CINCINNATI — In its second year of operation under PromoWest, the Bunbury Music Festival kicked off its first day with fewer glitches than what crowds saw in 2015.
Though lines were long by the time gates opened at 1 p.m. Friday, wait times to get into Yeatman’s Cove and Sawyer Point did not seem to be anywhere as long as the hour-plus length reported last year. Much of this could be attributed to the ticketless and cashless RFID wristband system PromoWest introduced this year. The bands, from Whilk & Misky to Friday’s headliner The Killers all performed on time and without a hitch, either.
This, of course, is not to say everything went perfectly at the festival. As the day progressed and crowds grew, cell service was problematic, and there were some complaints from concert-goers about not being able to use the Bunbury app to add cash to their wristband account to make vendor purchases.
Others did not get the cashless system at all, expressing disappointment when they couldn't break a $20 to buy a cold beer at a booth.
So, with all of that said up front, here is the good and the bad of day one of Bunbury 2016.
The Entrance Lines: Look, they were long. People snaked around the Sawyer Point entrance all the way up to the Kentucky side of the Purple People Bridge before the gates opened at 1 p.m. But thanks to the wristband system, they seemed to move swiftly. By the time the first bands started playing at about 1:45 p.m., most people appeared to be in, or nearly in, both ends of the venue.
The Stages: This year there are three — the Sawyer Point stage, the river stage and the Yeatman’s Cove stage. The move to these three from four last year and six the year before that felt perfect. The staggered performance times also helped prevent that race feeling from one end of the riverfront to the other to see all the bands I wanted. (And Friday’s lineup, which included Haim, Charles Bradley, the Wombats, Mudcrutch and The Killers, was a pretty nice mix, too.)
The Water: There were plenty of stations and taps available this year, especially compared to last. Bring your 20-ounce water bottle if you go Saturday or Sunday to fill up.
Minor Glitches: You could tell there were some delays and crashes with the RFID wristband system. Some vendors either opened later than promised or just promised the scanning system that took money from wristband accounts would be up and running soon. And it did not help that those spotty cell signals prevented some people from re-upping their account from their smartphones. The downed systems were annoying but did not kill the party atmosphere.
No Cash: This had less to do with vendors or the wristband system and more to do with human nature. No matter how much PromoWest tried to prepare people for the new technology, there were some folks who just did not get it. They would wait in line and then walk off in a huff when they were told NO CASH OR CREDIT, wristband swipes only. And it’s not like using one of the Top Up stations at the park to add cash to your account was that difficult, either. I and co-worker timed how long it took us to add money to our wristbands: 10 minutes. That was it, and it was when crowds were really picking up.
It will be interesting to see if all the glitches with the wristband system are fixed for vendors on day two and if people finally pick up on how the system works.