage premium ticket buyers weren’t reminded of what suckers they were for actually paying extra for that view that others, who may not even like the bands’ music got for free.
One other note, I was a sucker that bought the VIP Side Stage package as soon as I heard about the fest as I thought it would sell out super-fast. Well, the price actually went down by $30 after I bought mine and tickets were available up until a few days before the event, I guess most people out there aren’t suckers like me!! If you ever have to pay to be a VIP realize that you are not important at all the only thing that is important is the $$$. You are just a cash register sign.
And that’s all folks. It’ll be awhile before I go to any sort of “festival” again!