Oh, GoogaMooga. Thou hath been dubbed "Great" & thou hath been highly-anticipated for two years running now & thou hath now twice befuddled those expecting to be wowed by your bounty of food & music. Should we hate you? Should we love you? Should we think of you as that one crazy friend who we have that crazy night out with once every year but who we definitely don't need to hang out with any other weekend?
Last year, your inaugural edition started off as an absolute shitshow, with a first day that saw vendors running out of food and festival-goers bereft of working ATMs & cell-phone service and a general air of anger & incivility. After that much-maligned first day, you worked through most of your first-day hiccups, er...belches & things ran smoother on the second day. Sure two full days with tens of thousands of oft-drunken people trampling across the Prospect Park grounds left a definite impact but, in the end, you gave ticket holders a refund & in doing so, acknowledged your awfulness. Since money makes the world go round, 'twas a very grown-up step for such a young festival.
This year, for your second go-around, you made a bunch of changes. You boosted cell service so that, in 2013, people could figure out how to contact one another when they got separated. You limited food vendors to one item, eliminating the roadblock that was drunk people waiting 'til they got to the front of the line to decide on what to eat. More importantly, you expanded to three days, spreading out the chaos a bit.
In the end, you mostly succeeded.
Friday: A few minutes after 4:30pm on Friday evening, I arrived at Prospect Park with my gluttonous companion, Jessica. After a short walk up the path toward the Nethermead, with GoogaMooga volunteers along the way holding signs & shouting out half-hearted info about our distance from the venue, we arrived at the back of the line just as the first musical act of the evening, The Darkness, was taking the stage. As their ironic metal anthems floated across the park to reach us, we inched slowly forward, noticing the first row of vendor booths, all of which were surprisingly line-free.
We waited. The girl in front of us in line was freaking out because she left her phone in a cab & I let her borrow mine because I figured we're all in this possible shitshow together, right?
By the time we made it into the venue, the Darkness had just finished up their set. I wasn't that broken up about not seeing them though. I mean, I like irony & falsetto & hard rock as much as the next guy but c'mon now. With some time to kill before The Flaming Lips, we made our way to grab some food & drink. Jessica started with the Half-Split Grilled Lobster ($15) from The Lobster Place.
Basically, it tasted like lobster & didn't suck. I'd eaten an emergency lunch a few hours earlier, so I just started off with an $8 Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold in a tiny ass cup. I would've preferred an Empire IPA but for whatever reason, the particular booth I visited was already out.
After a bit of wandering around the grounds & people watching, we ended up at Hamageddon, the pork-themed area of GoogaMooga adorned with a giant, bronze statue. Because GODDAMN FAT SWEET-CRUSTED PIG RULES, we split the Grilled Maple Bacon Skewers ($10) from Landhaus.
With three skewers of pig, it was definitely a lot of pig for the price & did a great job, with its saltiness, of quickly driving us back to the beverage booths for more libations.
At 6:30pm sharp, with a nice breeze in the air & the sun shining down, The Flaming Lips took the stage and roared into "Look...The Sun is Rising," the first track off their new album.
We threw down a blanket & settled down WAY far from the stage, behind rows & rows of people who'd been motivated enough to claim a space earlier in the day. While their set was pretty good overall, it suffered from less-than-optimal sound quality and sight lines that were only acceptable in that lead singer Wayne Coyne was elevated on a pedestal above the rest of the band. To boot, The Flaming Lips' light show & antics were pretty much wiped out by the fact that they were playing in broad daylight...an ideal laying on a blanket & people watching atmosphere though.
Once the Lips were done, we picked up a few treats to pass the time.
Jessica got the Maple Cotton Candy on a Pretzel Stick ($5) from Liddabit Sweets. She basically declared it the best cotton candy she'd ever had. Personally, cotton candy makes me barf.
We also split the Car Bomb Parfait ($8) from Robicelli's. DEAR FRIGGIN GOD. It was just the sort of indulgent (in a good way) treat I needed to set the tone before watching the indulgent (in a bad way) Yeah Yeah Yeahs play.
While the sun set & we waited for the YYY's to come out, I wandered around checking out the vibe of the crowd. People actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. I didn't see a single person grab a random bébé & eat it out of desperation. Nobody got shanked. I saw Lip from Shameless hanging out (working?) at one of the beverage tents. I overheard one guy say to another "Maggie Gyllenhaal is over there." She was. Every few feet, I'd catch a hearty whiff of weed. I can only assume that everyone snuck all that weed in by not carrying a bag but going in with a friend who went through the bag check line, altogether avoiding the frisking that went on in the other lines.
As for the YYY's set, Jesus Christ I couldn't care less. When they first burst on the scene over a decade ago & were tearing up stages with Nick Zinner's crushing riffs & Karen O's ridiculous antics, I cared. Not so much any more. The act's grown quite tired & in a large, open venue, where it was often impossible to see the stage, it had no relevance to anything. Karen O did give a shout-out to David Pajo & there was a bit of a dance party during "Heads Will Roll" but otherwise...meh.
Saturday: A bit hungover from Friday, Saturday turned out to be a much more subdued day. Other than Matt & Kim headlining, I had no interest in the music. Doors opened at 11am & we showed up just after 4pm to find hearty crowds of people milling about but a lot of people already filing out of the venue. For the second day in a row, we didn't wait in a single line for food.
Jessica picked up the Pulled Pork Sandwich from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que ($11) and the Duck Corn Dog ($7) from James.
I went with the Tacos al Pastor from Salvation Taco ($10) and, as a taco aficionado, was damn impressed. While the portions were a bit on the small size, the single tortilla held up well & the pork had a salty crispiness to it that mixed perfectly with the pineapple. As the early evening rain continued to turn the event into one big mist tent, we decided that we didn't really need to stay for Matt & Kim. After all, I saw them play at a house party years ago, so I'm too cool to see them in a festival setting anyhow.
Sunday: In the late morning, mere minutes after I received an email from Googamoga letting me know that there were still tickets available for Sunday's events, I got an alert through the GoogaMooga app that the NYC Parks Dept. had cancelled Sunday's events altogether. There'd been a slow, shitty rain for almost a day straight. Prospect Park was pretty damn trod-upon after Googamooga 2012, so I can only imagine how it would've been after Sunday evening, once all those rabid Kool & The Gang fans had completed the third day of festivities & run roughshod over the grass. GoogaMooga announced VIP refunds. People sorta bitched on Twitter. Life went on.
Pros: No lines. One sunny day of festivities. Amazing people watching, A Lip sighting after a Lips sighting.
Cons: Bands suffering from muddy sound & visual quality. $10 price points for every dish. That whole day-three cancellation thing.
All in all, other than the possible damage to the park, I found GoogaMooga to be relatively satisfying. There wasn't a single moment where I felt like I was stuck on a disease-ridden cruise ship. In fact, if both they & I make it to next year (which I at least assume they will), I'm 90% certain I'll be there.
Read way more from Shawn at eatdrinksnack.com and eatdrinktaco.com.