TX has had a rocky festival landscape, lately. We haven’t heard a word about Maverick Fest and they usually have presale around Thanksgiving. Euphoria hasn’t announced any information about 2018 either. Middlelands is not returning this year, SOSfest investors pulled out last minute, FPSF got rained out again in 2017 and was rebranded. Levitation isn’t a single location. Index Fest purchased Untapped and anticipated a San Antonio installment, but it never materialized. Luminaria has had its share of identity and execution issues. Then yesterday’s news of Botanica’s reduced schedule and partnership with Fiesta, TX generated confusion and a little disappointment.
San Antonio is a mid-sized city with a good number of music options for its size. With Live Nation at the Aztec, Margin Walker at Paper Tiger, AEG at AT&T Center, and then K23, Mondo Nation, Twin Productions, San Antonio has teams that regularly bring artists of all genres and audience size. Then there’s Lush Rooftop Lounge who brings the type of DJs that perform high capacity shows elsewhere like Las Vegas. A good volume of professional, nationally touring artists stop in San Antonio regularly throughout the year. Mala Luna, Maverick, SXSW & ACL spill-over brings talent annually. As much as 45 weeks out of 52, you could go to a show and break the bank if you wanted.
Creating a large scale festival from scratch would be difficult for any one, add Texas’ festival woes and you have one hell of an uphill battle. The number one thing that makes a successful festival is lineup, but a festival also needs substance and the community buy-in.
Besides having a news worthy lineup of relevant artists, a festival needs substance. “Substance” is that other component, the answer to “what else are you offering?” If you look at Air & Style in Los Angeles (Olympic snowboarder Shawn White’s festival), they have a unique sports component at it’s center, where they build a 14-story snow ramp and have Olympic snow boarders do tricks between bands. Day For Night in Houston has impressive art installations in a gritty, urban warehouse. Insomniac draws inspiration from Burning Man and adds visually intriguing dimensions at all of their festivals across the country.
The buy-in from the community is very important for large scale events inside cities. In Austin, the city participates in ACL much like the City of San Antonio does with Fiesta or Siclovia. ACL has become somewhat of a city tradition, there’s a buzz and anticipation around town that’s echoed in the media. Siclovia and Fiesta have participation all around the city and people are accustomed to the inconveniences of noise, road closures and general rowdiness. If a fraction of that collective effort were put into a music festival, San Antonio could grow Maverick or Mala Luna into a 3-day destination fest.
Maverick Music Fest had a good thing going and Psych Del Rio has a lot of promise. I feel the investors of Botanica should have doubled down on Maverick or Psych-DR, purchased those properties and grew them to large scale over a few years. Moved it to Brackenridge Park or still used La Villita, in combination with Hemisfair Plaza and the Convention Center.
Music can be tough. You can do all the research and preparation you want, but as soon as you piece together one puzzle, something comes along and unravels everything that held previous thought together.