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Summer Ends Music Disaster

Image by Ben Garcia.

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Luckyman's Big Time Fall Festival Falls Flat On Its Face Due To Poor Planning, Underwhelming Promotion, Incoherent Musical Acts, Way Too Many Rules, And A Destructive Storm

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 2, 2014 — Summer Ends Music Festival was more or less a complete disaster for everyone involved.

The first day was woefully under attended, day two was moved to The Marquee Theater after “destructive weather” decimated the festival’s main stage, and day three featured a 10-hour day at the Marquee which is definitely one of the least comfortable places on the planet. But the most important fact to take away is that SEMF was not a festival. There may not be set in stone rules for what constitutes a festival, but SEMF definitely was not one.

The entire show just seemed mis-managed and disjointed. The lineup was just completely incoherent, and quite frankly not that good. The festival was being promoted as if it were the next big thing, but it really just seemed like a hodgepodge of midcard bands thrown together under some fairly questionable headliners.

The headliners were questionable: Note the abnormally low turnout for the Tempe Beach Park extravaganza. As for an incoherent lineup one needs to look no farther than The Descendants on the same day with Taking Back Sunday. Perhaps with more acts and stages, this awkward melting pot of national acts could have seemed cohesive. But as it was it seemed as though they squeezed as many Marquee caliber acts into one show as possible.

But the woes of Summer Ends Music Festival did not begin with the lineup. They really began with the name of the event. It just seems like Summer’s End Music Festival would have made more sense than Summer Ends Music Festival, not that either name is particularly strong. And it was all downhill from there, as they say.

The next issue came with the promotional art work. They were obviously going for a poster that somewhat resembled a Coachella poster, and they got close. Except that the band names were way too big because there were only about 20 of them, and the horrendous shades of orange and yellow they used were ugly as all hell. It appears as though the promoters were hoping they could wrangle in some decent names, slap the word festival on the top of an amatuer looking poster, and watch the dollars pour in.

Well, the average festival goer is a little more refined than that. With the overabundance of festivals both locally and nationally there have never been more options for where and when to catch a big show.

Then came the ticket prices: $65 a day or $150 for the entire weekend. That price was always way too high, and for Luckyman the proof was in the puddin when their day one headliner, Capitol Cities, drew less than 3,000, and then after the move to the Marquee at no time did they hit capacity.

There was some relief from the high ticket prices though: local acts were offering tickets at the reduced rate of $55 a day until a week out when the festival finally realized that was completely stupid and finally slashed it down to $32.50 a day. But alas, it was too little too late. Those who passed originally made new weekend plans, and some who bought the overpriced tickets were left out in the cold $22.50 poorer.

While I mention the local acts, bad form all around for the way independent artists were treated at this festival. Local artists were asked to sell overpriced tickets to their fan bases which they took no commission from. Then, they were asked to lower those prices thus alienating their fans who bought tickets at the original price. Then to kick them while they were down, when the weather, mixed with Luckyman’s near-negligence of the situation, brought the festival crashing down. The local acts were cut from performing, their fans were not reimbursed for their purchases, and some local acts were even turned away at the door of the Marquee.

Even without the weather created difficulties the local stage was a complete joke, and just for good measure the festival called local punk act Playboy Manbaby “Playboy Manpower” on the sign directing fans to their signing booth. That was bad form.

The Phoenix based musicians that worked their ass off promoting and selling tickets for this show deserved far better than that. Especially because up until Capital Cities performance Friday night, Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers, Murietta, and Dry River Yacht Club were really the only highlights of day one.

Day two started off fairly uneventfully, like for real there had to be less than 300 people in attendance for the days opener, Katastro. But they were completely overshadowed by the day’s real headliner, the Apocalypse. Not more than 10 minutes after Katastro left the stage, Tempe Beach Park caught the full-on hurricane treatment from a storm that rode in, poured down hellfire and brimstone for about two hours, destroyed the main stage and who knows how much equipment, and then rode out to leave a rather gorgeous evening in its wake.

