The most tragic of all the ironies behind the Friends of Nature festival is that they couldn't handle a little weather. They had all the ingredients to succeed; granted, in its first year glitches could be expected, but at the end of the day they bit off way more than they could chew. There is no other way to describe the event other than the truth: it was an epic fail.
Day One: Saturday: Grade: F
There was no music at a music festival. The main stage stopped performing after Badfish at around 3:45pm. Yes it was raining, but it wasn't raining that hard. This is Miami towards the end of its hurricane season: it might freaking rain. Here's how the truth looks: the producers of the event, or the company they hired to build a stage, did not construct a stage that could handle a little rain. They didn't want their expensive equipment wet and therefore the main stage of the festival did not happen. To say the fire marshals closed the festival down is a little suspect considering there was a dubstep stage and comedy tent operating fine. Unfortunately for those in attendance, there was no communication. Not once did a member of the Festival come on stage to explain to the audience what was happening. We were standing around confused. The vendors and food trucks were in place but there was no leadership. It turned into a block party, of sorts, for those who chose to see the cup as half-full. If music was the only problem there could be redemption for the Friends of Nature Festival. They sold tickets for a VIP area promising free drinks and a private area to view the show: there was no VIP area. It just didn't happen. The documentary tent did not happen: there was no projector to show the movies. A solar-powered DJ truck did not happen. There were no maps or schedules. There were no ambassadors or information booth. There was no compost or even recycling, other than garbage's. Let me repeat: there was no recycling at the Friends of Nature Festival. It was music-festival chaos. The producers of the event were pretty much AWOL. I heard that they were in an office, crying. How cool would it have been if they could've convinced Matisyahu to do an acoustic show on the one stage that worked? There was just no creativity or crisis management at all. It's really sad, and one can only hope the local organizers and bands get paid.
Day Two: Sunday: Grade D
It started off horrible. The price to park at the Fair was raised from $20 to an inexcusable $30. That's called price-gouging. The website specifically says parking cost $20. It cost $20 the day before, but on Sunday the price was raised. There was a cop, who looked younger than my students, standing right behind this big, muscle-headed goon collecting $30. When I explained to the officer that what they were doing was called price-gouging and illegal, he told me to contact the parking company if I had a complaint. I personally know ten people that turned around and went home because they didn't want to pay $30 to park.
If you did park, when you exited your car, you were greeted by an onslaught of mosquito's hatched after the day's previous rains. If you were lucky enough to bring bug-spray and made your way into the festival grounds, what you experienced was much better than the day before. Better, but still far from perfect. There was music, thank god, but the headlining acts were canceled. There was a VIP area, thank god, that offered drinks and food, but they only served noodles and there were no forks only spoons. Just little logistical fails..
The comedy tent operated smoothly, but no thanks to the festival's producers. The actual tent was so flimsy it was way beneath the level of talent that they booked. And there was comedy talent on-hand, flown-in from New York and L.A., put-up in hotels, ready to execute. Give the comedians credit for understanding "the show must go on."
They didn't miss a set.
It's a shame. It really is. The Miami Herald reports the producers of FONFEST lost $400,000 of their own money on the event, which is extra sad because they really put their hearts into this. But, they had eight months to prepare; they promoted the heck out of it, and when it came down to execute, they just didn't. In life, under the greatest strains of stress our characters are revealed. It's just sad. At the end of the day, the dark side of Miami reared its head: the only stage that worked Saturday was a "bass" stage where many of the people were on Molly. Instead of all the intelligence and community engagement we were promised, we wound up with typical Miami corruption and mis-management.
They should definitely refund anyone who paid for a VIP bracelet on Saturday. They should probably refund everyone both days but that's maybe asking too much. The irony is I actually had fun; I saw a lot of friends, old and new, caught some great comedy, caught some cool local acts, learned a thing or two about the environment, I witnessed a sunset on the beach, I thought the rain was cool and refreshing, but, and this is based not only on my opinion but a composite of many people I talked to: it would be unfair to not call the event what it was: an epic fail. Let's toss this one on a compost and hope it recycles itself.