No festival this year has drawn the kind of attention that the newly announced "pop up" festival Starfest has.
Scheduled to take place Sept. 8 and 9 at Plano's Oak Point Park, the short life of Starfest has been tumultuous. [Update Aug. 28 at 8:50 a.m.: According to a press release sent Aug. 28 from Starfest, the original date of Sept. 8-9 has officially been changed, though no new dates have been made available. A venue has not been named, either, though the release states the new venue is "only 20 miles away from postponed Plano event."]
Already, Starfest has made a name for being confusing and confused. And the fest hasn't even taken place yet.
Organizer David Taylor has attempted to justify Starfest's unorthodox model -- of launching a festival in a mere five weeks -- while he and his team have been slow in announcing the artists that make up the advertised 60-band, two-day, two-stage bill.
In its attempt to be unique, Starfest has, so far, accomplished little more than to be annoying. First, the company announced that rapper Lil Wayne would perform. In the days following that news, according to the fest's own website, we were to learn the names of other performing artists on a daily basis -- bigger artists in many genres, we were told. (That was good news, because while Lil Wayne is an iconic name in the rap world, he's far from a legitimate headliner for a festival that has already begun to bill itself as a North Texas rival to the behemoth Austin City Limits festival.) But several days came and went without further announcements. The event website even changed the language to avoid suggesting lineup announcements would be made daily.
When new additions were announced later last week, they arrived with a gigantic thud. At one time, it appeared that hip-hop star Flo Rida, pop-country artist Hunter Hayes and EDM DJ Carnage would join Lil Wayne in Plano. But then, quickly, Hayes and Carnage were removed from the website and British DJ Artful was added.
Late Monday night, Starfest announced local husband-wife electronic duo French 75 and Nashville-based country songwriter Bridgette Tatum, two acts likely to perform on the festival's smaller second stage, will join Lil Wayne, Flo Rida and Artful as the only confirmed acts.
Are these the biggest names the festival will offer? We hope not.
Taylor told us Monday afternoon that the biggest headlining names have yet to be announced. That much is a relief.
If you want to save a few bucks, catch Flo Rida when he performs at the State Fair -- for free -- three weeks later on Sept. 30.
If the oddball nature of this fest were merely limited to its clumsy handling thus far, this pop-up event from an unknown group of organizers with no large-festival experience would be easier to take. But the cheeseball lingo Taylor has employed over the course of multiple interviews is tone-deaf at best. When interviewed on camera by NBC 5 last week, Taylor sheepishly offered "Just know, they're fantastic," when asked about the artists on the surprise lineup. Its own website claims the fest is "nearly impossible" and will be one that's "history making" and "mesmerizing."
"People get frustrated by what they don't understand. That's not a Dallas thing, it's human nature thing," Taylor explains when asked if he regrets adopting the pop-up model and gradually announcing the lineup instead of a more traditional model. (He doesn't.) He does admit that handling things this way is "kind of a social experiment," and in a semi-concession, he admits the festival plans to announce more artists in advance than they originally planned.
In this post-Fyre Fest climate, such language might be mildly amusing if he and his team weren't asking for silly amounts of money.
In an unusual move, patrons can buy four levels of general admission tickets, with prices staggered according to how close to the main stage you want to be.
Aside from the fact that this model takes the "general" out of GA, the prices are out of line for an unproven fest with no announced lineup.
At $225 for a "100 Section - One Day" pass, Starfest is asking customers to pony up a few dollars less than a three-day pass for this year's ACL Fest, which features a lineup including proven A-list headliners Jay-Z, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Killers and more. That same one-day pass to Starfest is more expensive than a three-day pass to this year's Sound on Sound Fest outside of Austin, featuring arguably the year's coolest lineup, with adored New York band Yeah Yeah Yeah's first live show in many years and punk icon Iggy Pop's long-awaited return to Texas.
For a local comparison, that single-day Starfest pass is more than twice the cost of a two-day pass for the inaugural Fortress Fest in Fort Worth.
Fortress was organized by a group without massive music fest experience, but unlike Starfest, Fortress had booking help from well-regarded Margin Walker Presents, the group that puts on the Sound on Sound Fest. Also, with a two-stage, two-day lineup, Fortress had 20 artists as opposed to the 60 that Starfest has promised, but most Fortress customers knew they were going to see a buzzy group of acts including Run the Jewels, Purity Ring, Flying Lotus and Slowdive when they forked over their cash for a first-time fest.
Also, as has been pointed out by local music industry insiders, the schedule for a two-day, two-stage fest featuring 60 acts is seemingly improbable: It would require painfully short performance sets and even faster stage changes. Starfest also promises three pop-up restaurants with different cuisines. Anyone who has waited in a long line for a Sweet and Lowdown from the Easy Slider truck at any local festival can't believe sit-down restaurants in the middle of 20,000 people are going to work.
And that name. Starfest is a numbingly generic name that evokes a sixth grade field trip to the local planetarium. The inactivity of the festival's social media channels doesn't inspire a shred of confidence, which it sorely needs from the ticket-buying public.
To paraphrase a staffer of the infamous Fyre Fest, which was billed as a luxury experience in the Bahamas but never materialized, the folks behind Starfest could, indeed, pull this off and "become legends." If you're an optimistic sort who has already purchased one of the $1,250 Galaxy VIP passes (named for prices that are out of this world, perhaps), then you're certainly banking on a premium experience. That could happen if the organizers are acting in good faith.
Look, I'm not rooting for Starfest to fail. I've long hoped for a true ACL-size festival alternative in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I don't see this as anything close to the fraudulent fiasco that was Fyre Fest, either. I'm typically quick to applaud someone rattling the cages.
On the first night of the festival, Sept. 8, an unaffiliated group has organized an event via Facebook to sit at East Side bar in Denton and watch the potential ludicrousness unfold. I truly hope there's nothing for those cynical observers to snicker at. But Starfest organizers have almost asked for this type of scrutiny by mixing the unique with the unbelievable.
For now, we're being asked to believe something big is going to happen. Maybe. But if Starfest is to become legendary, it might become so for all the wrong reasons.