Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HullabaLOU Hangover: HullabaLOU will return

*Yawn!*  Oh, hello there.  What day is it?  It's Tuesday?  Really?


So my first HullabaLOU-free day found me sleeping for twelve hours and then spending the rest of the day on the couch catching up on a backlog of "Next Food Network Stars" on my TiVO and eating delivery Cafe Mimosa.  Three days in the 95+ degree heat left me feeling like I had the mother of all hangovers-- even though I was super-careful to hydrate religiously (every day, I clocked at least nine bottles of water).  I'm not going to wax lamentingly about what this means, although I did find myself asking Roommate repeatedly:  "How do we survive Bonnaroo every year?"  (His response: "We just barely do.")

But I'm back.  And so, we're told, will HullabaLOU return, says Churchill Downs Entertainment President Steve Sexton.  When asked yesterday whether there will be another HullabaLOU, his response was essentially a cheery, "Hells yes!"

And good.  I'm glad.  My fear, about halfway through the festival, was that the festival wouldn't be financially as successful as they hoped and that they'd just trash the whole idea.  And, after Day Three of HullabaLOU, I was pretty well-convinced that the festival deserved another go at it-- with some tweaks, of course.

You know, there's some non-attendees on local social media who are giving "mainstream media" a hard time for handing Churchill a lot of really good press for HullabaLOU and not being critical enough.  I know I'm not "mainstream" anything, but I have to say in their defense:  besides the steamroller heat, there was very little not to like about HullabaLOU.

If you chose to attend HullabaLOU, you did so because you felt like the admission price was worth it to see bands that you wanted to see.  And, from what I could tell and from what I heard: no one put on a bad show, there were few technical glitches (Al Green cussed out his sound man, Dwight Yoakam lost power for less than 10 minutes), and everything ran pretty much on time.  And heck, if you were really truly invested in the music, for the most part, you could get closer and more intimate with the performers than just about any other venue I've been to.  I mean, Ms. Gladys Knight smiled at me, I was that close.  Joan Osborne was just one body away from me.  And Ricky Skaggs could have been playing at your cousin's backyard bar mitzvah, the Bluegrass Stage was so cozy.  Yes, there were the mainstage acts and the few smaller stage acts that packed throngs, but the jumbotrons at every stage brought those musicians right into your lap.  And let me tell you, one of the most common compliments I heard in the Media Center were that the camerafolk were the unsung heroes of the event-- nearly every show looked like a concert film on the jumbotrons and on the various tvs throughout the Downs.

Sure, I know there is room for improvement from HullabaLOU-- I have strong feelings about things Churchill Downs Entertainment could do differently for 2011, but I'll save that for another post.  (Doubters, I promise I'll get all these posts up by the end of the week or so.)  But I was pleasantly surprised by my overall great experience at HullabaLOU-- and I'm not alone-- just about every journalist I talked to said something along the lines of: "it seemed like this was going to be a hot mess, but I can't believe how much fun I had."  And looking back over the #hullabalou feed on Twitter, it seems like the fans were pretty much in agreement.  Honestly, the notable bitchy tweets largely came from media who were paid to go, went for free, and just didn't like the line-up and/or crowd.  I'll keep my opinions on that to myself.

In the meantime, I think you can trust the local media when they give HullabaLOU two (tired, sunburned) thumbs up (and it's certainly not like CDE went out of their way to earn great reviews from the press).  Now that some of my giddy HullabaLOU hangover has worn off, I'm still a big fan.

Check out my night-of recaps for Day One, Day Two, and Day Three!

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