LouFest 2016: Down and dirty, emphasis on the dirty
After two days of heavy rain, LouFest 2016 opened Saturday afternoon with the south entrance under water, most of the field destroyed and a solid few inches of mud covering every surface. I watched a toddler wander too far into a swamp by the Bud Light stage and get stuck. After parental rescue, he had lost a shoe and developed a distrust of puddles. But for those of us over 3 feet tall, the show went on—just with a lot more bare feet than usual.
Yet, the mud pits weren’t the only part of LouFest that seemed off this year. This is the first time the festival has been held without founder Brian Cohen, which might have contributed to the changes seen on the field. The first addition, a full Ferris wheel in the center of the grounds, was hard to miss. Yet, the ride remained conspicuously empty most of the afternoon, with most children staying in the kids’ area and the adults seeming uninterested. The emptiness was felt around the stages as well, with what seemed to be smaller crowds than years past. This might be due to the lack of name recognition in this year’s lineup, which raised eyebrows when it was first released.
While years past have seen dedicated fan bases for bands such as the Killers, Young the Giant and Arctic Monkeys, the 2016 headliners were less loved. LCD Soundsystem hasn’t released new music since 2010, and Lauryn Hill has gained a reputation for being unreliable when it comes to actually playing her concert gigs. But regardless of the reason for the lighter attendance, being able to walk right to the front of the stage during the band’s opening song was pretty commonplace. You could get a Mission Taco from the Nosh Pit in less than five minutes. In other words, this year’s festival experience appeared scanter than the record-breaking crowds that flocked to LouFest last September.
But maybe the largest addition to the festival for Washington University students was the collaboration between Student Union, Social Programming Board and the LouFest coordinators to debut “an exclusive, Wash. U.-only area.” The program, which sold a limited amount of $30 two-day passes earlier this summer, also created a VIP section for undergraduates to visit. Special wristbands were given away at the Edison Theater box office, which allowed admission past the LouFest security team that was stationed at the entrance. The VIP section included food and drinks available for purchase, the famous SPB photo wall and the blow-up WILD couches, scattered around a private Porta Potty. Yet the area itself, a fenced-off square located in the far corner of the field, wasn’t exactly a crowded event. There were only a handful of students around, with several groups entering only to secure drinks and then quickly departing. Different SPB members were on duty to watch the space and ensure nothing was taken from it. While definitely not the energetic VIP hangout imagined, it did give all-day festivalgoers a good place to sit away from the mud.
While parts of the LouFest experience may have differed, the festival atmosphere that defines the event still remained. Despite the hitches, many members of the St. Louis community still came out to experience the beloved event—even if they lost a shoe in the progress.