News flash: when 30,000 people gather in the same place, shit happens. Festival promoters know this well, so when CRSSD, a spin-off of FNGRS CRSSD (a sister brand of LED Events) and Goldenvoice planned its first ever festival last month, it budgeted for some potential damages to the festival grounds, San Diego's Waterfront Park. They even paid a deposit for those potential damages. Reading headlines in San Diego local media, however, you might think that CRSSD wasn't a festival but an act of vandalism.
NBC 7 San Diego reported on Tuesday that the festival incurred damages of $64,000. San Diego's daily newspaper, the Union-Tribune, picked up the story and raised the estimate to $65,000. Then the music blogs followed, with Stoney Roads and YourEDM adding their take on news. A post on Resident Advisor's newsfeed prompted threads of chiding comments. In short, it's a whisper campaign that rave-hating politicians could only dream about.
The fact is, damages from CRSSD were not only expected but also negligible compared to those incurred by festivals in other cities. For example, Lollapalooza, in Chicago's Grant Park, cost a whopping $266,000 last year, down from $350,000 the year before. Both were a drop in the bucket compared to the one million dollars in repairs it cost in 2011.
Also in 2014, New York City's Randall's Island Park was destroyed so severely during Governor's Ball in July, it had to close for repairs, estimated at around $300,000, prompting the cancellation of Backyard Festival weeks later. Most of those repairs were the result of rainstorms and consequently the conversion of grassy fields into mud pits. In that context, that day three of Electric Zoo was called off during the rain later that summer is no surprise.
While those issues were resolved, city governments all over North America are continually under pressure to stop any kind of potentially damaging events when things are perceived to have gone wrong or have cost taxpayers money. This means that festivals and dance music events can have a difficult time getting permits or will get kicked out of a given city entirely. In the last few years, this has been a problem in Miami, Toronto, and San Diego's neighbor to the north, Los Angeles. When local media outlets pick up stories about how destructive festivals are, politicians find themselves under pressure to respond or use it as an opportunity to push a pre-existing anti-rave agenda, even when nothing bad has happened at all.
Despite headlines to the contrary, the government of San Diego County, which manages Waterfront Park, has had only praise for CRSSD. The county communications director, Mike Workman, was quoted in the Union-Tribune as saying that festival promoters were responsive to the repair request and that "we expected damage. Mostly it was cosmetic."
Some of those cosmetic damages included "food and drink stains" and "depressed turf and granite surfaces." Hardly a house on fire, but you wouldn't know it from NBC 7's and the Union-Tribune's alarmist headlines as well as those on the music blogs who picked it up, all intent on pushing the music-festival-as-blight-on-society narrative.
It might be a great story; too bad it isn't true.
Zel McCarthy is the editor-in-chief of THUMP. He is on Twitter.