Sunday, October 20, 2013

Concert Review: Festival Supreme

Jack Black and Kyle Gass planned Festival Supreme to be a "Coachella of Comedy" and if you gauge the comparison based on number of hipsters in ironic tshirts, overcrowding, and long lines, they succeeded. The Santa Monica Pier doesn't really work as well as a setting as the polo field in Indio does.  There was a lot of crowding and too much standing required, but overall, I'd say, as at Coachella, the lineup was worth the suffering. It was a quite a collection of titans of comedy.

I arrived around 2:15pm and saw the queue was snaking up the pier and around the block that houses The Lobster restaurant. The festival was starting at 2:30pm. There were no staff or volunteers managing the queue, so I inadvertently jumped part of the line and avoided having to wrap around The Lobster. There had seemed to be 2 separate lines, and I thought both were leading to a merge.  This meant I got into the venue in 30 minutes, whereas some others waited about an hour and missed the opening acts.  I heard some people say they had circled The Lobster twice because the queue process was so disorganized. Nobody was laughing at this point.

Once inside, I caught some of Garfunkel and Oates set on Omega Stage - the biggest of the 3 stages. The sound kept cutting in and out on them. They kept a good attitude and sang one song off-mike to those in front. Jack Black came on stage to help out and the sound came back. They were given a few extra minutes to finish. I hadn't seen them before and got a big kick out of their catchy tunes like "The Loophole" and "The College Try."  After their set, I went over to Club Intimacy to watch The Abe Lincoln Story.  Their set was fun but not too memorable. I was excited to see them because they feature The Millionaire from Combustible Edison on guitar, but they don't have that same loungey, quirky vibe.  My favorite song they did was "Get High and Go to Work."  

Next, I went to The Mighty Tent for Eric Idle.  The tent was packed for Eric's set and the food vendor row was very close to the margin of this tent, so it caused a bit of a cluster with the food vendor and bar lines merging into the tent crowd.  Jack Black came out to introduce Eric, but Billy Idol came out instead! The crowd went wild, as Billy broke into the Lumberjack song.  Some silly banter ensued between Eric and Billy about which Idol or Idle was actually supposed to perform, and Billy eventually ceded the stage to Eric and his bandmate Jeff Davis.  They ran through an entertaining set that included many classics like "The Penis Song" and "Drunken Philosophers." They also brought Billy back onstage to join in for "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". 

I went over to Omega Stage for Fred Armisen. He was performing as Ian Rubbish, wearing a Rod Stewart-ish wig and acting like a British punk rocker, fronting a band that included Leigh Gorman from Bow Wow Wow on bass, Steve Jones of Sex Pistols on guitar, and Clem Burke from Blondie on drums.  Unfortunately, the music wasn't as cool as the lineup.  It felt sort of like failed performance art. 

At this point, my feet were hurting from standing for 3 hours.  There were a few picnic tables that were full, and no other seating options other than the hard pier - unless you had VIP tickets which granted access to Rusty's Surf Ranch.  I went over to Bubba Gump's to sit at the bar, have a drink and catch some of the USC vs ND game.  I then headed back into the festival, intent on seeing Patton Oswalt in Club Intimacy. There was a human traffic jam in the narrow passageway that went alongside The Mighty Tent and led to Club Intimacy. Inexplicably, there was a large booth for LA Weekly in the middle of the narrow passageway, and this was also the only way to get to the bathrooms (if you didn't have access to the VIP bathrooms).  People were using the narrow gap between the LA Weekly booth and the wall to try to get through, squeezing as if in a cave. It was like a soccer riot in the making. Eventually I got to the front of the passageway, only to be told that Club Intimacy was full. I was bummed I couldn't see Patton, plus I then had to push my way back through the crowd. There were no staff at the start of the jam to let people know they wouldn't be able to get into the tent.  I watched Princess on Omega Stage - Maya Rudolph's Prince tribute band.  Like Fred's act, these musical acts were funny for a song but not for an entire 20-30 minute set.  I did enjoy their version of "Darling Nikki" complete with backward vocals. 

I decided to try my luck at getting into Club Intimacy and endured the tunnel of crush again. Again, the staff said the tent was full, but this time I ignored them and waited. Once we were allowed past the walkway entrance, the tent wasn't full at all. I wondered if that had been the case during Patton's set too.  I watched Hannibal Burress who was pretty funny. After all the musical acts, it was a treat to see some good old fashioned stand up.  Then Tig Notaro came out and she killed it.  I love her deadpan style.  I have been a fan since I heard her Taylor Dayne story on This American Life. I headed back to try to watch some of Zach Galifanakis only to hear him wrap up at 7:10pm. He was supposed to start at 7:00pm so, unless he started early, he only did 10 minutes. This was a disappointment to the packed crowd in The Mighty Tent.  

My feet were again killing me, and I wanted to watch the end of the football game, so I went back over to Bubba Gump's, only to discover they had removed the bar stools, probably because it was so crowded. I walked all the way to the end of the pier to Marisol but they didn't have the game on in the bar, only for table service.  Dejectedly, I went back to Bubba's and propped myself up on the bar to watch the last few minutes of the ND victory.  I then successfully pushed my way back to Club Intimacy for Sarah Silverman, who did a very funny 20 minutes of stand-up.  I'm told I missed a very funny set by Triumph, with cameos from Conan O'Brien, Sarah Silverman, and more.  I also missed Adam Sandler.  I saw a little bit of Mr. Show Experience - the funniest part was Brian Posehn and Scott Ian of Anthrax as fake metal band Titannica. 

Now almost 7 hours into the event, I got a burger and a beer and tried to ignore my exhaustion to get fired up for Tenacious D. They did not disappoint with a set that featured a giant squid and a giant Metal god.  They also brought out Andy Samberg's band Lonely Island for a great medley of tunes such as "Diaper Money" and "I'm on a Boat."  The D did songs off their most recent album such as "Roadie" and "Death Starr." They also did classics like "The Metal" and "Tribute."  I left toward the end of their set to avoid being in another crush that I was sure would ensue at the end.

Event planning is hard - I know, because I do it for work, although not on this grand scale.  I think if they do this again, they either need a larger venue or to sell less tickets. They need more staff and volunteers to manage the crowd and the entrance queue.  I also think there should be at least one stage with seating.  It feels kind of unnatural to watch stand-up while standing, and standing for so long wears on you if you're not dancing. Some of the layout problems such as the narrow path to bathrooms and Club Intimacy and the proximity of the food vendor lines to the tent crowds can be rectified if they have more space. LA State Historic Park downtown would be a good option.  I think this was a very cool festival with an amazing comedy lineup, so I hope they do bring it back.  Thanks for the laughs, Kyle and Jack! 

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