A couple weekends ago was the inaugural Suburbia Music Festival in Plano, Texas. The festival came about when promoters from the concert powerhouse Live Nation saw a need for a large festival in a suburban area, and saw Plano as the perfect spot. Specifically what drew them was Oak Point Park and Nature Reserve in Plano. An employee who frequently ran through the 800 acre park thought that it would be the perfect setting for a music festival, and when he brought the idea to Live Nation, the simple idea became a plan. The organizers from Live Nation met with governmental leaders of Plano and the details were set. Not only did Plano allow for the setting where the festival would take place, but they also dropped an immense 750,000 dollars on the event. $500,000 would be dedicated to the booking of a lineup through Live Nation while the other $250,000 would go to setting up stages, vendors, and all of the other amenities necessary for a large festival. After the announcement of the festival, thousands of people sat in anticipation, waiting to hear the assuredly impressive lineup.
Anyone who signed up for the email list (including myself), was greeted on the morning of January 16 with a very welcome email detailing the dates and lineup of the festival. The hype leading up to this festival did not disappoint. At the top of the list were David Guetta, international superstar and producer/DJ, and the Alabama Shakes, a souly southern blues rock band nominated for multiple Grammies on their first album release. The festival boasted top acts from seemingly every major genre, with hip hop/rap in J. Cole and Hoodie Allen, EDM in Big Gigantic and GTA, Alternative in Twenty One Pilots, Third Eye Blind, and Smallpools, and various rock outfits with the classic Violent Femmes and Blue October. With such a diverse lineup, there was enough music for everyone in all age groups. The planners of the festival also included a slew of local acts including Midlake, the Unlikely Candidates, Larry g(EE), A.Dd+ and SoMo. The Senior Vice-President of concerts in North America Danny Eaton exclaimed that:
“The enthusiasm for Suburbia is off the charts here at Live Nation. We believe that North Texas has been in need of a major music festival for many years and we firmly believe that Suburbia will be the vehicle to become an annual event for decades to come.”
With the initial release of the lineup, the amount of buzz that came from the announcement demonstrated the incredible excitement of the people who had been waiting so impatiently for the lineup to be released. Once the lineup and dates were out, the presale tickets were released as well, at $80 dollars a piece, a reasonable price considering the lineup and amount of days. The dollar amount would increase as time went on, along with Live Nation single-day ticket offerings. The Rolling Stone magazine even caught wind of the lineup and hype surrounding the festival, naming it one of their 40 must-see music festivals during the festival season.
As the weekend approached, the daily schedule was released, an app was created, and Q & As were held. Before I knew it, it was May. On the morning of May 3rd, I was taking the SAT, but luckily in the morning there were not any acts that I particularly liked. Upon finishing the test, I drove to the site of the festival and, after a little confusion, found one of the three paid parking areas around the festival grounds that I had been able to pre-pay for. From there, it was only a half mile walk until I made it to the gates of the festival.
It was massive. From the maps I had seen, I knew that I could only see the mainstage, called the “Meadow” stage, but that coupled with all of the different tents and vendors let me know that the festival was going to be much larger than I imagined. After security checked my bag, I exchanged my ticket for a non-removable wristband that would be my ticket for the two days. Upon entering, I was greeted by employees offering me maps, schedules for each of the three stages, beach balls, and a personal fan to help stay cool in the 90 degree heat.
As I traveled to the Prairie stage to see Echosmith, I hiked up the amphitheater like landscape leading to the Meadow stage and passed a mass of food and drink vendors. The whole festival was set up wonderfully, for none of the stages sounds flooded into the others, on behalf of strategic placement of the stages and beautiful wooded areas. The quasi-food court area boasted representation from many different local establishment and food trucks, offering the festival-goer dishes ranging from chicken and waffle sandwiches to sushi, along with water, shakes, soda, beer, and many other beverages to wash it all down. Unfortunately, all of these options for food and water were ridiculously expensive; for instance, that chicken and waffle sandwich cost a whopping $15, and a single water bottle cost $4. Despite that little detriment, the choices for food and water were plenty and delicious.
After my first and only trip to the Prairie st
age (the smallest of the three), I stopped at the Cedar Room stage to see Surfer Blood, and then went to the Meadow in order to see Third Eye Blind. After NEEDTOBREATH, a Christian rock outfit from South Carolina that performed amazingly despite my having no previous knowledge of them, Third Eye Blind took the stage. As opposed to the bands I saw earlier in the day, when there really was not much of a crowd at any of the stages, Third Eye Blind definitely attracted a large presence of people. The classic festival pit that everyone expects was not really present until they took the stage. The group played all of their well known tunes with a little of their personal favorite songs and tracks off of the new album they are currently putting the finishing touches on. It was a great performance, better than I could have hoped for, especially with their songs being so popular for so many years.
