The San Francisco Blues Festival has for many years had the reputation of not being "fan friendly," however, this year exceeded all expectations of bad treatment.
There are some dedicated people who volunteer their time at this festival and who treat the fans with total respect. The fans and the media are important ingredients of any event of this magnitude and there are regular attendees who endure waiting in long lines for many hours at foggy Fort Mason happy to get reacquainted with those whom we see only once a year at this event.
There is a small media group who wait in a different line on the opposite side of the meadow who also arrive early, anxious to get a premium spot on the grass. Some of them, like me, also buy the two-day "gold circle" ticket ($70 this year). We not only support the festival by publicizing, but also with our money. As a matter of fact, quotes from my column in Jazz Now Interactive have been used on the front of two festival publicity flyers in the past.
At the 2004 festival, on Saturday, the media were subjected to unusually hostile treatment. We were told that we could enter the grounds, as usual, which has always been at the same time as the fans waiting at the front gate--we have never been given preferential treatment in that regard. When we arrived inside, there were only exit gates and no entrance gate at all into the "gold circle." There was mass confusion as to where we were to go. None of the volunteers knew where we were to go either. We were then told that we had been let in too early and that we would not be allowed to enter the "gold circle" unless we went out to the front and got to the end of that line (typically stretched for many blocks). One member of the media group, a woman who has a weekly three-hour blues show on a college radio station and who recently interviewed the producer, Tom Mazzolini, on her show by telephone, was subjected to unusually harsh treatment. When she approached the Logistical Director, Scott Redmond, inquiring as to where we were to enter, she was treated with derision and threatened with arrest. I had gone to one of the exit gates where there were two handicapped persons (who obviously had been let in by someone from the festival staff) also waiting who had no idea of where or when they could enter. The staff workers there were very polite and sympathetic in explaining that they could not let us in that gate. I proceeded to go back to the media desk where the remainder of the media group had been herded. Publicity Director, John Glodow (who has always been wonderful in relating to the media), then made a phone call to Scott Redmond since he did not know what was happening either. He was told that we would have to enter with the people in the front line and he informed us that there was nothing he could do. I chose to leave and return home rather than deal with more humiliating treatment.
There appears to be no communication at the top as to how "logistics" are going to be handled and one person who has always exhibited an antagonistic attitude to the media and fans appears to have total control but does not relate the logistical plan to those with whom he works and who have to implement the plan.
Apparently this confusion also extended to the front lines since it was reported that fans were put into two lines, one for reserved ("gold circle") and one for general admission. They were told several different times as to when they would be allowed to enter the grounds (none of which were actual) and when finally the gates opened, they were put into a "holding area" once again for an extended period before being funneled through one narrow gate.
I departed the festival with the vow to never attend another San Francisco Blues Festival function. My experience with other festivals has always been positive--the promoters and staff are glad to see the media and extend every courtesy. We also participate in these events to have a good time and enjoy good music, not to be demeaned and threatened with arrest without cause. I will not tolerate that kind of treatment and am firm in my position that I will never again attend a San Francisco Blues Festival event.
by Dorothy L. Hill
Jazz Now Interactive
Jazz Now Interactive October 2004 Vol 14 No. 6 - Table of Contents
Copyright Jazz Now, October 2004 issue, all rights reserved
firstname.lastname@example.org Haybert K. Houston, Publisher Editor in Chief, Jazz Now
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