The All Points West festival in New Jersey's Liberty State Park had a lot going for it — mostly beautiful weather, a decent (if not through-the-roof) lineup, a fine setting, a cool way to get there — a ferry ride — and a daylong view of the greatest skyline on Earth. What more could you ask for?
Oh, I don't know. How about, enjoying a beer while watching the concert? Here's the deal: You arrive at APW and soon discover that in order to drink, you must get your ID checked, then pass into a closed-off, fenced-in area — from which you cannot see the stage — to pay $7 for a Bud or Bud Light. You get a yellow plastic bracelet on which there are five tabs, one for each beer you are allowed. Each time you order, a tab is removed. And to indicate that you have been issued a bracelet (they're one step ahead of you, these beer police) they put a big Sharpie "X" on your hand.
Excuse me? I don’t recall that being mentioned when I read about All Points West and bought my ticket. OK, I didn’t buy a ticket. And thank God for that. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I had paid 89 bucks for the privilege of spending seven on a beer in a quarantined area and downing it as quickly as possible so I could get back to seeing bands.
Actually, I can imagine it because I saw it in the faces of the pissed-off people in line for the beer gulag, which averaged about 100 people in the bottleneck from 4 p.m. on. One even yelled at me, "John Norris, what's with this f---ed-up beer policy?" I wish I had an answer.
The artists, as is the case in almost everything, were exempt. The beer flowed freely backstage. But when I was walking across the field with a singer from one of the bands on the bill, who dared to bring a can out into the open, a Jersey park police officer walked up to us and yelled, "Drop it!" When the singer attempted to chug said Bud, the brown shirt grabbed the can and ordered me to open my bag.
When I asked the festival publicist about this policy, she said “Lots of festivals are doing beer gardens" — although I’ve been to three in the past month, and this is the only one where I couldn’t have a beer and watch a band at the same time. Subsequent inquiries yielded the following explanation: “It’s a Jersey state park, so it’s dry. They went through hell just getting permission to have beer gardens here.” Yeah? Then publicize it. Everyone connected with this festival — Goldenvoice, AEG, Liberty Event — should have made it clear just what the deal was before concertgoers bought tickets. The Web site merely said that concertgoers couldn't bring alcohol with them, but that "Beer will be available to all patrons of legal age for purchase at the festival. Please bring one or two government ID's showing proof of age over 21 if you plan to purchase beer."
I do hope that All Points West returns for a second year in 2009. But I hope even more that this policy is changed, or the concert is moved to a less restrictive location.
What do you think? Should APW’s promoters have publicized this policy beforehand?