Electric Zoo, the three-day electronic music festival held on Randall’s Island, in New York, over Labor Day weekend, was plagued by production and capacity issues, leaving patrons disgruntled.
The festival, which came under new management last year, got off to a rocky start, canceling the first day, Friday, after organizers failed to complete construction of the main stage. The festival did open Saturday, but festivalgoers who spoke with NBC News detailed hourslong wait times just to enter the venue. Finally, on Sunday, organizers started turning ticket holders away, claiming the venue had reached capacity.
“This year has presented unparalleled challenges for everyone,” Electric Zoo organizers wrote in an Instagram post Friday morning. “The global supply chain disruptions have impacted industries worldwide, and, sadly, our beloved festival has not been immune. These unexpected delays have prevented us from completing the construction of the main stage in time for Day 1.”
Organizers told people who bought tickets for Friday entry that they’d receive a full refund, and three-day pass holders would receive a partial credit for the lost time.
When the festival officially kicked off on Day 2, patrons said festivities were delayed and some on social media said they waited up to five hours just to pick up their tickets from will call.
Marissa Kelland, 26, bought a three-day pass for the festival. On Saturday, she arrived at the will call line at 5:30 p.m. and did not receive her ticket until 10:15 p.m. Kelland said she was only able to catch 30 minutes of music before the performances ended at 11 p.m.
“There’s only like a couple of people working and there’s hundreds of people waiting for tickets,” Kelland said in a phone interview.
Kelland said that she did not receive her ticket and wristband in the mail ahead of the festival as expected, resulting in her having to wait in will call. She said that other festivalgoers around her had also not received their tickets and wristbands in time.
Kelland said that there were no clear lines to get in and the crowding felt unsafe at times.
Even those who got into the festival earlier on Saturday reported issues with the stages. Danielle Tudahl, 24, said that some of the sets appeared unfinished.
“A lot of screens were broken and there were sound issues,” she said in a phone interview. “Things just weren’t entirely set up.”
Still, Tudahl, who attended the concert Saturday and Sunday, said, “I still had like a lot of fun overall, even though like all these terrible things were happening.”
The main issue, Kelland said, was that the festival appeared understaffed. Kelland, who attended Electric Zoo in 2018 with few issues, criticized the festival’s owner, the live music entertainment company Avant Gardner, which owns a popular Brooklyn nightclub of the same name, for its poor organization of the festival.
Avant Gardner bought promotion company Made Events, which owned Electric Zoo, in 2022. Billboard reported last year that the deal cost $15 million.
Kelland said the organizers should have hired more people to run the event, particularly will call booth workers and security guards.
“They can operate a club but they weren’t ready for what comes with a festival because a festival is different,” she said. “You have, you know, like tens of thousands of people. And you have to have the staff to take care of it. You have to have the organization.”
Representatives for Electric Zoo and Avant Gardner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Erin Donahue, who attended Electric Zoo on Sunday, also said that she had issues with the wait time. Donahue, 31, waited over an hour to get into the festival, which she said never happened at previous Electric Zoo festivals that she attended.
While Donahue acknowledged that Avant Gardner could be experiencing “growing pains” as it takes on a new venture like Electric Zoo, she also questioned how the firm managed the festival. She said that the staff and security seemed “completely outnumbered.”
“Avant Gardner has so much supposed experience in event planning. Why weren’t they able to manage this properly? It definitely felt mismanaged overall,” Donahue said in a phone interview.
On Sunday, organizers had to close the gate after they said the venue had reached capacity.
“It is with deep regret that we need to inform you that due to the challenges caused by Friday’s cancelation, we have reached our venue’s capacity earlier than anticipated for today, Sunday,” read a post from the organizers on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Organizers added, “We promise to make it up to you.”
But by this point, festivalgoers were frustrated and could be seen in videos posted to social media rushing the gates after organizers made the announcement.
Kelland said that her friends had rushed into the festival alongside the crowd Sunday after being denied entry due to capacity issues.
Kelland said she had not received a refund for the cancellation on Friday and added that she is trying to get her money back for the whole weekend. Tudahl also said she has not gotten a refund for Friday yet.
“I paid for three days and I did not get three days out of something,” Kelland said. She added that she likely would not attend Electric Zoo again unless it was bought by another organizer.
“I’ve gone to so many music festivals where like you have little minor inconveniences, they are always going to happen. But nothing like this,” she said.
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