The storm, however, is also where things really started falling apart for Summer Ends. It didn’t seem like the fest had any sort of rain contingency plan at all as far as protecting equipment, and even the festival goers safety seemed like an after thought when after more than 30 minutes of downpour they were finally moved to safety under a nearby bridge.

It is important to note that Beef Vegan and Brandi Fjeld of KWSS, Mitchell Hillman of Java Magazine, Sam Wiley of The Wiley Ones, and myself along with a few others waited out the storm under the KWSS Canopy.

With Crescent having canceled their “field trip” to Arcosanti, and Danny Zelisko canceling his outdoor date at Talking Stick Resort, it really begs the question of what the hell was Luckyman top man Tom LaPenna thinking when he let the show go on? Maybe he had a hefty insurance policy to cover the event and he found a way to break even after taking a bath on ticket sales. Or maybe he just forgot to check the weather … for two weeks leading up to the event.

The festival was so battered aback by the weather that a press coordinator rode through the grounds in a golf cart telling people the festival was canceled for the day, even though it eventually moved to The Marquee Theater for the evening’s main stage acts. That however was really two pieces of bad news wrapped in a bow to soften the blow.

The first blow was the cancellation of Playboy Manbaby’s set which Beef Vegan said was likely going to be a show stealer. While the other blow was finding out that the rest of the evening, and the next day were going to be spent on the uncomfortable concrete floor of one of Tempe’s most well known, and well hated music venues, The Marquee Theater.

At this point, Luckyman seemed to show some compassion for their ticket holders and offered anyone who didn’t want to see the rest of the show at The Marquee five times their ticket value in show tickets for Luckyman concerts. And a rumor got around that even people with comp tickets were given the option of trading their ticket for any show they wanted. On the downside, though, some local bands who were scheduled to perform in the park were turned away at the door.

To be fair, once at the Marquee, the Descendants put on an absolutely killer set, one that definitely would not have been the same had it been played on a giant festival stage as opposed to the more enclosed confines of The Marquee Theater. But at the same time, festivals aren't supposed to be intimate, they are supposed to be larger than life. Any good will Descendants bought with the crowd was soon squandered by The Replacements. They were in Arizona for the first time in about 20 years, and playing a club for the first time in probably longer than that. But they still managed to clear the room before the venue shut down. While many of Phoenix’s renowned 40 and up punk scene obviously were enjoying the shit out of catching The Replacements at The Marquee, it was still a far cry from a festival.

Summer Ends Sunday started off in a pretty exciting fashions with rumors getting out about a secret, noon-time set by local heroes Kongos at Scottsdale’s Rogue Bar. The rumors turned out to be true and the familial four piece played a short acoustic set for a small audience of Phoenix scene hipsters who have been following the band since before Lunatic was even recorded. The set featured  an acoustic version of their singles “Come with me now,” and “I wanna know” as well as a cover of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby.”

Kitten was already playing at the Marquee but the time the KONGOS set ended, and Luckyman’s compassion for their fans seemed to run out too, as they decided to no longer offer ticket holders anything for the value of their tickets. Luckyman said that because the show is going off as planned and on schedule that they were not responsible for the tickets.

The show actually was not going on as planned because local standouts Mouse Powell and Banana Gun were both canceled a for any local music fan that was a huge blow to the concerts draw. Also, and this is far bigger than the cancellation of a couple of local acts, and this also might come as a shock to Luckyman. But, The Marquee is not Tempe Beach Park.

Spending all day in a park with plenty of wide open space seeing a concert, is a completely different experience than spending all day in a dark room, with a concrete floor. With a festival, patrons are paying for more than just a good show, it’s a entire festival experience and The Marquee did not even come close to providing that. No disrespect to the musicians, they actually played quite well and made the most of a bad situation.

But dammit, Luckyman owes us a festival!

Summer Ends Festival Photos By Jeff Moses


Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jmoses@moderntimesmagazine.com.
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