After its first year, which was full of both trip-ups and great successes, I hoped that Red Sky Music Festival would find its footing.
Festivals tend not to be amazing in their first year. Coachella, for example, lost so much money that it took a year off between its first and second events. Kanrocksas, a big festival that debuted last year, isn’t on the calendar this year either. Organizers are planning a 2013 show near Kansas City.
With its 2011 debut, Red Sky had some great moments: big bookings, well-attended shows, some great bands. It also had quite a few screw-ups: one missing headliner, Monday to Friday schedule, poorly attended sets, sound problems, some lackluster names.
This year has some popular artists (Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Def Leppard), but the scheduling is screwy (one day off in the middle), the festival is half the size it was last year (three days compared to six) and some of the daytime bands are head-scratchers (Logan Mize, for example, is probably talented, but is he a draw? No.).
I thought with one festival under their belts and a year to plan, Red Sky organizers would fix some of the nagging issues and make improvements, but this year’s Red Sky has some gaping holes.
Is it easy to book a festival? It sure isn’t. Though many think it’s like naming a grocery list of bands and asking them to come, it’s not even close to that simple. Dates, routing, money, sponsorships and all kinds of things dictate who can or cannot play.
Still, that shouldn’t be an excuse for putting on a poor event.
So what could they do to improve? (Some of these may be obvious and organizers may have tried, but we aren’t seeing those efforts in this year’s festival.)
Diversify the lineup. I thought 2011’s lineup had huge diversity. Country and rock were well-represented. (Hip-hop wasn’t, but it was about the only corner of the musical world that didn’t make an appearance). Having a bit of everything gives your ticket-buying audience more and more reasons to pay you.
Pick a set of dates and stick to it. Maybe two or three days is the way to start. Six days last year seemed overly ambitious and this year’s festival was shortened from six to four to three. Two or three days is easier to fill and probably less costly.
Make it a series. This would turn the idea on its ear, but who says you have to have a festival? Why not turn it into the Red Sky Music Series and book bands outdoors from after the College World Series through September. Stir Cove and the Pinewood Bowl sure do a good job. This would be a similar concept, but with bigger acts. (One thought: It’s possible that it’s cost-prohibitive to rent a stage and a covering for the ballfield and then set it up every time you have a concert.)
On a related note, those calling for Red Sky organizers to give up, cancel the festival and the like should cool out and quiet down. Folks, you don’t have to go. If you want an indie rock fest so bad, buy tickets to Maha Music Festival.
Besides, Red Sky’s stated focus is more akin to Summerfest than Lollapalooza. This is what gets me the most: Red Sky doesn’t want to be (and I doubt they ever will want to be) Coachella or any indie-styled rock fest. I don’t know what you people were expecting.
Does it really hurt Omaha’s musical reputation? I’ve heard many people say that and it’s a ridiculous statement. Sorry, but a festival featuring established and popular country and rock acts doesn’t hurt the reputation or destroy the history of Maha, Saddle Creek, 311, Bright Eyes, Buddy Miles or anyone else from Omaha.