The Re:SET festival is aptly named. After an inaugural year clouded by misfortune, that’s just what the concert series hosted by AEG needs.
To Re:CAP (sorry, we can't stop): the festival’s Dallas iteration, which took place last week
, started on some good footing with two consecutive showcases headlined by boygenius
and Steve Lacy, respectively. Then on the third day, when LCD Soundsystem was scheduled to headline and close the Dallas weekend out, inclement weather swept through Grand Prairie and threw a wrench into things 15 minutes into IDLES’s set.
Audiences were asked to move indoors, only to be told more than two hours later that the show would not go on.
The bad luck didn't end there, either. That same weekend, a similar misfortune befell Re:SET’s Atlanta and New Orleans events. And in the hottest, driest month of the year, no less.
Despite the logistical hiccups of God, the festival is still going strong in other markets. Shows are scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, Chicago and Nashville.
Will these three festival weekends end the entire series on a strong note? We certainly hope so, because the festival game almost always requires organizers to lose the first battle in order to ultimately win the war, and the attendance in Grand Prairie — let’s just say — did not reach sell-out levels like a seasoned concert promoter would have reasonably expected it to.
Then again, other festivals that have tried to attract North Texas audiences had A-list talent playing to light crowds, and some of these festivals never returned for a second year. KAABOO Texas in Arlington and Suburbia Music Festival in Plano are just two examples that come to mind.
Re:SET’s Dallas attendance didn’t quite reach the nadir of Sting playing to less than 5,000 people at AT&T Stadium, but judging by the crowd size, it’s a safe bet that Re:SET could have moved last week's sets indoors to the nearby Texas Trust CU Theatre while honoring every ticket sold and then some.
From where we’re sitting, attendance was rather disappointing, especially considering how unique and refreshing the concert series’ concept was. Each of the three days offered a four-artist bill that, according to Consequence, was artist-curated. If Re:SET were to continue with this practice, it could solidify the series as the 2020s’ answer to All Tomorrow’s Parties (a London-based festival that, until being discontinued in 2016, had festival lineups curated by the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jeff Mangum, Modest Mouse and dozens of others.)
Twelve artists being spread out over three days was also a refreshing tonic in an era where 10 or so artists playing the same festival stage on the same day ensures that the festival schedule experiences multiple delays, prompting the headliner to cut songs from their setlist. The festival marketed itself as “an artist and fan-friendly alternative to the standard summer concert experience,” and to its credit, it remained faithful to that mission with its no-filler, “less-is-more” lineup curation.
We hope the festival comes back next year, but with some changes. (Note to the festival organizers: here comes the constructive criticism part.) To begin with, they could have had better communication with the fans who were left in the dark over the course of a roughly two-hour evacuation. We know that two hours flies like the Starship Enterprise during crisis management, but to fans who are waiting and wondering if they should go home and get ready for work tomorrow, two hours flows like a tortoise swimming through molasses.
An outdoor festival should be better prepared for bad weather, especially before setting up camp in Texas. After an excellent opening day, the last thing we expected was disgruntled festivalgoers.
But, we can't help but wonder if the festival experience even needs to be as integral to Re:SET’s identity as an event. We can appreciate that getting arenas in 12 different cities booked for three days in a row over the span of a summer month is a huge ask, but with a lineup as great as this year’s, the outdoor festival setting did little to enhance the experience of witnessing it. If anything, having vendors and other amenities juxtaposed with the comforts of an indoor venue may have added to the experience (not to mention, it probably would have reduced the number of fans who passed out during boygenius’s set, but that kind of thing happens indoors as well).
The reason an alternative to the “standard summer concert experience” is needed is because the “standard summer concert experience” sucks. If Coachella didn’t have Gigi Hadid or Kylie Jenner in the audience every year, people would be far less inclined to risk getting dehydrated and baptized in their own sweat. Festivals of that sort showcase exceptional talent every year, but as Bob Lefsetz wrote in 2017, “[Music festivals are] not about the talent so much as the experience and the impact.”
What makes Re:SET different is that it is
about the talent. Not since Lollapalooza 1991 has a touring festival’s inaugural lineup been as strong and no-nonsense. (It’s not often that a touring concert series can tap into what Lollapalooza was in defiance of what Lollapalooza became.)
The summer music festival isn’t dead, but maybe it deserves to die. It would be cool if Re:SET could give it a proper burial, even if through trial and error.