Photo Credit: Karp
I’ve said that The Great Googa Mooga reminded me of a huge gelatinous monster, and after attending, it turns out I wasn’t entirely off base. Thousands flocked to Prospect Park with high hopes for this unique music/food expo — the food vendors taking part all looked delicious, the music line-up seemed solid, and the weekend forecast was sunny, all ingredients for a fun weekend in the park. And I did have some serious fun. Charles Bradley put on an otherworldly performance, I got a boatload of free gum, and Coolio walked right behind me (still cool even though I didn’t actually see him, and somebody told me about it later). That said, Googa Mooga didn’t deliver the festival experience I wanted.
The crux of the problem seemed to originate with “Extra Mooga”, the pay-to-see portion of the festival that featured roughly half of the advertised food expositions and a handful of music acts (among them the James Murphy DJ Set). “Extra Mooga” promised unlimited access to premium exhibits like a booth staffed by none other than Anthony Bourdain. Even with a price tag of $250, the allure was great. However, the staff behind Extra Mooga didn’t budget correctly and an “endless” supply of food was gone less than three hours after the gates opened on Saturday.
So what did that mean? Hordes of upset Extra Mooga-ers joined the herd in Normal Mooga and created leviathan lines for food and beer. Even if you toughed it out and waited in one of these lines, you were greeted with (mostly) outrageous prices, which made us all feel like this “free” festival wasn’t so free anymore. Also, festival goers were told to bring cash as vendors didn’t accept credit cards. Then, upon arrival, it was revealed that the artisanal beer/wine tents only took “Googa Moola” and attendees had to wait in another line to trade cash in for festival currency. Another important note: While sealed plastic water bottles were allowed in the festival, Nalgene bottles and the like were not, and no free potable water was available. Outside food was also not allowed.
To be fair, though, Googa Mooga did have a quick learning curve. Many of the problems encountered on Saturday were fixed by Sunday. This meant a better Extra Mooga experience, more beer/wine tents to shorten lines, and the artisan beer tents that once only took “Googa Moola” accepted cash. Maybe it was the fact that the Sunday music schedule was generally better, but Day 2 of the festival was an all around smoother, more enjoyable experience.
At the end of the day, The Great Googa Mooga experiment yielded happy results, particularly after Extra Mooga tickets were refunded. Yes, there were problems, but as with any maiden voyage, there were bound to be some speed bumps along the way. Complaining about what went wrong is always easy, but let’s not forget that the organizers of Googa Mooga gave us all a chance to see some great live music for free and provided visual spectacles like a huge metal pig that shot fire out of its butt. So, despite the hiccups of this first effort, I’m going to keep the faith that next year’s lines will be shorter, the layout will be more organized, and maybe, just maybe, Coolio will walk in front of me so I can say how much I love “Gangster’s Paradise” even though I heard the Weird Al parody version first.
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