When concert producer Insomniac announced a new Day Trip house music festival last August, the event was a glittering disco ball of hope the live music industry would return next summer, recovering from the crippling stop of the coronavirus pandemic.
âPeople needed something to look forward to,â said Pasquale Rotella, founder and CEO of Insomniac Events, in an interview Thursday afternoon, noting that the new festival originally planned for the San Pedro waterfront was also a beacon for him and his staff.
But things didn’t go as planned, even after adding and selling a second day tour and booking three dozen artists, including Chromeo, Diplo, Nora En Pure and Justin Martin.
Over the past two weeks, the festival with summer vibes of palm trees and yachts has hit choppy waters, with two venue relocations leading Insomniac to unprecedented reimbursement of tickets, travel and accommodation reimbursements for fans and admission to future concerts.
This weekend, the show will continue, now taking place at the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino on Saturday and Sunday; previous ticket holders will have free entry and others can still purchase tickets to the first two-day festival in Southern California since the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
For Rotella, who launched Insomniac in warehouses in Los Angeles almost 30 years ago and has become the nation’s largest promoter of electronic dance music with events such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Beyond Wonderland and Hard Summer, the Choppy seas of the Day Trip journey are not unheard of.
âRather than cancel the show, in Insomniac’s mind and where we’re from, never give up, never stop. The party has to go on,â Rotella said.
Navigating the post-COVID seas
Day Trip was born out of a weekly terrace party of the same name Insomniac produced at The Academy club in Los Angeles from 2018 with a loyal following of house music fans.
Unlike some of Insomniac’s elaborate productions for festivals such as the Electric Daisy Carnival or the Nocturnal Wonderland, “Day Trip is very much about music,” Rotella said. Still, the production includes palm trees, a giant flamingo, hundreds of disco balls, and people sipping drinks from fish jars.
Hosting the event at LA’s waterfront fit naturally into the mood of the day. But on June 22, Insomniac announced the move from the waterfront to The Lot in Hollywood Park, the location outside of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the Port of Los Angeles, said the holiday weekend presented challenges, including traffic due to the return of the fireworks and limited parking.
âNo one had bad intentions and the city was great,â Rotella said. “Resources. You have to have them to do things right.”
While 15,000 people had bought tickets for the Saturday show, the capacity with which Insomniac and the venue operated, holiday problems prompted the port to tell the concert producer that it had to lose 5,000 attendees for the The day trip takes place on the site.
âSo how do you choose who to reimburse? And we felt it would be a difficult thing to do and reduce our capacity since we were exhausted, âRotella said.
Sanfield noted that the planning for the day trip coincided with the evolution of pandemic health and safety guidelines for crowds, creating additional logistical challenges related to the capacity of the sites.
Insomniac changed the course of the festival, moving 20 miles north of the new stadium complex. But as the developer was set to start setting up the venue last weekend, Day Trip ran into permit issues.
âIt’s a new facility. We are emerging from this pandemic. And there were some things that the place and we as a company didn’t know, âRotella said.
The quick turnaround time did not allow time for a required medical plan to be approved by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the City of Inglewood also raised concerns about the event being held. in the stadium parking lot in a residential area.
A new path has been mapped out for the festival, but to a long-standing port for Insomniac: the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino. Over 70 miles east of Inglewood, the complex has hosted many of the producer’s events.
After consulting with the location, the city, and law enforcement officials, among others, Day Trip officially had a place to dock. And even if it’s not at the water’s edge, the production, from the setting up of several stages to the astroturf pose, including the Ferris wheel, will be the same.
But there was one aspect of the move that would prove to be more difficult: telling the fans.
On the move again
Rotella had realized the festival’s reach beyond Southern California after the first move. He heard from fans who had booked accommodation near the waterfront site.
Ticket holders don’t hesitate to take to social media to express their frustration, and dozens have done so with the initial move.
The frustration was understandable, but what to do? It’s not like Rotella can just reimburse everyone’s tickets for the inconvenience. Or could he?
So, on Tuesday, June 29, Rotella released a video for fans, explaining the move to San Bernardino, and then announcing that all ticket holders would be reimbursed – and that they could still attend this weekend. They would also receive admission to an Insomniac event of their choice until the end of 2021 which was not full. Beyond that, they would receive a form by email and could be reimbursed for non-refundable travel and accommodation costs.
âThe reason we did it was that we could and have just come out of such a difficult yearâ¦ Our ability to be able to take care of people at that level, we just had to do it. It was the right thing to do, âRotella said.
Based on ticket prices and initial capacity estimates alone, the cost of reimbursing tickets would exceed $ 1 million.
Dave Brooks, senior director of live music for Billboard, said Insomniac’s decision to reimburse both tickets and travel expenses was something he had never heard of before with a festival.
“Yeah sure, they made that mistake, but they made the event free, they offered to pay the travel costs, and they create events for people who just got stuck inside and who want to go out and dance, âBrooks said.
Brooks said refunds could garner positive feedback for Insomniac, but noted that if people find it difficult to get into San Bernardino or there are logistical issues as a result of the sudden move, it could turn into a problem. inherited for the brand.
Rotella doesn’t know how many people will be coming to San Bernardino this weekend, but they are allowed to have 20,000 each day.
Insomniac will be back on the scene later this month for Hard Summer on July 31 and August 1. The show is already sold out. Beyond Wonderland follows later in August.
âThe NOS Event Center has welcomed dance music culture to the United States. There were other times when venues weren’t available and festivals that we were accepted as things that people should be allowed to have and attend. And the Orange Show has always been a great, safe place for us, and we really call it home. “
Editors Alex Groves and Donna Littlejohn contributed to this report.