Something Wonderful Music Festival Review

Spring is known to be festival season.  With big name events happening all over the world, i.e. Coachella, Ultra, etc, it always comes down to the biggest obstacle of festival season: can I afford it?  After Disco Donnie’s successful third annual Something Wicked music event, the company released information about a sister music festival that would counter Something Wicked.  The news caused such an internet buzz in the Texas EDM online communities.  The third annual Something Wicked became a 2 day event with 3 stages, a main stage, a bass stage, and a trance stage.  Something Wicked was well balanced and very well executed in the forest of Houston.  With the announcement of Something Wonderful, Dallas finally had a spring music festival to look forward to without costing too much for travels and amenities.  The last time an EDM event was held at Fair Park was 2 years Lights All Night for NYE 2012 and 4 years ago for EDC Texas.  Cotton Bowl is ideal for large events for Dallasinites.  Each year the State Fair is held at Fair Park with one of the biggest Texas college events being held at the Cotton Bowl as well; Red Rivalry Weekend.  The big University of Texas At Austin football versus University of Oklahoma football.  Their rivalry has been revered for decades, Longhorns versus Sooners, and their battles have always been taken place at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair.  Open air stadium with spacious seating, surrounded by Fair Park, this was almost perfect for Something Wonderful.  Naturally the sister event should be….wonderful per se (excuse my pun #1).

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The lineup consisted of big name Tiesto, bass heavy Zed’s Dead, Chipotle Gang Carnage, Austinites Bro Safari, along with Ummet Ozcan, Keys N Krates, Tchami, Brillz, DVBBS, Snails, Slander, Mr Carmack, Ansolo, Troyboi, MAKO, Surain, Liquid Todd and WALL.  The headliners surprised us a bit.  The expectations for Something Wonderful were that a sister spring festival would mean the lineup being more towards house and trance.  The lineup was a wonderful surprise for me (pun #2) because I love my fair share of heavier bass and trap music.  It was really nice to see names that haven’t been to Dallas yet like Keys N Krates and upcoming duo MAKO.  It was easy to predict that Something Wonderful would have a bass stage and a main stage.  Weather was predicted to be possible raining but that didn’t stop many attendees from going. April showers would never stop anyone from enjoying good music.  As April 18th rolled around the corner, the weather continued to flip between rain and shine.  Who doesn’t want to dance in the rain?  April showers can’t stop music lovers. ULTRA in Miami 2015 started off with heavy showers but that didn’t stop attendees from putting on their ponchos, hats, or just letting the rain hit them while they bounced to the beat.  So when April 18th finally rolled around, the morning was bright, the weather was warm, birds were chirping, even the sun had sunglasses on.   It was picture perfect festival weather.  At least…for now.

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As the afternoon finally approached, traffic around the Fair Park area was normal for Saturdays. While some people were driving to the mall, naturally the rest of the traffic were heading towards the Cotton Bowl.  The highly anticipated spring event was a buzz as soon as you step foot out of dart train or your vehicle.  The atmosphere felt enlightened with good vibes, bass pulsating through the air, and energy that uplifts any negative feeling from one’s soul.  The walk towards the Cotton Bowl brought us closer to the source of the music.  The first half of security was a tad lax, simply monitoring simple things that were not allow like sticks for flag poles. Multiple people were denied entry despite the official Something Wonderful website stating “decorated pool noodles, and totems that DO NOT contain pieces, sharpened elements, or are capable of being pounded into the ground or hurting others” were allowed. However, the Cotton Bowl website states “signs on poles or sticks, or constructed of wood or metal material, are not permitted”.  The first obvious error from the weekend was difference between the official event website and the official venue regulations.  With the lack of important information displayed for the festival goers, Something Wonderful was already on a rocky start.  There were plenty security check lines, one K9 unit on patrol for drugs but there were no reports of any arrests or reports.  If anything, the German Shepherd was the cutest welcome party.  Security check itself was very quick, simple, lax and friendly.  There were female lines and male lines as needed and the female officer was very kind to me when she checked my camelbak.  I would say she was thorough but I also volunteered my things to happily make the process quicker and painless.  The key to a clean security check is to volunteer your things, be open and honest, and smile.  Security has a long day of dealing with attendees and possible troublemakers so a smile goes a long way for these guys.

