In the spirit of improvement, we'd like to offer our winners and losers of Pot of Gold 2019. There are plenty of things we'd like to see change for next year, but there are just as many things we'd like to see stay the same. And while you're here, don't forget to check out our day one, day two, and day three coverage of the festival, as well as our music and people slideshows.
A Festival That Felt Like a Carnival
One thing that helped Pot of Gold stand out from other music festivals was its commitment to looking, sounding, and smelling like a state fair in all its fried, rinky-dink glory. There were fried Twinkie stands, fortune tellers, giant inflatable mushrooms, zombie paintball booths, and honest-to-God carnival rides. A funhouse mirror attraction, two Ferris wheels, and other rides, all glowing bright at night with flashing neon lights, were just a hop and a skip away from the music stages. And all the artist booths and clothing vendors scattered around the lake gave the event a carny feel. The only thing that was missing was the rigged “win a stuffed animal for your sweetie!” game booths. Ashley Naftule
Music festivals are like funerals: No one shows up for the food. But if you're standing in a field for 10-plus hours, you may as well chow down. Keeping with the carnival vibe, Pot of Gold offered up a smorgasbord of junk food delights, from deep-fried Twinkies and blocks of chili cheese fries to churros as thick as a souvenir baseball bat. There was no food offering greater, however, than Kona Ice, which proved both satisfying in the sweltering heat and to the part of that brain that loves customizing one's meals. The food, music, and booze worked together in harmony, fostering an awesome block party vibe that proved welcoming to all. Plus, where else could you eat a foot-long corn dog judgment-free? Chris Coplan
The Fans, The Hustlers, And Everyone In Between
Master P once tried to make a dollar out of 15 cents, and walking up to the festival grounds, we met tons of independent Phoenix musicians hawking their 15 cents in the form of mixtapes. It’s a smart hustle, but what stood out was how nice they all were. At festivals like Pot of Gold, the street hustlers can get aggressive. This crowd offered their art with a "please" and moved on from one guest to the next without protest. I almost went back to grab a disc from an artist who told me to have a nice day. Almost.
Even the fans weren’t as unruly as you'd expect. St. Patrick's Day weekend is synonymous with copious amounts of alcohol, but thankfully the Pot Of Gold audience missed the memo. Not one unruly drunk reared their humiliating head from what we could tell. Concerts are one of the top 10 places to watch your back and your stuff, but the vibe at Pot of Gold was more relaxed and communal, and the safe space this created cannot be emphasized or appreciated enough. Kudos to the fans for keeping this concert copacetic. Alma Schofield
I say the following as an attendee of many festivals and a long-time music writer: I've never heard the phrase "Where are all my single ladies at?" more this weekend than my preceding three decades. At last count Sunday evening it was something like 5,437 times in total. Of course, you've got to appreciate the sentiment, a great way to engage women in an often male-centric public forum, even if it's sometimes a ploy for easy applause. But if I ever hear the phrase again, I'll pour hot sand directly into my ear canals. CC
Parking was worse than nightmarish for at Pot of Gold: It was pretty much nonexistent. Steele Indian School Park doesn't have enough onsite parking facilities to fit hundreds of concertgoers, so attendees were pretty much given a Lyft code and a pat on the back. Many, including myself, had to take the light rail to the nearest cross-streets and hoof it to the main gates.
Enter the rambunctious pedicab drives with their LED lights and MacGyvered sound systems. Pot of Gold partnered with the Phoenix Pedicab Service to shuttle guests back and forth from the entrance to their respective drop off points. After standing in the heat for seven hours, the gaudy carts were a welcome relief for someone navigating public transport after dark and, dare I say, a lot of fun. Shot out to the pedicab guys, for turning a pretty shitty walk into a ride for the ages. AS
Getting In and Out
Getting into a festival is almost always a pain in the ass, but Pot of Gold took it to a whole new level. For starters, getting wristbands was a nightmare. Most of the volunteers at ticketing had no idea what was going on: You’d wait in a long line to get your ticket and then be told you had to go wait in another long line to get your ticket at the right place.
Once you got your ticket and wristband, you had to embark on the long, long, very long walk to get to the security checkpoint. Just getting into the park in the first place is a bit of a trek, but then you had to take another long walk just to get to security. Weirdly enough, Lost Lake took place at this exact same location and didn’t have nearly as long a walk to get in. Then, after going through security, you’d walk a while longer before finally arriving at the (unmarked) ticket check-in area. Rather than do what all festivals do and position the ticket scanners right after security, Pot of Gold put those volunteers far away from security. So attendees would end up breezing right past them, not realizing they had to stop and get scanned in, and those volunteers would get pissy about it real quick. It just added another level of hassle that could have been avoided with some common fucking sense.
And then comes the clusterfuck of getting out of the venue. Despite the fact that there’s a wide path snaking through the park, organizers cordoned off a narrow footpath that both people entering and exiting had to share. Rather than have two lanes open, Pot of Gold just had one constricted vein to funnel its foot traffic through. It made for an unbelievable hassle from start to finish. Ashley Naftule
Layout and Logistics
Here's when you know a festival has failed from a purely logistical standpoint: By day three, staff members didn't even have clipboards. From day one, the festival was marred by a slew of tiny operational deficiencies, like death by 1,000 bureaucratic paper cuts. There was a distinct lack of shade, which in mid-March proved problematic as temperatures hit near the 80s on Saturday and Sunday. That issue was made all the more perplexing given the sheer amount of open space, which made for long walks and plenty of lost opportunities for other structures or amenities. disorganization was such an issue, in fact, that according to one security guard, several vendors departed prior to Saturday's kickoff. Fewer people hawking sound-activated street masks or wall art doesn't seem like a huge loss, but vendors are an integral local element, both economically and in spirit. Maybe next time make a run to Staples? CC
Rap has been a major part of Pot of Gold for years, but there are usually a few outlier rock and punk acts sprinkled into the lineup to add a little variety. Just a few years back, you could catch pop-punk wunderkinds like Potty Mouth in between the hip-hop and EDM. But this year’s Pot of Gold went all-in on rap.
Here’s the thing: A lot of the other festivals here do a bad job programming for rap. Most have barely any hip-hop or R&B acts. But Pot of Gold had the opposite problem: There was just too much of it. On paper, an all-rap festival isn’t a bad idea. Hip-hop is a wide umbrella, encompassing a dizzying variety of sounds and styles.
Pot of Gold didn’t showcase that depth and breadth. The programming was 90 percent trap and radio rap with a handful of R&B acts. Trap is fine, but so much of it starts to bleed together after a while. Even the visuals had this problem: It was like every rapper was drawing their projections of melting psychedelic skulls, crosses, and gorgon heads from the same source.
That sameness was why acts like Tinashe and Jhene Aiko stood out. Tinashe’s heavily choreographed set and Aiko’s harpist exposed the crowd to sights and sounds they weren’t gonna get from any other set that weekend. More of that, please. AN
Maya Clubhouse Stage
The upside of having two main stages in such proximity is that you never have to walk far between sets. The downside, though, is that it negatively affected the flow of traffic to the Maya Clubhouse Stage. Certainly, the layout didn't help, with Maya set further south from the action (closer to Indian School Road). Nor did the lineup, with mostly DJs and undercard acts filling out the stage on all three days. Still, there should have been more folks spending time down at Maya, not just because it provided a space for local acts to perform for a new audience, or because of the quality of the music itself. Scheduling a more notable act or two could have split the crowd up and better utilized the entire park. Pour one out for Maya Clubhouse Stage — we hardly knew ye. CC