De La Soul at the Hi-Ro Music Festival - more photos... photo by Jaime Butler - staff photographer
What if you threw a music festival and no one but the bands and crew showed up?.
Incredibly this has now happened not once but twice in Central Texas just in the last 6 months. First there was the inauspiciously named World Music Festival outside of San Marcos, that drew 100+ bands from around the world, but not much else. This 3 day event collapsed before reaching the second of it's 3 days, victim of no headliners, no publicity, and in the end no audience. The repercussions of that show will reverberate through the halls of the Hays county courthouse for months to come.
Then there was the 1 day Hi-Ro Music Festival held at the Austin Music Hall that drew more bartenders and security staff than fans.
Headlined by the group De La Soul, you would have thought that a festival with 15 or so acts of varying genres would have drawn better. It was a sad site when the headliners finally made it to the stage to find an audience of only 75 people by the bands own on-stage estimation. I don't know if it was a marketing issue, an issue of too many genres on one stage, the high ticket cost or just the economic blahs but it seemed that nothing was going to pull the show out of the red.
The one huge up-side was that the opening acts, many of them good local bands, finally got the opportunity to play a big time well lit stage. There must have been 10 to 15 photographers in the pit at any one time taking advantage of the situation. A lot of band photos were taken that day and the bands played the cameras like the house was full. Club kingsnake staff photographers Jeff Barringer and Jaime Butler were both at the show and came back with some great pics.
Most of the bands played like they were working a full house and for the few concertgoers that attended, mostly performers, friends, and family members, the show was great, feeling more like a dress rehearsal than the actual show.
This festival, like the WMF, was an anomalous blip and not a sign of the times for the forthcoming concert season. Other gigs around town are drawing at normal to close to normal rates. I guess the real tests in the end will be SXSW and then ACL Fest.