After their memorable performance, I made my way over to the crossroads between the stage to get some food from the selection there. The final act of the day on the Cedar Room stage would be electronic duo Big Gigantic, a little redundant perhaps, but a very good description of the show to come. As the sun set, the two from Boulder, Colorado took the stage by storm. With Dominic Lalli playing live saxophone and DJing, and with Jeremy Salken on a drum set, the duo electrified the massive crowd packed in to see them. Their coupling of saxophone, drums, and crazy bass drops kept the mass of humanity in front of them alive and dancing throughout the entire performance. As Day 1 came to an end, I was left in a state of awe at the day that had just passed by and a state of anticipation for the day to come.
The morning of Day 2, I missed American Authors, a group that has suddenly risen to fame through their single “Best Day of My Life,” which, according to Dan Carver ’15,
“[was] a great way to start the second day of suburbia. They got the crowd to clap and sing along which made the experience more fun. They were really great live and [he hopes] to hear them play live again in the future.”
After their set, the group I was with and I were met with some unwelcome news. Hoodie Allen had become ill with a chest infection, jarring the lineup for the day, which opened up the opportunity for me to see the upcoming band Smallpools, which killed it on the Meadow stage, especially with their hit “Dreaming.” Next came Twenty One Pilots, one of my favorite bands. This genre-hopping duo holds one of the most energetic, crowd-engaging shows in the industry. They pumped everyone up continuously throughout the set, and even had small platforms with drums on them that they would climb on. The crowd would then hold them up as they played. All-in-all, they put on one of the best shows of the weekend, second only to Big Gigantic.
After that, I traveled to the Cedar Room stage to catch the end of GTA who, despite the timing of their set, still performed tremendously. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I made my way to the Meadow stage again to set up for David Guetta 2 acts prior, knowing that it would be a mad house. I was not disappointed. As I moved into the pit after Blue October, a mass of people descended on the stage in numbers unparalleled by any other artist for the festival, except for maybe Alabama Shakes closing the festival the night before. J. Cole was the artist that would set the tone for Guetta. Although not traditionally a huge fan of hip hop, I found myself enjoying his set a lot. He constantly engaged the audience and was a great performer. Although J. Cole
put up a good performance, I honestly could not wait for the main event, David Guetta, to hit the stage.
After 30 minutes of jostling for position after Cole stepped off the stage and the massive LED screen and platform residing behind it was wheeled onto the stage, the crowd saw a flash of the French DJ and erupted into a roar of excitement, knowing what was to come next. Guetta’s set assailed the festival-goer’s senses, hearing each amazing bass throb and waving synth, seeing the blinding show of LEDs off of the massive screens surrounding Guetta, touching the ground and everyone around him with constant jumping in reckless abandon, and smelling and tasting the airborne dirt from thousands of feet churning up the topsoil that had laid dormant for most of the day. It was an amazing experience, each drop allowing the crowd to go wild and each interlude still keeping the energy at an absurdly high level, in the same manner as that of Big Gigantic the night before. As the legend finally closed his set with the iconic “Titanium,” the mass of people demanded “one more song!” to which he replied that he only had a minute and a half, which he filled with another one of his hits, “Play Hard.” After the whole experience, I knew that the festival was possibly the best $80 I had spent in my life.
The festival was a resounding success, although it did suffer from one major problem. As I mentioned before, the temperature rose to above 90 degrees on both days, a sweltering heat that demanded constant hydration from people who attended. Unfortunately, there were quite a few people who were not up to the heat, and the medical team that was on site had to handle some cases of dehydration and heat stroke. On the second day, though, Plano responded with a free spigot of potable water for people to fill their water bottles with, coupled with a sprinkler and water truck so that people could cool themselves off with some water. These measures went a long way to help the attendees to stay hydrated and healthy enough to enjoy the fun without any complications.
Overall, the festival pulled an amazing crowd of 20,000 people to the normally quiet park in Plano, and I think that the mayor of Plano’s and Live Nation organizers’ goal of the festival growing to be one of the biggest in North Texas and maybe even becoming a Austin City Limits-caliber festival is not a far fetched idea. After such an amazing experience this year – from the genre-spanning lineup to the amazing organization in the stages and vendors to the good vibe of the crowd itself – I am very excited for what lays ahead for the future of Suburbia.