10/28/2016 by Addie Hayes Editor/Lead Writer Regional Music Journal
Starset opening the Longhorn Stage at Texas Mutiny 2016. Photo Courtesy Randel Hayes.
In part one of our coverage of Texas Mutiny 2016 I said the best part of the festival was the lineup of bands. The venue, however, failed on many levels. It wasn’t so much the physical location of the festival; Petty Place at The Texas Motor Speedway is a large open area covered in grass, with ample space for parking, which is common for outdoor festivals. What made the venue so bad was the ridiculous rules festival goers were subjected to. Another point of contention was the lack of amenities for VIP ticket holders, the few things that were provided for the additional $100 per ticket was nothing close to a VIP experience or worth the extra money people paid. Also, this event was not a friendly environment for people with disabilities.
Petty Place was a pretty standard example of outdoor music festival grounds. There was the typical make shift parking lot in the grass, uneven ground, and gravel walking paths to name a few. However, one thing in particular stood out; this venue was not a friendly environment for a disabled person. My guest at the event is disabled, has an ADA placard to park in handicap/ADA parking, and I emailed Texas Mutiny to inquire about the parking situation, specifically asking if a special permit was required. I received a response indicating no special parking permit was required and the standard handicap/ADA placard would be sufficient. Based on this response it was logical to conclude there would be no issues with parking. As VIP ticket holders, we had access to the VIP parking area, which is normally where handicap/ADA parking is located. Upon entering VIP parking, I asked the attendant where I could find handicap parking and I was told there was “no handicap parking” and to “just try and park as close as possible to the gates”.
Needless to say, I was surprised by this response. Especially since I had previously contacted Texas Mutiny to ask about handicap/ADA parking, and their website specifically addressed this issue in Frequently Asked Questions, “10. Where is ADA parking located? a. Enter Gate Y for ADA Parking.” Whether the event truly did not have designated handicap/ADA parking or staff was not aware of a designated location is not known at the time. We reached out to Texas Mutiny for comment and they have yet to respond. Outdoor music festivals continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and Texas Mutiny exhibited a complete disregard for the needs of their disabled patrons.
Another issue concerned the list of rules, some of which were completely ridiculous. There were more don’ts than do’s; at this time you can still access the full list of rules on the Texas Mutiny website (www.texasmutiny.com), in the Information section. But I’ll highlight some of the don’ts that resulted in an uncomfortable experience for anyone attending. First, lawn chairs/folding chairs were not allowed. One blanket per person was permitted, but sitting on the hard ground the entire day was uncomfortable to the point of being distracting. When your lower back and rear end are hurting it is hard to pay attention to the performance and enjoy yourself.
Another issue was the privilege of exit and re-entry to the festival grounds. Anyone who had purchased a campgrounds or hotel package, as well as VIP ticket holders and those with a tent/RV upgrade were allowed to exit and re-enter the festival grounds. The only group prohibited from re-entry were general admission ticket holders. There has been no discernible explanation why those with general admission tickets were excluded from re-entry, but it did guarantee a captive audience for the vendors selling over-priced beverages and food. And when I say over-priced that is being kind, for a sandwich, chips and a drink the cost was $20. Also, the selection of food and beverages, mostly the beer, was extremely limited. I understand Pabst was the main sponsor, but with limited re-entry privileges, festival attendees should have been given more options.
One weird rule was the prohibition of medicine/prescription medication. In the Frequently Asked Questions section on www.texasmutiny.com, the following question and answer can be found; “12. Where can I drop off my medication? a. Please drop off your medication at the first EMS tent located inside the main concert gate. The medical staff will check-in your medication and you will have access to it anytime throughout the duration of the festival.” This particular rule was extremely irresponsible on the part of Texas Mutiny. In too many cases immediate access to medication is necessary to save a person’s life. Think about epinephrine for a person with severe allergic reactions, nitroglycerin pills for a person having a heart attack or an inhaler for a person with asthma. The EMS tent was close to the entrance, which was a significant distance from the stages, food vendors, port-a-potties and other portions of the festival grounds where people gathered. Taking into consideration the fact that there are many chronic conditions which require immediate use of certain medications, enforcement of this rule could have quickly turned into a medical emergency, if not a fatal incident. In the future, Texas Mutiny needs to consider a few aspects such as the distance to the EMS tent, time needed for first responders to maneuver through the crowd to get to an individual, as well as the time needed to retrieve medication from the EMS tent. This is yet another example reflecting Texas Mutiny’s disregard for disabled individuals.
