On Saturday, Husband and I spend the late afternoon/evening down at The Grove Music Festival. This is the festival that was originally scheduled for Niagara-on-the-Lake and originally scheduled to have 13 different performers. But then the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake complained and four of the acts dropped out and we ended up with nine acts performing in downtown Toronto.
None of these changes bothered me because I didn’t buy tickets to this event. I was only there because I won a pair from Factor (thanks!) earlier in the week. Getting to see a $60 event for free should have made me feel special but it didn’t because there were so many free tickets to this event. Seriously, I saw over a dozen different contests that were awarding Grove tickets, including one contest that was giving away 15 different pairs.
The Grove’s Facebook page tells me that yes, some people did pay for tickets but everyone I talked to at the festival got in for free, either by winning tickets or getting a pair from a sponsor. While the crowd size seemed decent, and people were certainly spending money on booze and food, I do wonder if this festival made money.
It was put on by Goldenvoice, the same company that does Coachella, among other events, so I would like to think that the expertise was there to make this festival a financial success. Of course, all the expertise in the world won’t help if people aren’t buying tickets.
I’ve been trying to figure out why people weren’t buying tickets because to me, this festival had the three crucial ingredients that every good music festival needs to have: An easy-to-get-to location; a reasonable price point and a strong-but-diverse lineup that ideally includes some new faces.
Based on the success of Field Trip, I think we can all agree that the Garrison Commons location and the $60 price were right. The Grove’s main problem, in my educated opinion (besides attending lots of shows I also work in the music industry), is that its lineup was too diverse and didn’t have the big names needed to convince people to part with $60 for an August long-weekend, one-day festival.
Personally, I really liked how mixed up The Grove lineup was. From messy guitars to Top 40 pop to hip-hop, the original lineup had something for almost anyone. And even the paired down lineup was quite diverse.
But I think that was exactly the problem. If you were a Wavves fan, you would probably also enjoy Palma Violet and maybe Gaslight Anthem, but the other acts? Well, I guess that depends how open your mind it. And if Earl Sweatshirt was your thing? Well, Girl Talk does use a lot of hip-hop samples.
Super-diverse lineups are the norm at large festivals but they can get away with it because while they might have over a dozen sub-genres playing, they have multiple artists from those sub-genres performing, which allows people to better justify buying a ticket.
Of course, a really big headliner could have pushed the whole “too diverse” issue out of the door. But The Grove didn’t have a big headliner; it had Phoenix, whose last album is rather boring.
I also suspect that maybe holding this event on the long weekend wasn’t the best idea, particularly since this weekend is also playing host to Osheaga, Lollapalooza and Veld. While all of these festivals mean that there are a lot of acts floating around this part of the world, it also means that there is a lot of competition for the same audience. And since it’s a long weekend, it’s that much easier to say, “Screw Toronto and this ‘boutique,’ festival! Let’s head to Montreal or Chicago and take in a real one.”
And I can’t blame them. While The Grove festival was fun and, compared to those other two, cheap, it’s no replacement for a real, summer music festival (Why can’t Toronto have that? Why!?)
I could go on and on about what worked and what didn’t but feel that I’ve already rambled enough and I haven’t even talked about the actual performers so here’s a quick recap on that.
Wavves, the first act we saw, were messy but fun and perfectly suited to their sunny, late afternoon slot. I enjoyed them more than I thought I would.
Earl Sweatshirt is a hip-hop act who reminded me why I don’t like most hip-hop (I have no interest in hearing about how you want your dick sucked.)
The Gaslight Anthem played the three songs I wanted them to play and did it with plenty of energy. The crowd didn’t seem overly engaged with them but the band didn’t let that bring them down.
Girl Talk is a guy I’ve seen several times and he always brings a fun, confetti-filled time. It would have been more fun if the people around me danced but I guess that’s what happens when so many people are there on comps.
Hot Chip was my favourite act of the day, despite having some sound issues. Their light-and-fog filled set suited their electro-pop music perfectly and even got multiple people moving.
I didn’t see Phoenix because Husband had a headache and wanted to go. I heard though that they broke curfew. I hope they covered that fine.
I have no idea if The Grove will be back for next year – I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t – but if there is another Grove festival, or Goldenvoice decides to do something else next in Toronto, I hope they keep the diverse lineup and then apply that same mindset to the food and alcohol vendors (both of those areas could have been stronger). Also, if they want more ideas, they can always get in touch with me.