Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I Survived Houston Open Air!!! (and other such quotes... here's what we DID see, and the refund info)

Houston Open Air
Storm clouds above the festival
So... Houston, We Have A Problem.

HOUSTON, 24t and 25th September 2016: People having fun between the mandatory Code Red storm evacuations, at Houston Open Air
Saturday afternoon crowd, Houston Open Air
Houston Open Air happened this past weekend... or at least, part of it happened, but the majority was under a weather "Code Red", meaning that the entire NRG Park complex, the venue where the festival was being held, had to be evacuated, time and again, because of the real risk of lightning strikes. The weather was oppressively hot and humid; the show was disrupted, and bands cancelled on Saturday, but the show went ahead from late afternoon, when the most threatening storm had moved around without any lightning, little thunder, and just a little rain. Alter Bridge, Ministry, Buckcherry, The Cult, Alice in Chains were all able to perform and put on a really good show for the crowd who had returned, excited, after the Saturday evacuation.

Tom Araya, vocals and bass, Slayer
Slayer, Houston Open Air 2016
On Sunday, just one band, Mothership, was able to perform, before another Code Red was announced, we had to evacuate the site, the rain came down like an ocean, and then the storms just hung around, until the announcement came that the festival was cancelled. The festival organizers have today shared information about ticket refunds:

We want to thank all of you for your support and patience over the past few days. As a result of the weather/safety related delays and cancellations from last weekend’s event, we are offering all buyers the following refund:
  • Saturday Only Ticket— 50% refund of your ticket price.
  • Sunday Only Ticket—100% refund of your ticket price.
  • Two-day Ticket — 75% refund of your ticket price (I.e. 50% refund of the Saturday portion of the ticket price and 100% refund of the Sunday portion of the ticket price.
  • The above refunds apply to all GA and VIP tickets at each applicable price level.
For those of you who purchased via Front Gate Tickets via internet or phone, please email  or call 888-512-7469 to request your refund. All refunds must be requested by Thursday, December 1st, 2016.

If you purchased tickets via a third party such as Groupon, Songkick, or Street Team, please contact that company directly.

Al Jourgensen, vocals, Ministry
Al Jourgensen, Ministry, Houston Open Air
But let's focus on the positive... Ministry were on top, heavy, really-heavy form, Alter Bridge stunning, and Slayer? They slayed the crowd... forgive the pun, but they did. Buckcherry? I want to know what superhero powers Josh Todd has, because that heat and humidity was killing me just jogging from one stage to another, nevermind moving with any kind of energy... The Cult had everyone dancing, at least those of us who were over twenty-two... Alice in Chains (I don't have photos of them, don't bother asking)... they ALL put on huge shows.

Ian Astbury, vocals, The Cult
The Cult, Houston Open Air
Yes, it's a real shame that we didn't get to see all the bands who were scheduled--many were in the middle of tours, and had to move on to the next show immediately. One or two were able to put on pop-up shows in venues around Houston: Avatar stayed in town for an extra night, Avenged Sevenfold found a venue to accommodate a small subset of the festival audience, Deftones made a huge effort too.

Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti, Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge, Houston Open Air
If you want to see the sentiments of people who were at the festival, check out social media comments... makes for a fun read. But: it's so very important to note that the safety of the audience, all those thousands of people, and that of the people working at the festival, the security teams, the medics, the vendors, the stage crews, and all the musicians and their staff, were safe. The amount of work that's put into planning, organizing, setting-up and operating a festival? Nobody wants to cancel, nobody. But... safety first.

Josh Todd, vocals and tambourine, Buckcherry
Josh Todd, Buckcherry, Houston Open Air
I usually love thunderstorms. Huge clouds, big weather, angry skies, nature's emotion. But this time... not so much. I'm really glad that I didn't have to witness any musician or stage worker be fried on stage, nor anyone who was sheltering under a tree. It's elementary physics: electricity will take the shortest and easiest route to ground. You know... like down a metal stage support, or a sound-deck tower, or a light pole. You don't shelter under a lone tree during a thunderstorm; you don't mix electricity with water. That's it. Elementary physics. On the other hand... it was Houston, it was September, and September is still hurricane season... weather, beautiful and crazy weather, happens. NRG should have had a more time-efficient way to manage evacuations, not just through one exit from the Park, not just through the main gate, and more permanent places of safety on-site, not just a half-mile-or-further run to a remote parking lot and personal vehicles (the closest doors into the NRG building, by the weird sculpture of the impaled bulls, were closed). Or alternatively... NRG shouldn't market the NRG Park facility as a location for open-air events during hurricane season. Period. In my not-very-humble opinion.

(I've been to many other festivals organized by Danny Wimmer Presents, and without exception, they are well planned, well organized, and well scheduled. The evacuations from this festival happened in a very well-behaved way... it just took a long time, as people had to walk a long way from the stages to their vehicles-of-safety. The evacuations didn't just affect the audience. They effected all the staff working... for example, setting up and soundchecking. Weather happens...)

Leaving NRG Park
Evacuating the venue, in a very orderly manner
In the crowd at the front gate, during Sunday's evacuation, after the torrential rain had subsided, there was a mosh pit, the crowd was singing, "Let the Bodies Hit the Ground", and at least one young woman managed to crowdsurf from the other side of the street to the front.

HOUSTON, 24t and 25th September 2016: People having fun between the mandatory Code Red storm evacuations, at Houston Open Air
"Yes, it's his own hair"
This dude wins the prize for relaxed tolerance; I know his hair is his own, because several young women ran up to test it, then ran back to their friends, "it's real, it's his, it's his own hair".

HOUSTON, 24t and 25th September 2016: People having fun between the mandatory Code Red storm evacuations, at Houston Open Air
Front row, Houston Open Air
If you really think that the show should have gone on during the risk of lightning strikes and heavy rain, then maybe you'll want to plan to go to one of the UK festivals next year. Here's what happened at Download 2016. (aka "Drownload"). Yes, the show went on. Yes, everyone was camping in floodwater, and covered in mud. No, it didn't stop the music, not for long. But you know what? The safety rules are different there, and a killer thunderstorm is rare; it's just wet. The public expectations are different: it always rains at festivals in the UK, it's rare if it doesn't. And to put it bluntly: the weather is different. It's not as extreme. You don't have tornados, or hurricanes, at least not as often or as violent as we do in the USA (though climate change is busy doing its thing). I wouldn't feel anywhere near as much risk in a muddy field near Castle Donnington in Leicestershire, as I did on a street in Houston during hurricane season. So before you clamour to sign a "risk disclaimer" for continuing a festival during a Code Red here, nip over to the UK and try a wet festival first, and see how much you really enjoy it ;-) Just don't forget your wellies!!!

Now, I'm setting sights on Aftershock, here in Sacramento: looking forwards to seeing some of the bands missed this weekend, including Ghost and Avatar. Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome have a date here, at the Ace of Spades. So let's move on and forwards...

Here are the photo galleries (a few more will be added soon, come back and check):

People of Houston Open Airphoto gallery click here
Slayerphoto gallery click here
The Cultphoto gallery click here
Alter Bridgephoto gallery click here
Buckcherryphoto gallery click here
Ministryphoto gallery click here

No comments:

Post a Comment