Upon exiting security check, attendees were greeted with a warm hug from the sun, booming bass and chatter of people running around buying frozen alcoholic drinks, fair park food from the booths that opened up, pit stops and greeting old and new friends.  It was easy to see that Something Wonderful was able to get some of the fair park amenities out for the festival, ie food carts and drinks.  The Wonderful Plaza stage was stationed right below the steps of the Cotton Bowl.  The stage itself was very compacted and not as large it could have been.  LED screens were small and the lights were hard to see in broad daylight.  The sound system of the Plaza stage doesn’t sound so bad though, of course it’s better as you get closer to the stage.  Sound disperses quickly in open air so naturally the bass didn’t reach too far but that didn’t stop my feet from bouncing up and down to the beat.  Sound production was not very impressive so far.  The crowd was everywhere, shifting from buying $5 water bottles, maybe a nice cool $14 margarita slush, or maybe even a fruit smoothie that has been popping up at music festivals recently; anything beverage to cool off with, while the sun slow roasting our skins.

I arrived during TroyBoi’s set and already came with a biased mindset.  For anyone who knows me personally, the bass is my calling.  Troyboi is my definition of “chill trap”.   Aside from his british accent, Troyboi has ladiback charisma that calmly controlled the crowd with such ease.  Even more, Troyboi gave the audience….something wonderful to listen to (pun #3).  He teased our ears with an unreleased track of her newest track collaboration with Diplo.  It has the same sexy feel as one of Troyboi’s tracks “No Substitute” festuring Y.A.S.  Eerie lyrics with haunting bass and melody to match with the beat.  This was heavily influenced by Troyboi and it was not a disappointment.

After dipping my feet with my mancrush, I decided to finally check out the main stage at the Cotton Bowl.  The buildup to finally see the main stage tingled the sensations.  If you have ever been to Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, then any previous headliner would understand the anticipation of walking down the stadium tunnel towards the light.  It’s tunnel vision, all you can see is a bright light buzzing at the end of the tunnel.  The closer you get to the light, the buzzing gets louder.  Just when all of the senses are overwhelmed, the end of the tunnel is there and all you can see is the sea of music lovers in the bleachers and on the field.  Music is booming through the entire Cotton Bowl, it felt like a movie scene.  The main stage sits on the right side of field on top of mat that sits upon the turf of the Cotton Bowl.  There is an obvious divide between the left and right side of the crowd in front of the main stage but as you go down the bleacher steps, there was a noticeable huge crowd behind the gates that stood at the 40 yard line.  It took some time to get down the bleacher steps but my shoes were very happy around the plastic mat cover over the turf.  With a forecast of rain to happen later in the day, dancing in wet muddy turf was never on my agenda.  It’s not as fun as it sounds.

 

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My first mission was to get closer to Slander to hear the bass.  With an open air stadium, the sound wasn’t very loud from 50 yards away.  The mystery of the 40 yard line gate was about to get solved and nobody liked the reason at all.  There were security guards patrolling the 40 yard line gates and it seems to be where they only allowed people inside if someone else left.  The inside crowd only seemed to be half way full with a large amount of space, enough for another 500 people on both sides.  I questioned the crowd control and immediately asked the nearest officer about the situation. According to a few officers, the fire marshal capped off capacity to be 2500 people despite the stadium being able to house 14,000 people during the Red Rivalry weekend.   On top of all that, the sectioned off area did not have any water fountains, no water stations and no restrooms.  The idea of capacity and crowd control with the gates was poorly thought out.  It is a smart idea to allow attendees to freely flow in and out of the Cotton Bowl and back and forth from up close by the main stage to back in the back by the restrooms.  It was a dangerous idea and immediately sparked a lot of anger from the crowd.  There were many moments when the crowd chanted “LET US IN” in unison.  While I was trying to enjoy Slander from afar, I noticed that they closed off the field as well.  Security was trying to cap off the field as well, causing a huge commotion within the bleacher were attendees were trapped and not allowed to even get down to the spacious field.  There were more chants and chaos broke out when a large people of people jumped over the rail from the bleachers onto the gated section in front of the stage.  It took a full minute for security to control the crowd but the deed was done and that was the fuel that sparked the crowd.  Many people started to push the gates together in attempts to jump over the gates.  The first chaos caused current security to radio in for backup.  This just caused “crowd control” to go from simple gates to guards constantly yelling at the attendees to back up and calm down.  It was riot that could have been easily avoided without treating the festival goers like a herd of wild animals.