A large portion of complaints on the Texas Mutiny Facebook page center around the lack of amenities for VIP ticket holders. For anyone with General Admission tickets, this issue may seem like a problem that doesn’t concern them, however, it very much affects the festival experience for everyone who attends. At Texas Mutiny, the VIP tickets were $100 more than the General Admission tickets, this is typical for most one day outdoor festivals in the south central region of the U.S. The increased revenue produced by the purchase of a VIP ticket allows promoters such as AEG Live (the promoter of Texas Mutiny) the ability to book better bands because they can afford to entice performers with a bigger pay check.
Normal VIP experiences include an area such as a lounge or patio that provides seating, as well as restrooms and vendors specifically for a VIP ticket holder. Another common amenity for VIP is pit access in front of the main stage. Your regular VIP ticket holder at an average festival is not some kind of uber rich yuppie or a spoiled rich kid, for the most part they are adult fans who have reached a point in their careers where they have more disposable income to purchase the VIP experience. Most of us have done our time in the GA section and we want something a little more laid back, an experience that allows us to relax on the sidelines when we choose but still have front row access without having to stand in one spot all day.
Texas Mutiny completely failed the VIP customers. There was a VIP tent, sponsored by Pabst, with very limited seating (definitely not enough for everyone who purchased VIP tickets), very limited food choices and even more limited drink choices. The only good thing about the VIP amenities was the portable, air conditioned restrooms instead of port-a-potties. Unfortunately, the air conditioner didn’t do much in the women’s restrooms because the ladies kept holding the door open, letting all the cold air out (this can’t be blamed on festival organizers/staff). Toward the end of the night the air conditioner either stopped working or was shut off and the doors were propped open, but this was still better than port-a-potties. There was also a point in the evening when the VIP tent was closed for about two hours and staff provided several conflicting reasons. Staff told some people it was closed as a safety precaution because of storms that had passed hours earlier, other excuses used by the staff included the tent being closed due to winds, and the tent was closed because of security (the police took a handcuffed man into the tent). The fact is, the one thing the extra $100 bought was taken away for a portion of the festival.
Besides the fiasco at the Pabst tent, there was no designated VIP section in front of the main stage. This was surprising and was just one more example of disregard for VIP customers who generate a lot of revenue. As a person who always purchases VIP tickets, specifically to be close to the stage, I was disappointed and felt ripped off. Based on the responses on Facebook, I was not alone in my experience, several VIP customers were upset over this aspect of the festival.
There is a laundry list of other problems such as, only two screens covering the main stage (one of which was the backdrop of the main stage), inconsistent advertising in surrounding states, whether or not VIP ticket holders were supposed to get a free Texas Mutiny t-shirt (this still has not been clarified), water stations not refilled, running out of merchandise within the first few hours, incompetent staff, stage set-up, sound, the list goes on. Fans were not hesitant to take to Facebook to voice their complaints. At the same time, fans also expressed an interest in attending this festival in the future as long as the complaints are addressed. This bodes well for Texas Mutiny.
Texas Mutiny has the potential of becoming one of the prominent summer music festivals for not only Texas but for the south central region as a whole. This region lacks quality heavy metal music festivals, and with the demise of Mayhem Fest there is a big gap that needs to be filled. While the first year of Texas Mutiny was a disappointment at many levels, it is an event that has a lot of potential. The decision makers need to consider improving contingency plans for bad weather, provide better training for event staff, reconsider certain prohibited items, most notably lawn/folding chairs and medication, research and implement elements to allow disabled patrons the chance to enjoy the festival, and consider a complete overhaul of the VIP amenities. Yes this was the first year for Texas Mutiny and a learning curve is expected, however, AEG Live has vast experience with music festivals, which should have reflected in the overall experience. Texas Mutiny deserves a chance to improve and grow in order to bring a quality festival to the DFW area, nevertheless, without noticeable improvement in 2017 this may end up being one more festival to fade into nothing with little impact on the music scene.
© Copyright 2016 Regional Music Journal