Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More on the Edmonton Folk Festival

About a year ago I published a blog on the EFF. Someone actually read it and made the comment below which I thought I should publish it in my blog.

"For a bunch of hippies, they act in a remarkably selfish, grasping, up-tight, whinging, unfriendly way.

I've been to many hundreds of outdoor and indoor music events but never one like this. I'm not sure if it's common to be as unfriendly and rude to someone who is merely trying to enjoy the same event as you, and who isn't intruding on your space.

We showed up for the evening acts, having purchased an evening-only ticket (full day tickets aren't available, only tickets for the whole weekend).

On arrival we found that this bunch of grasping people had all laid out 10 to 15 foot wide tarps all over the whole seating area, some only had two or three people or chairs on them. This meant that latecomers or evening-only people like ourselves, were meant to stand way at the back miles from the stage.

I suppose the other option was to go to one of the prescribed 'dancing' areas- who has ever heard of a dancing area at a live show? If you want to dance... dance.

We squeezed ourselves into a gap between two tarps somewhere in the middle of the crowd, and had to put up with dirty looks and comments- heaven forbid we sit too close to someone elses staked out seating area.

I will never go back to this festival or any similar one, I've never seen such an unfriendly un-communal attitude from people at an event like this.

At most rock shows you can sit, stand, and dance wherever the hell you like. If you want to stand and the people around you are dancing, move further back. If you want to sit, find somewhere where you can see. "

Now when we go to an event we want to have as good a view of the stage as possible. There are a number of ways a deciding who gets the best seat. Some venues charge more for better seats, some have lotteries, some are first come first serve. The EFF has a combination of a lottery and first come first serve. Except of course the lottery is fixed.

The second thing we want is in outdoor festivals we want to actually be able to reserve a spot where we can leave our stuff and where we can go for pee without losing our place. (At the Bruce Springsteen concern where I had standing room on the floor, I had to stand in one place for 90 minutes to hang on to my somewhat prime spot; this would not have been justified for a lesser artist) That is why the EFF and other festival allow people to plant tarps or chairs etc. The EFF actually restricts tarp size to 8 feet by 10 feet although I didn't see any volunteers out with a tape measure.

Now over the last few years as my correspondent noted, I have been seeing a lot of
big tarps with very few people on them. For example on Saturday night my wife and I sat next to two large tarps. One was never occupied at any time during the day. The other had two people on it for about two hours during the evening concern after which they left. I don't go in the tarp run anymore and since only my wife and I go, I am usually able to get a decent seat just by looking for small spaces that the tarp runners didn't stake out. I do tend to come early in the day however. On occasion where I have come later and squeezed in most people have been polite so on behalf of the whole EFF community I appologize for the assholes my correspondent sat between.

Now in defence of the EFF, they do ask people to do their best to allow people to the people with evening tickets to squeeze in before every evening concert. They also ask people not to dance except in the dance area at the side of the stage. If you want to dance, your view of the band shouldn't matter. Quite frankly if you allow people to get up and dance, it means that everybody stands up and you have to stand up for the whole concert. They have been much less rigid about this in past years.

Anyway despite everything the EFF is the highlight of my summer and I hope my correspondent comes next year. He should buy a weekend pass though, because it is the workshops that are worth the money.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the person who left the comment about the festival two years ago. I was googling for opinions about the dancing areas (trying to dissuade a friend from paying a tout for saturday night only tickets) and found your comment on my comment.

2 years later and I still can't understand the concept of staking out a large area of ground that you are not using, and will not use for the entire day and night, and then defending that area aggressively to prevent your fellow paying festival goers (albeit the second class 'evening-only' festival goers) from sitting where they have some view of the stage.

I'm interested that you say "they do ask people to do their best to allow people to the people with evening tickets to squeeze in before every evening concert" - I didn't see any organisers trying to help me to find a space in the one time that I was there. Perhaps in the evening there should be an unofficial agreement to fold back any areas of tarp that you won't use.

I'm sure the festival is a lot of fun for the organisers, for their friends, and for those with the time and inclination to devote all day for several days to attending the festival. There are some great performers (and even a handful of actual 'folk' acts from time to time), its just a shame that the organisers and/or festival-goers have to create such a negative atmosphere: dancing areas, corrupt lotteries, land grabs, and mini-tarp-kingdoms.

For the casual attendee like me who wants to show up once or twice it simply just sucks, I wouldn't pay a single dollar again to be herded to the back of a field of a open space where there is ample room for me to sit. I didn't attend last year and won't attend this year. I won't be missed, with my attempts to infringe on the borders of people's tarp kingdoms, and I won't miss the up tight tarp-owners.


Bleeding Heart said...

Your points are all well taken. Human nature is however what it is. I have noticed the more desirable a tarp location is, the less likely it is to have anybody on it.

You will be happy or depressed to know that the Labatt's Blues Festival is even worse. I was last year dismayed to see people queuing up early in the morning when I went for a bike ride. (If you are a true blues fan you don't get up that early.)

I arrived about an hour before the main event to find not only all the good ground staked out but also all the covered seats had coats on them "reserving" them. Turns out what these early risers do is not only stake out large tracks of land for themselves and their friends but also in case of rain reserve all the covered seats. If you have been to the blues fest you will understand that most of the men and a significant number of the women are not people you want to argue with.

If you can figure a way of policing this anti-social behaviour please tell me and I will happily join your crusade.

rhys said...

I was a folkie for 13 years in 2001 I said to my kids who'd grown up at the fest that's it for me I'm done with this Moster festival. There is a pecking order we were elite our tarps were run by specially hired runners every year all we had to do was show up! The looks we got from people when we'd gather the orphans at night for main stage like for 3 days these insignificant humans become tarp nazi's. I miss the old days fuck Terri Wickham he got greedy. Go to North Country or any small festival stay away from Edmonton folk you very well could catch the h1n1 all packed in the way they are on the hill!!

Bleeding Heart said...

No the most coherent post. Do I get the impression you pine for the old days of the tarp run where someone lined up for you and ran (in one case breaking a volunteer's leg) so you could get your prime viewing space.

I did the lottery tarp run for two years. I quit when I realized it was fixed and the insiders got the good spots. One year after arriving at 0700 and waiting around for hours, I found myself above the walkway. That is when I decided to forgo the tarp run.

For me the workshops and afternoon concerts are the best part of the festival. I barely lasted half way thru the main stage on Saturday.