There are better ways to tell, but one indicator of whether your music festival is meeting expectations is the "Chi'lantro Test."
It's not a real thing -- I dreamed it up -- but it seems reliable enough. If the Chi'lantro Korean BBQ truck is parked at your festival and there's not a line in front of it, attendance might be subpar.
This was one of the troubling signs for Houston Whatever Fest, the latest addition to the city's always-growing music festival slate. This one featured an amalgam of national acts, some very talented comedians and a robust lineup of locals. Everything was located on five stages within walking distance on St. Emanuel.
Maybe everyone simultaneously opted not to indulge in kimchi fries this weekend? Let's hope that's the case, because this festival has a lot going for it and needs to return in 2015.
For one, the layout was pretty fantastic. Three outdoor stages were perfect, because that meant there were two indoors. As in indoors, safe from summertime pop-up thundershowers, a.k.a. the place where luxurious, polar vortex cold blows nonstop from air conditioning. Also, with everything so compact, I never felt as if I was running a marathon on Allen Parkway just to get from one act to the next.
Speaking of Free Press Summer Fest, it no longer really affords local bands what Whatever Fest can, which is a chance for scores of them to play alongside big, heralded acts. As the festival grows, fans will come. And when they come to hear their favorite, known acts, maybe they'll wander in and discover a Fox & Cats or a Featherface or something else spectacular from their own hometown. It's nice to see HWF fill a niche FPSF has simply outgrown.
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Also, booking a comedy stage was genius. For the most part, Houston crowds showed terrific etiquette. We did so well, headliner Bobcat Goldthwait complimented us on making outdoor comedy in the hellish heat work, against all odds. And we appreciated it. The locals, like John Nguyen, Sam Demaris and Bob Biggerstaff, drews laughs and crowds. Mojeaux's parking lot -- or, as Iliza Shlesinger termed it, "this barbecue courtyard" -- was teeming with people for her set, Jonah Ray's and Goldthwait's.
There are so many excellent acts to book for a stage like this, the possibilities are thrilling. Who might come next year? Chris Hardwick? The women of Broad City? Ron Funches? How about Kumail Nanjiani actually making the trip next year?
Having everything packed into a couple of city blocks made the event feel intimate. The celebrity guests were right out in the crowd with the rest of us, watching acts they enjoyed. Many were particularly gathered for the Dem Damn Dames burlesque show -- and why not?
When else might they get a chance to gaze at an award-winning burlesque group baring it all on a downtown city street in the daylight of a summer Sunday afternoon? When else might you? That's the sort of let's-do-it-and-see-what-happens fun we should want from a festival event.
There's already some indication the festival will return next year, so attendance may not be the lone criteria for HWF's inaugural success. Maybe that's because of the huge corporate sponsorship the event enjoyed. Budweiser banners hung everywhere and Bud Light even got a humble thank-you from Andrew W.K. at the start of his set.
I say if beer money gives an upstart festival like this a chance to stand on its own legs and gallop around EaDo, then bring in the Clydesdales.
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