Minitek Festival

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  • There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of things that you need to think about when running a music festival. But while you could write down as many as you could possibly think of beforehand, you would inevitably leave out hundreds, maybe thousands, of important items. As anyone with any experience running a festival will tell you, putting on a large-scale event is a trial-and-error situation that you rarely get right the first time around. Which, of course, means you're liable to fail in large-scale ways. And for three of its four events this past weekend, Minitek did just that. There is more than enough blame to go around. The RFID bracelets helped the festival's opening Friday night event get off to a literal slow start. What should have been breezy lines into the Penn Plaza Pavilion slowed to a crawl and then simply stopped altogether because of an ambitious cashless system that should have been tested far longer than it apparently had been. Anyone lucky enough to have been interested in seeing an act before midnight probably got in. Everyone else that showed up, however, was met with long lines and scant information—an unfortunate hallmark of Minitek throughout the weekend. Photo credit: David Ferino A line containing hundreds of increasingly angry festival goers was finally told by the assembled police outside that the party was over at 2:30 AM. It wasn't, of course. But for those without a friend—or willing to stay in the area—probably never found out that the party moved to Rebel at 4 AM. And they probably never knew that the "official" capacity of Penn Plaza Pavilion was 208 people. While it's hard to know if special arrangements were made for this event, it's obvious that this is the likeliest reason that the event was shut down more than four hours before its scheduled end. Those who found out about Rebel, however, were treated to a blinding set of minimal techno from Paco Osuna and Marco Carola. While you could blame the cops and the faulty bracelets for problems on Friday night, there's no real excuse for the late opening of Saturday's day venue. When Derek Plaslaiko and other hearty partiers showed up at the scheduled start time at Coney Island, they were met with confused volunteers and seemingly no one in charge. When I arrived at the festival at 12:30—more than two hours after the day was supposed to begin—there was a hand-written sign outside that advised me to go eat a hot dog and wait for the doors to open. When they finally did, visitors were greeted with what amounted to an unpaved parking lot with patches of grass in front and around each stage. Photo credit: David Ferino While the music was fairly good on the Purple Stage the entire day—with Exercise One, Jeremy Caulfield and Heartthrob each providing particularly great sets—the Mint Stage was silent. It was until nearly 7:00 PM, in fact, that the music started, by which time Steven Le Tigre, Heidi, Martin Buttrich, M.A.N.D.Y and Tiefschwarz all reportedly engaged in a massive back-to-back set, each trying to squeeze in a record or two. Unfortunately, the problems didn't stop there: The venue was closed at 10:00 PM—two hours before its scheduled end and before Magda was able to begin her headlining set. Confusion reigned yet again as to where the party was next. Those who asked the right people, heard the reported announcement given from the stages, were already home checking internet forums or simply found their way onto the shuttle buses waiting outside, knew the answer was Studio B—a Brooklyn club that opened up for the first time in more than a month after legal issues with the city concerning overcapacity issues to welcome festival goers. Again, however, it was information that obviously didn't reach everyone in time. Official word was released on the festival's website at 7:30 PM and at least one person that I spoke to went to Penn Plaza Pavilion, unaware of Friday's events, and found a sign advising him to make the trek to Brooklyn. Photo credit: David Ferino At 450 or so, Studio B's capacity is far less than the amount of tickets sold to Minitek's night event, but to the venue's credit they let more people in than they should have. Unfortunately, that also meant that Studio B became almost unbearably hot throughout the night. Magda played that promised headlining set and got very interesting, very quickly, using minimal techno as a home base, but venturing to worlds both melodically and rhythmically unconventional. That said, it was hard to tell how long she played, as at least 15 people joined her in the DJ booth, presumably trying to escape the crush below. With three messy parties behind them, it seemed like Minitek was bound to mess up the final day's event. Despite another late opening, though, Coney Island actually sort of resembled a festival. All the problems that one encountered seemed to be normal festival issues—vendors ran out of beer, the sound was less than stellar, set times were sometimes different than advertised. The crowds, however, were decent and the vibe was akin to a group of people persevering to simply have a good time in the face of adversity. While the night once again closed at 10:00 PM—an hour before Richie Hawtin was scheduled to finish—the organizers seemed to know it and bumped up both stages early in the day so that Hawtin and François K each got to play full headlining sets. While I can't speak to what Hawtin offered up, if you watched Derek Plaslaiko dance to François—which included moments where Plaslaiko seemed almost ready to punch the large speaker in front of him in elation—you'd get the sense that this was perhaps the best festival ever produced. Photo credit: David Ferino It wasn't. Taken as a music festival, Minitek was an abject failure. That much is not up for debate. As a party—and adventure—it was actually a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it seemed like because of the too-small staff and their inexperience in managing large-scale events that Minitek turned into a Minimoo party—one where it pays to be in the know, one where improvisation is essential and one where you should expect the unexpected. And that's not at all how a festival should be run. The reason behind the festival's failure is the same reason that people from all over the world came to attend: Minitek organizers were overambitious in their booking, running four events over two days when focusing in on two day events would have been far more prudent considering the apparent size of their staff. In true New York spirit, though, Minitek thought big—and paid the price for it when things didn't go according to plan. They never do, of course, and attention should be given to the fact that it's a small miracle that they were able to coordinate night events at all after the Penn Pavilion debacle. That Sunday's event went off with a minimum of issues should also tell you something: Give someone a few days of experience in the music festival business and they're bound to figure out their failings fairly quickly. Those hundreds, maybe thousands, of important items shrink down to five or ten. You get the sense that if there is indeed a second edition of Minitek that things will be much different—and run much more smoothly. Will there be? It's hard to say at this point, but I imagine fingers are crossed.