It seems like a stupid thing to complain about, but there are also few things more miserable than inching along for an hour and a half—and ultimately covering less than two miles.
That was my Saturday afternoon attempting to get to Radio 94.7’s City of Trees music festival at Gibson Ranch—foreshadowing for the overall logistical chaos.
More than 9,000 people arrived to see Cake, Of Monsters and Men and several other radio-successful pop and alt-rock acts. With no one directing traffic into Gibson Ranch—its single road of entry was obviously going to create huge problems for the neighborhood at large—it almost seemed like Radio 94.7 didn’t expect anyone to show up. Same with the water situation. Security forced attendees to dump water at the entrance—pretty standard at most festivals—but then there was only one station to fill up those empty water bottles. At one point, I counted more than 200 people waiting in the triple digit heat for water, only to rapidly dissipate when they learned City of Trees ran out of water. Lines for food took about an hour at their peak—I heard many complain about missing entire sets while hunger pangs set in.
More water eventually arrived, but still. It all set a certain tone.
That aside, the venue was quite lovely—ample space to lounge on the grass and lots of shade. Although the smaller stage was a little quiet, there weren’t any major sound issues all day. The crowd was remarkably diverse—families of all ages mixed with the typical young festival crowd. Though, the latter quickly dispersed after Of Monsters and Men—eager for the current radio hit-makers instead of the local legends.
Those hit-makers included New Politics, that Danish alt-rock group with that one song; BØRNS, that indie pop guy that kind of looks like Kurt Vile and has that one song; and James Bay, that English singer-songwriter with that one hat and that one crazy popular song.
In seriousness, Bay really impressed with an assured stage presence and his slightly gritty, bluesy pop. And performing as an eight-piece, Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men delivered a feel-good, hit-filled set just as the sun began to set and temperatures became far more reasonable.
But the City of Trees showed up for Cake, and John McCrea knows how to work his hometown audience: the hits—the string of “Never There,” “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance” made for an excellent finale—grandly orchestrated sing-alongs and nearly endless banter. But Cake presented a couple tracks off its 2011 self-released album Showroom of Compassion—“They told us we couldn’t do it, and thanks to the 50 of you who still buy albums, we did OK,” McCrea said—and folks still knew the words. Oh yeah, and McCrea gave away a tree. But you already knew he’d do that.
And as you probably also know by now, getting out of City of Trees was a nightmare. Truly, with zero lights or signs and the air thick with dust, I was honestly frightened while trying to find my car. Throw in the gaping potholes, and my final feeling at City of Trees was sheer panic.
John McCrea leads a sing-along, alongside an Oak tree. // Paul Piazza
Elle King // Paul Piazza
James Bay and his hat // Paul Piazza
Of Monsters and Men’s Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir // Paul Piazza
Soren Hansen of New Politics // Paul Piazza