Over the weekend of August 9th - 11th, a music festival was hosted in North Carolina called "Gnarnia the Festival." I myself did not attend, for I was busy playing at a far superior festival up in Maine, guest jamming on a friends set. So this article is merely an unorganized, hasty regurgitation of all the ranting and raving I've been seeing on the official Facebook for the event. (As well as the anti-Facebook page for the event, linked here.)
"Gnarnia the Festival" is being nicknamed "Gnarknia the Bustival."
This isn't exactly a new allegation leveled at a music festival. I'm sure all of the established festivals...from All Good, to Bonnaroo, to Ultra....have been accused, at some point in their existence, of selling out their audience. Oftentimes, people who get busted at a festival use their own experience as an indication of how the festival went for the rest of the 10,000 people in attendance. It's a personal vendetta, and it's safe to assume that these claims might be a bit off-base and exaggerated. It's like finding a pube in your McDouble and blaming McDonalds when it's actually just the dirty Mexican throwing your processed chemical burger into the microwaves fault.
Hell, I remember when Phish started touring again in 2009, and having absolutely nothing better to do, (there was no recently painted surfaces to watch dry) I caved in and followed them for a few shows with some friends. I remember dozens of people getting arrested at the Jones Beach shows. There were rumors circulating that Phish sold their own fans out, and the common line was that they were working with local law enforcement to get themselves out of trouble after getting busted with drugs themselves. (Or maybe this was Mike Gordon trying to get out of pedophile charges for taking nude photos of little girls....who knows!) Either way, the same exact claim (minus the pedophilia) is being leveled at the Gnarnia promoters.
Whenever an absurdly high number of people are busted at a festival, that is one of the first things you are sure to hear: the promoters were busted with drugs, and instead of serving time used their festival as leverage to avoid getting charged. However, being uninvolved in this cluster-fuck of a weekend, I can see valid points on the other side of the argument as well.
Sketchily enough, this was a FIRST YEAR festival that had a very high level of promotion. Kind of off-putting when a first-year festival quickly climbs to 20,000 fans on Facebook. That means they definitely had a lot of support from other production companies and festivals. In other words, they seemed to "earn their stripes" in the scene pretty fuckin' fast, which is off-putting and sketchy. Sounds intensely similar to another first-year music festival, if you recall, from 2010....a little festival called Nateva.
Remember Nateva? I don't. Because it was yet another festival I couldn't attend, luckily having obligations of performing at a more modest festival the same weekend. I remember hearing mixed reviews, but one recurrent thread of interest was the high amount of busts and the excessive amounts of law enforcement at Nateva. And look what happened to them:
Seems strange that after countless reports of Nateva being heavy with law enforcement...cops everywhere, people getting busted left and right....that they'd cancel the second installment under sketchy circumstances, and then drop completely off the radar. Nateva had so much hype, it was such a big deal. I remember how hyped up it was, and how it quickly climbed the ranks, how quickly it too "earned its stripes," just like Gnarnia seemingly did. Nateva had a ton of big names, too. Then...it just disappeared.
Perhaps higher ups in the scene are intentionally throwing 'bustivals' and "culling the herd?" Or maybe covering their own tracks? Look, even the quintessential "We want justice!" post necessitated by the promoters after throwing such an event has a slightly creepy, slightly data-mining vibe to it.
I can even see the creepy Lion from the old school BBC version of Chronicles of Narnia, that spoke in yawns, reading this to all the offended festival goers. Have you ever seen that shit? Seriously, the lion would take a huge yawn and speak a full sentence in a creepy, Mike Gordony pedophile-esque voice.
Gnarnia, from my uneducated standpoint, seemed to share a lot of "themes" with Nateva. In other words, Nateva was to the jam community as Gnarnia turned out for the EDM community. They give off a very similar vibe. And again, this is just going from the vibe I got from them before they happened, how quickly they rose and how heavily they were promoted, as well as all the negative reviews I stumbled upon for both festivals after they happened.
Worst case scenario: both Nateva and Gnarnia were giant sting operations, designed (by promoters working in affiliation with letter agencies and law enforcement) to draw the largest possible crowd using established, big name acts and excessively hyped promotion, only to exploit the crowd, busting as many people as possible, perhaps to cover the tracks of drug-toting promoters because, shit...how else could these promoters afford to throw such extravagant events without a bit of drug-dealing going into it? Gnome sayin'? (And then disappearing into the sunset, never to throw a second installment, according to Nateva. It will be interesting to see if Gnarnia follows suit.)
Remember, this is all just my conspiracy theorist view-point on the situation. I wasn't at either festival, nor do I know the inner workings that went into their plannings, nor do I personally know the promoters. So realize I'm not accusing them of anything, just sharing the most fanatically over-the-top view possible. (In other words, if you promoters are reading this....no need to no longer entertain the thought of booking me to play the next festival you throw. I'll still play! I'd still enjoy melting faces and getting paid for it at your next sting operation.)
After all is said and done....and theangeldust has settled....and the rubble has been swept away....who is to blame, really? The laws being broken to necessitate these busts are obviously corrupt in the first place. If anything, music festival goers should be given free-reign to do whatever the fuck they want on festival grounds...within reason. Whatever the fuck they want to themselves is actually a more accurate statement. Music Festivals are essentially an epic, pimped out camping trip combined with a party on private property. Anything goes is the name of the game, again....within reason. It's perfect, if you think about it....
Easily accessible psychoactive substances mixed with a number of high-energy music performances, used in synchronicity in a semi-controlled environment complete with medical staff present, as well as other experienced drug users, a full community of diverse people both sober and high, all looking out for each other, who can babysit each other and keep each other safe for a weekend of debauchery before they return to the real world to slave away at some boring job. They aren't bugging the general public, they are in their own little zone doing their own thing...why fuck with it? Sure, there are scumbags, but most people there are there to have fun and catch a ton of great music in a short period of time.
Music festivals are like a giant, no-holds-barred, group therapy session.
Why fuck with these people at the festivals at all? They're not selling crack to kids on the street, they're ripping those hubbas in a tent than dancing for 4 hours to repetitive dubstep DJs. They're not taking 10 strips and going to the movies, geeking out laughing the entire film at inappropriate scenes, bugging out the rest of the audience in the theater. They're dropping 10 strips in the woods with a bunch of other spunions and then watching Les Claypool drop some bass-bombs.
You can't let them have just a few weekends out of the year to cut loose? Why not give the festival goers their little vacation, and then maybe you can expect, in return, more respect and acceptance of the law when they return to "reality?" Drug use isn't recreational when you begin to understand their effects on your mind and body. They become a tool of introspection to better oneself with. Let them introspectively better themselves, law enforcement brahs.
They're just looking for a place to go...same as us.