I was about to dip my way closer towards the main stage at the beginning of DVBBS.  There was a ridiculous amount of space for me to be able to maneuver through the crowds towards the front.  The sound was better as I got closer but it didn’t do DVBBS any justice.  The duo performed outstandingly, control the crowd with such ease, singing in the mic with the mic, timed chants, DVBBS was born to play at large venues.  Playing big banger songs like Pyramid and even dropping some Flosstradamus tracks to ensue multiple moshpits of course. What festival would be a festival without at least one moshpit?  The dynamic duo always gets mad love from the Texas crowd.  At this current point, I have completely forgotten about the back half of the stadium where the gates blocked off most of the attendees.  I danced my way up to the front, on top of a friend’s shoulders to proudly wave my Texas flag in the air, and bounced my air towards the open space towards the back of the blocked off section.  There was still enough room for at least 300 more people on both sides.  The crowd behind the gates did not looked pleased.

I decided to venture out towards the back to see what the view was like.  What I found was very displeasing.  With the sound control tent erected in the very middle of the entire field, the main stage was hidden from view.  The sound barely reached the back of the stadium.  It was a mere echo in the air.  I made my way back up the bleachers to switch back over to the Plaza stage but despite being closer to the main stage and being able to see the stage, the sound was still very poor from the stands.  It is disheartening to say but Something Wonderful had poor sound production.  It was painfully obvious.

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Trap music greeted my ears and filled my soul up with joy, causing my feet to take off and jump down the stone steps of the Cotton Bowl to the plaza below.  The crowd out at the Plaza was large but in comparison to the Main stage, it was only about 300 people.  Brillz went on a little after 7pm but his set didn’t last very long.  The temperature dropped quickly as dark, ominous clouds rolled in.  Lightning was spotted from a distance.  The Something Wonderful crew immediately stopped Tchami and Brillz and requested every single festival goer to evacuate the area and go inside the Cotton Bowl as a safety precaution.  All attendees slowly made their way into the Cotton Bowl.  It was mayhem and a real vibe killer. One minute it was beautiful and sunny, the next it is raining cats and dogs.  The temperature dropped to a cold low 60s, high 50s.  It didn’t look like the weather would get any better any time soon.  Some people decided to wait out the rain, others left.  Some people were still on the bleachers so security threaten to charge and arrest attendees for “trespassing on private property”.  However, those threats fell to death ears to a couple of fun loving guys.  Two guys dressed in banana suits saw the plastic mat not as a floor but as a slip and slide playground.  There is a video of the two guys sliding from one end to the other with security running after them.  The crowd of bystanders were cheering.  Why not have some fun in the rain?  A giant slip and slide doesn’t happen very often.  It was enlightening to see the positivity despite the rain possibly canceling the entire festival.  People were making the most out of it.  Downstairs in the hallway in front of the bathrooms, people were drumming on the walls and singing to well known EDM tracks.  The voices echoed with joy. People were just randomly roaming around and ended up meeting up with old friends.  Of course it was a huge disappointment to have the music festival canceled due to weather but festival goers made the most of it.  That’s why I love EDM, because of the people.

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Overall, Something Wonderful was not so wonderful at all (pun #4, last one I swear) but I have hopes for redemption next year.  Disco Donnie, Night Culture, and Full Access are veterans in festivals.  There should not have been any bad sound production even within the City of Dallas sound regulations and limitations.  It was disorganized between the festival and the venue with the capacity and crowd control.  The weather is something out of our control and as stated on the official event website, Something Wonderful would allow either a 50% refund or a free 2-day GA ticket for Something Wicked.  If you ask me, that’s a really good deal.  The first time is always the hardest time, and Something Wonderful had hiccups for its first time but I have high hopes for them.  Learn from the mistakes and grow from it.  Something Wonderful 2016 will be better, I’m sure of it!

 

 

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