Every festivalgoer who is dialed into the festival community has without a doubt had their news feed flooded with pictures and videos of what happened at the Hudson Music Project last weekend. Simply clicking on these posts exposes pages and pages of hate created by frustrated attendees. You can even read write-ups by festival news sources, most of which were not even there. Here is what happened from someone that was actually there.
Going to any first time festival is supposed to be an adventure. No one really has any idea what to expect until you get there. The thing to remember is that the festival producers also don’t know what to expect when you get there. This is their first time doing the event and no matter how hard they try to prepare, there will be a large amount of figuring things out as they go.
This was clearly the case for the Hudson Project. There were lots of problems with the festival, but some of them were unavoidable. The first problem everyone experienced was the fact that you did not get to park next to you campsite. This means that every tent, shade structure, cooler, article of clothing, and case of beer had to be carried a long distance. Right from the start the crowd had a bit of a negative tone, because most of them were not prepared for this. It didn’t help that the staff was not very informed on where everything was, so finding where to go took effort. If the thought of walking all of your gear from your car to your campsite does not sound like something you can handle, you should avoid festivals without car camping.
The next frustration was with the search while getting into the festival. This is a very touchy subject in the industry. Before I blast The Hudson Project for going too far with their searches it is important to remember that drugs are illegal and this festival takes place in New York, the same state as Electric Zoo that was forced to cancel the last day because two attendees died. State officials are really cracking down on festivals to get clean so it is not totally the organizers’ fault. With that being said the searches were completely out of control.
The security guards at this festival were not looking for weapons to make sure the festival stayed safe, they were looking anywhere and everywhere on the festivalgoers to try and make a bust. They treated the crowd like they were criminals, and seemed to get joy when they busted someone as they escorted them to directly to the police, whom had drug-sniffing dogs for good measure. Festival organizers don’t seem to realize that the security hired is the only personnel representing the festival that attendees actually interact with. When you have overly aggressive security guards searching you on your way into the event, it warps your whole opinion of what the festival is really offering.
The festival itself had the basics covered. The stages offered solid sound and were easily accessible. They attempted to put in some art installations, but there was so much open space that the event felt very empty. The Hudson Project would have gone down as just another first time festival that has room for improvement if the weather would have worked out.
The weather did not work out. Around 3pm on Sunday event organizers were forced to send everyone back to their cars. This was the worst thing that could possibly happen to this festival. With everyone’s gear at one place and their cars at another, attendees were stuck and had to wait for the rains to calm down to leave. Event organizers have to think with everyone’s safety as the first priority. This meant that they had to make people stay in the area they were at, and this turned attendees frustrations into sheer anger.
The rain came and it came hard. It turned the fairgrounds into a swamp, which meant getting everyone and their gear turned into a really awful process. To add to the problem was the fact that the parking lots turned into swamps; this meant many cars could not get out without the assistance of tractors and other vehicles.
All of these frustrations united the crowd on social media, and the new storm of hate began. You have to feel bad for the organizers this event. I really believe that they did their best, but it was apparent while festival juggernaut SFX gave them the budget to book a huge lineup, they did not have a very big budget to commit to creating a well-rounded festival experience. They also had to be strict about searches into the festival because of another event that took place in the same state. Finally a rain and lightning storm of epic proportions struck them and really destroyed any hope they had of salvaging the weekend.
Will the Hudson Project happen next year? I’m not sure, but I hope they try. A good start would be finding a new and respectful security staff. There are also better ways to help attendees get their gear to the campsite. With these changes and a continued attempt at booking a world class lineup, you will have a festival that people will enjoy and visit every year.