The Great GoogaMooga: Food, Drink, Music, Lines, Hall & Oates (Promoters Issue Statement Too)
This past weekend, Brooklyn, NY’s Prospect Park played host to The Great GoogaMooga, the latest contender in the long-running attempt to stage a successful festival event in New York City. Had it only consisted of the Saturday, it likely would have been added to the graveyard of past NYC festival events. However, Sunday’s festivities suggested that not only were organizers Superfly Presents eager to please, but also that Superfly might have finally broken the local festival curse.
Unlike other major summer festivals, GoogaMooga took advantage of NYC’s well-developed gourmet food scene (Brooklyn Brewery presented a special GoogaMooga brew), and billed itself primarily as a food-and-drink festival featuring a carefully selected lineup of music. Vendors included such culinary luminaries as Tom Colicchio, April Bloomfield, Marcus Samuelsson, and even an entire strip of vendors curated by Anthony Bourdain. Many of the better known gourmets also held panels and demonstrations in various locations around the festival. Laid out in a similar manner the borough’s annual Celebrate Brooklyn summer concert series, albeit in a different area of the expansive park, the mainstage was flanked on either side by long rows of savory food vendors, with an additional stage at the opposite end of the field, similarly surrounded by food (more specifically coffee, desserts, and pork). As with other Superfly events, Russ Bennett, whose work is familiar attendees of Phish’s past festivals, designed a number of art installations throughout the grounds, notably the UrBarn for food demonstrations, and Hamageddon, a giant metal pig-shaped rotisserie, complete with a whole pig roasting inside. Positioned between the two stages were 2 large alcoholic beverage tents, one each for beer and wine. An ExtraMooga section was also set up for exclusive panel discussions and music performances, and featured such unique attractions as a live monkey entertaining guests at the Monkey Bar.
The keyword for the first day of the event was “waiting.” In fact, the event began with a half-hour delay in opening the gates due to technical difficulties inside, giving the festival an actual start time of 11:30 am, instead of the intended 11. Once festival-goers were able to enter the grounds, it was a short time before the wait to get in transposed itself to the wait to get anything. By early afternoon, lines at many of the vendors were over an hour long, not to mention similar or greater waits for beverages, assuming that the stand one was waiting in line for still had provisions for sale. A noticeable contingent of individual vendors as well as the $250/day ExtraMooga section had completely run out of food by 3pm, making an already-cranky crowd extra-irritable (to the point that a documented fist fight broke out at Blue Ribbon’s Fried Chicken event). One of the few things that served to alleviate tension in the crowd was the well-curated lineup of bands performing throughout the day. Two stages provided audio entertainment throughout the event, with a mix of traditional music (Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens, Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and more modern fare (Holy Ghost, Saturday headliners The Roots) engaging the audience and distracting them from the extensive difficulties plaguing the food-and-drink side of things. The sound mix was on point, and the physical location of the stages made it easy to enjoy the sounds of music while standing in whichever line one felt like braving. The Roots set in particular marked a turning point in the day, with most of the frustrations of the event being washed away by the hip-hop band’s high energy set, including a guest spot by comedian and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon hype-man Seth Herzog contributing MC and dance “skills” as well as a contingent of Roots offspring dancing onstage.
Fortunately, the difficulties of day one did not carry over to the second and final day of the festival. Day two did away with much of the bureaucratic system for purchasing beverages, allowing festival attendees to purchase drinks directly from the vendors instead of having to obtain MoogaMoola first, and the food vendors seemed better stocked than on the previous day (though by the start of Sunday headliners Hall & Oates’ set, many had again sold out of food). Though official attendance numbers have yet to be released, it also appeared that less people attended on the second day (whether by intentional design or having been scared off by reports from the first day), resulting in completely reasonable wait times for whatever food was still available. The day kicked off with a New Orleans-style brunch performance by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band replete with servings of Jazz Fest staple crawfish monica. The rest of the music selection was also a little more relaxing, featuring the slick and polished sounds of such acts as Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaires (who turned in a soulful cover of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold” during their set), Fitz & The Tantrums, and Sunday headliners Hall & Oates who delivered an especially tight and crowd-pleasing set. Appropriate to the festival setting, Hall & Oates closed their set (prior to two encores) with an extended (10+ minute) jam on the classic “I Can’t Go For That.”
While there are still plenty of valid complaints regarding the execution of the event, particularly in regards to Saturday, the adjustments made between the two days and the overall enjoyable atmosphere of the second day suggest that Superfly’s intention to stage the festival again next year may finally break the city’s festival curse.
GoogaMooga’s promoters have issued the following statement:
A huge thank you to everyone who helped make the inaugural Great GoogaMooga so special: all of the food & drink vendors, our excellent staff & volunteers, the amazing musicians & chefs, the park & mother nature for the unparalleled weather and most importantly, all of you fans!
And to those who had a frustrating experience on Saturday – we are sorry. We truly regret the first year glitches and really appreciate your patience as we worked to smooth them out. As with all our festivals, creating and providing an enjoyable experience for everyone is the driving force behind all that we do, and a responsibility we take very seriously. We couldn’t have done it without you and hope to see you all next year!