UPDATE: IRIS Presents has reached out to Magnetic Magazine to inform us that the Facebook profile for B Scott Stevens in the screen shot below does not belong to one of their employees.
If 2016 has taught us one thing, it's that the festival formula is due for an update. Now in its third year, Imagine Festival took place at the Atlanta Speedway for the first time this last weekend - and while growing pains were to be expected, what numerous festivalgoers have described is difficult to justify by any rationale.
Over the past couple of days, the Imagine Festival 2016 Facebook group has been awash with testimonies from disgruntled attendees (and, predictably, a handful of imaginative trolls). It's a sad state of affairs when anyone familiar with the modern music festival landscape finds themselves writing off security and medical staff oversights as usual symptoms of bloated festival budgets, but much of what has been described echoes the horror stories that came back from HARD Summer and Moonrise Festival earlier in the month.
An attendee named Oliver Edward spoke to Magnetic Magazine about his own experience at Imagine, emphasizing the absence of staffing in much of his firsthand account. "I can’t tell you how Imagine’s festival staff was," he said. "The reason I can’t tell you is because we couldn’t find any of them. After the eighth or ninth person with some kind of staff uniform on who told us they didn’t work for Imagine, just the speedway, we gave up."
Edward recalled that the security guards hired to work the event from outside agencies had not been much better. "The best way I can describe it if I had to put it in one sentence is that if you had to throw this event tomorrow, and you hired every seedy person on Craigslist without looking at their criminal record, that’s what it was like," he told us. "No one knew what they were doing."
Edward described not having his ID, bag or pockets checked at numerous security checkpoints, which he points out could have caused a safety issue. Indeed, a post made inside the Facebook group by one of the festival's staff reveals that syringes had been found "all over the place" in the grass areas of the festival grounds.
Other attendees have come forward to outlets like WSB-TV Atlanta and Georgia Unflitered with claims that access to water stations had been limited. “[They said], ‘There's going to be all these water filling stations,'" an attendee named Natasha Taylor told the former news source. "'There's going to be all these misters everywhere. Oh, there's going to be shade.' There was none of that."
Edward's recollection of Imagine Festival's layout could explain why attendees found it so difficult to locate water stations. "The map was not accurate at all," he told us. "They had a few key points, but almost everything on the map was either closed or moved to a different area."
One part of his testimony that bore shocking similarity to that of a HARD Summer Attendee who contacted Magnetic Magazine described how all but one exit was closed after the event got out, which "bottlenecked" all of those departing the venue into one staircase. Edward said:
"Somebody unfortunately took something that wasn’t agreeing with them, a big guy, and he keeled over at that point, when everyone was leaving. It took 3-5 minutes for any type of staff to come on.
When the first member of the staff came on, everyone was screaming ‘medic,’ and he actually screamed out 'no, no medic,' and then the crowd around him actually took it upon themselves to say, ‘No, he needs a medic; he’s foaming and having convulsions.’
Maybe five minutes later - and this is now a scene - someone finally shows up from the medic. Only problem is that they don’t have a cart. A cart finally pulls up, and it’s three people who, I guess, didn’t work for them but they have the equipment necessary, and they go ‘Nope, we’re not medic,’ and they just drive off.
The most common grievance aired by members of the Facebook group, however, is a claim that amenities promised to them as part of their VIP package had been reneged upon. In regards to his own VIP experience, Edward told us:
Once we got there, our VIP pass was supposed to entail a private entrance at security checkpoint, air-conditioned bathrooms, elevated platforms, champagne toast, free giveaways, and access to pool area. Pretty much after night one, the bathrooms were off-limits.
When we showed up night two, the security that was supposed to check our band just pointed off to this little side pit, and we were no longer allowed in the elevated area or into those bathrooms. We left it at that, but after talking to some other goers, they said ‘Oh, well you didn’t do super VIP.’ I don’t know who organized it, but apparently the scheme was that to get access to the already paid-for VIP, it was a $300 cash price.
More disturbingly, Edward claims that when he posted and commented on the Imagine Festival Facebook page, the admins deleted all of it and blocked him from interacting with the page. "They haven’t responded to anything about this at all," he said. He claims to have heard that a handful of attendees are looking into a class-action lawsuit on the grounds of false advertisement on behalf of the festival organizers.
When Magnetic Magazine reached out to IRIS Presents, we were fortunate enough to receive a response. A representative speaking on behalf of the promoter said:
We want to thank those that attended Imagine Music Festival this weekend. We are grateful for the support we have had and appreciate the understanding of our fans, as we adjust to a new, larger venue. With a successful Imagine Music Festival completed, we realize there were certain opportunities and challenges facing us that will need to be immediately addressed and remedied.
While many of these issues are no different than those that face any outdoor festival, Imagine Music Festival holds itself to a higher standard and we are taking steps to ensure that these are not a part of the festival in 2017. Top of these is the fan concerns voiced through the festival website and social media pages. While certain claims have already been identified as not holding any validity, we take this very seriously and will be looking into to every claim individually.
Magnetic Magazine encourages anyone with experiences similar to that of Oliver Edward to tell us about them in the comments section below - or, for guaranteed anonymity, to contact us by email at info@MagneticMag.com.