Last Saturday, Collective Efforts and Disco Donnie Presents put on Santa Barbara’s very first Electronic Dance Music and hip-hop music festival at the Earl Warren Show Grounds. With the recent rise of EDM, hip-hop and trap shows in the area, it only made sense that a festival would be established.
Starting off small but strong, the Matador Music Festival lineup consisted of Tropo (live), K Theory (live), Robotic Pirate Monkey, Hieroglyphics, Alvin Risk, Seven Lions, Big K.R.I.T. and headliner Porter Robinson. However, what could have been a great kickoff to a successful annual music festival ended up being a mediocre concert that was ultimately ruined by the police.
A number of things factored into why what could have been Santa Barbara’s own version of Insomniac’s Wonderland turned sour. First of all, the festival was held right in the center of the annual Santa Barbara Fair & Expo, which went on from April 24 to 28. Although a ticket to the festival allowed free access to the carnival surrounding the arena, it also created an environment where an array of drunken college students waving American Spirits in the air roamed amongst families and children.
The presence of the fair also made parking very inconvenient. Granted, there were park-and-ride shuttles available at nearby destinations. But for the unfortunate concertgoers who missed the signs, the nearest parking spot was at least a mile’s walk away from the venue.
Starting a music festival (with the hope of making it an annual event) is hard to pull off and rarely goes completely smoothly or as generally expected. Although the lineup was decent, I did not have high hopes for the organization of the show. Unfortunately, I was correct.
To add to the hectic parking situation and the unsuitable venue, there were various entrances to the show, and each one was managed by a different promoting company with a different guest list. So if you were one of the lucky ones to win a free ticket through the Matador Festival’s official Facebook page (such as me), entry was easy … that is, if you could figure out which door to enter from.
Instead of holding the festival inside the usual indoor Warren Hall like other concerts at the show grounds, Matador was held at the outdoor dome Kramer Arena. Logistically speaking, this would make sense for a big crowd as the dome was supplied with surrounding seats and plenty of space for a big turnout. However, the turnout was meager to say the least and the sand-ridden floor proved more unhygienic than atmospheric. Having never been inside Kramer Arena before, I was not sure if the grounds were naturally sandy or if the festival was trying to stay true to its name. The small stage resembled one of the smaller stages at Coachella that people only go to if they really have nothing better to do. The mandatory deck and background screens were installed but there were no side screens, causing those who were not standing directly in front of the stage to not enjoy the full experience.
As the acts played on, it was obvious which artists people were really there to see. The crowd slowly trickled in and out during the last three performers before Big K.R.I.T. and Porter Robinson. Since the turnout was low, there was a comfortable balance of personal space while still having the sensation of being part of a crowd.
However, before Big K.R.I.T.’s set, this was not the case for one unidentified male who insisted on charging like a bull (no pun intended) towards the front of the stage, knocking several people over. A fistfight soon broke out as said male took a beating from a sampling of the people he bumped into. Punches and kicks were thrown, glasses were broken and the overly enthusiastic man was finally removed from the venue.
When Porter Robinson finally graced the stage with his presence at 9:30 p.m., the arena was at its fullest. As many headliners often play for less than an hour and a half, there was a built up in excitement for the crowd, knowing we would witness the 20-year-old DJ’s set for two whole hours.
Having grown in notoriety over the past few years with the release of his first album Spitfire in 2011, Porter has performed at numerous massive music festivals including Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Lollapalooza and Coachella. Porter’s set began strong and stayed strong as he played popular house music favorites, including his own “100% in the Bitch.” All the hassles prior to the show were forgotten and the crowd was entranced by the pure joy Porter brought onstage.
Then came the controversial mood killer of the night: A few minutes short of 11 p.m., Porter took to the microphone to explain that the police requested him to end his set half an hour before the scheduled time and that he only had five minutes left onstage.
Instead of riling up the crowd as any other artist would have done by getting us to chant something obscene along the lines of “F*ck the police!” he apologized that we would not be getting the full experience we had paid for. He said that his final song was important to him and he felt humbled to be able to share it with us. Many DJs usually leave their hits for the end of a live set, so Porter was forced to choose from his many popular tracks and picked his most prized masterpiece, “Language.” With the soft vocals of Heather Bright and the uplifting lyrics, “Let me float back to the place you found me / I’ll be okay,” the night seemed like it would end on a happy note despite the circumstances.
Except it didn’t.
Halfway through the song, towards the much-awaited second buildup to the drop, the electricity was cut off and the lights, sounds and vibes all disappeared. As the crowd booed and Porter desperately tried to question what was happening to a silenced microphone, we realized that the cops had shut down the show and it was time to go home, 35 minutes before planned.
As an individual who uses social media for no reason other than posting pictures of cute cats doing funny things, Porter changed things up a bit and explained the turn of events to his fans through his Twitter account. He said that there had been a noise violation that required the concert to end half an hour early. He did not say who complained, but the concept of complaining about noise coming from a prescheduled concert was a little ridiculous in my opinion. Porter was then accused of inciting a riot by telling the audience that the police was shutting the show down. The police evidently interpreted the crowd’s negative response to the news as a result of Porter’s actions. The sheriff in charge threatened to arrest him and confiscate his equipment as evidence of his crimes.
Porter ended his message with “The police are not on your side,” and left it at that.
I waited 10 minutes after the power went out to see if (hopefully) the darkness was due to technical difficulty, but nothing happened. Anyone who attended the festival can attest that nothing remotely close to a riot occurred.
Although Porter’s hour and a half set was amazing and definitely demonstrated how much he has grown as a DJ over the past three years, the amount of cons undeniably outweighed the pros for this festival. Whether it was the promoters’ mistake in scheduling the festival during an inconvenient time in an inconvenient place, or the Santa Barbara Police Department being, well, the Santa Barbara Police Department, the very first Matador Music Festival was a big disappointment.
All I can say is that I’m glad I won those tickets and did not have to pay to watch this disastrous attempt at a music festival. Hopefully, if there even is a Matador Music Festival next year, both sponsors and the police will learn from their mistakes and an actual, successful EDM and hip-hop festival in Santa Barbara will become a reality.