By Corey Deiterman
By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
Mostly, though, Rock the Bayou just felt terribly, terribly empty, done in no doubt by the weather — both the normal stifling September heat and humidity and Hurricane Gustav, then stalking the Gulf. That's what Fazeli chooses to believe, anyway.
"You couldn't go around the Loop or any other major highway without signs flashing 'hurricane, hurricane, hurricane,'" he says.
Overall, Fazeli estimates Rock the Bayou sold between 18,000 and 19,000 tickets (GA and VIP), and drew crowds of around 16,000 on its heaviest days of Saturday and Sunday. The grounds were configured to accommodate around 30,000 people per day, and other estimates by friends of Noise who went were considerably lower.
"The whole concept for this as a first-year festival wasn't to make money," Fazeli says. "I don't think there's ever been a first-year festival that's made money. Lollapalooza lost money its first three years, Coachella lost money its first three years, Bonnaroo lost money the first couple of years they were in business. Every major festival loses its first time around, and I was fully prepared for that."
The other major reason for the light attendance, of course, is that none of Rock the Bayou's artists have near the draw they used to, up to and including headliners like Alice Cooper and Sammy Hagar. Part of that boils down to who was available — Fazeli says more contemporary artists like Papa Roach and Buckcherry had already been through Houston this summer, while other artists who might have drawn a more alternative crowd (The Cult, Billy Idol) either declined his offer or were unavailable.
"We looked at a lot of different bands we were going to put on," he says. "But the idea for the show was to shed light on a lot of these rock bands that started it all."
Fazeli, who has owned and operated Online Tickets for more than 20 years, is determined to do Rock the Bayou again next year, with plans to diversify the booking and get stronger headliners, mentioning acts like KISS and Jack Johnson. Furthermore, despite speculation that the Fazeli Group might work out some sort of arrangement with local music-promotion giants Live Nation and the Messina Group, he's determined to do it on his own.
"This is our project, and we're going to run with it," he says. "They definitely don't make it easy for us, but we made it through it."
If Rock the Bayou is going to succeed without partnering with Live Nation or Messina, Fazeli is going to have to find some other allies. He could get Underground Garage host Little Steven Van Zandt — or better yet, ex-KLOL jock Outlaw Dave — to curate one night.
Another idea would be to recruit local clubs to book the smaller stages — a Continental Club stage, a Fitzgerald's stage, a Dan Electro's stage, etc. — and then rebook the acts that play them for after-parties at those clubs either that night or others during the festival. The artists could certainly use the extra dough.
It probably won't be easy for Fazeli to convince some of the bands he wants next year to risk their relationships with Live Nation or Messina and play Rock the Bayou. But there's one great lesson about the music business: Bands tend to go where the money is. Brilliant, I know, but extremely effective.
Thus, Rock the Bayou's future success depends almost entirely on the size of Fazeli's bank balance, and how much of that he's willing to part with. The online-ticket business, though, is booming, one of the few with its head safely above the current economy's brackish waters. So is live entertainment in Houston, for that matter — the "music scene" here is just as much about who's selling out Toyota Center and The Woodlands as who's not selling out Walter's or Rudyard's.
And Houston already has a big music festival at Fannin and 610. It's called the rodeo. Interestingly enough, Houston Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman wrote last week that rodeo officials are also considering staging their own multi-day music festival at Reliant Park sometime next summer.
Even so, Houston can probably handle another one, if not at AstroWorld, then somewhere else. Fazeli says he's got an agreement with the landowners for next year, but still may wind up moving it. No matter — it's a big city.
Rock the Bayou deserves a second chance. Why not? If it gets one — Fazeli says he's "absolutely" doing it again next year — things are almost guaranteed to run more smoothly, because they always do after the first year. Whoever he winds up booking, the lineup will surely be more diverse; it'll have to be.
But just as much, Joe — who was indeed charged with failure to possess an itinerant vendor's license — deserves to have his "scalping" case tossed out of court. It would be nice if Fazeli kicked in a pair of VIP passes for next year's festival, too.
"The music was really good — I enjoyed all the bands," Joe says. "I was loving it until I got arrested."
Suggested Rock the Bayou 2009 Main Stage Lineup
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