2014 was the year of birth of The Huntington Beach Food, Art and Music Festival, an event that takes place in one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California. I mean, who doesn’t love HB? It’s one of my favorite places for so many reasons – nice people, good vibe, real (and that means not “fake perfect”) places, active nightlife and laid back environment. I love it with all my heart. So when I heard about this new festival, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Food, art and music, all together in my favorite beach? Yes, please!
As I said (maybe I can’t say this enough), the location was perfect. The event was set up at Beach Blvd and beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, so you can imagine how pretty the view was – I mean, you were practically at the beach. Of course, it had fences so they could control who could get in and out, but you still had that cool ocean breeze and feet on the sand.
One thing that bothered me a little (even before going to the event) was the fee charged to get in. It was a 3-day festival, and the tickets were 15 dollars if you’d like to check out just the art and food part; 20 dollars if you’d like to enjoy the live music, too; and some other options, like passes to enjoy all the 3 days of the event; be part of a “golden circle”, which had some privileges, and so on. Since it was a first year event, I had no references to check if the 20 bucks were worth paying, so I wasn’t sure. Since I like taking risks (well, sometimes), I decided to go and see what was it all about.
I wasn’t very pleased when I got there and had to spend some more money: $15 was the parking fee. I know that’s the price of the beach parking, but not having other options was kind of sad – for my wallet. But that’s alright; I just moved on and headed to the festival. It was a beautiful day and I was looking forward to spend it enjoying the event!
Getting in the festival, my first thought was “where’s everybody?!” I don’t know if the price of the tickets scared people away – I think that’s what happened –, but the place was just very empty. I decided to go to the “music area” and yes, there were more people there, but still nothing great. I have to say it started off already not being how I had envisioned, but that’s okay. I was willing to give it a chance and not to judge too quickly.
Thank goodness I was prepared for the super hot day: sunglasses, sun block – oh wait, I forgot bringing a hat. It would have been so useful. Anyway, the whole idea of the festival was celebrating the endless summer that we have here in Orange County, and the day couldn’t have reflected it better! It was the typical summer day. I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of very hot weather, though; but I think someone read my thoughts and offered me a nice and cold beer. It was the best beer I’ve ever had! The ocean breeze also helped cooling down a little, so thank you, ocean. You’re amazing.
Oh, and about the beer: people were allowed to drink just in little reserved areas. I understand that the beach is a public place and that drinking in public is not allowed, but the festival itself was already kind of separated from the beach (by fences); so I didn’t really get the need of reserved areas inside the reserved area. But, well, I was glad enough I could drink my beer at the beach – especially because it was almost 100 degrees.
Even though the place was not packed, the music area was filled with good energies. I have to say that the performances were very good and one of the reasons I stayed there until the sun was completely down. The first band that I saw performing was the amazing Missing Persons, a L.A. based music group from the 80’s. I confess, I didn’t know most of the songs… But I loved to see the crowd’s energy and their interaction with the band. I could see they were having so much remembering some of their hits and enjoying the show.
Artists like the pop singer Michelle Branch, blues star John Popper and incredible talented Sheila E. were there, too; all of them bringing some awesome energy to the event. An interesting fact about the music area here: there was also a little reserved area, right in front of the stage, for those who had purchased the golden circle ticket. Yes, you read it right – right in front of the stage! I just found that so weird. The weirdest part was that the event was already very empty, so there weren’t many people near the performance area. So imagine a stage, very few people in front of it, and some people around the fenced area trying to see the artists. Not so nice, huh? But when it was Michelle Branch’s turn to perform, she said how nice would it be if everybody could be together, and not separated by that fence. I think she was reading my thoughts as well! Two minutes later, a security guy opened the little gate and said everybody could go in. Mini revolution inside the golden circle area, yay! It was a very nice (and logic) gesture. I also don’t understand why they did this especial ticket thing. I would totally get it if it was a huge event, but that’s not the case here.
Unfortunately, the liberation didn’t last long. When Mark McGrath, from Sugar Ray, was on stage, they made sure the fence was back up. Understandable, since Mark’s show was the spotlight of the evening, and people who paid more got the chance to get very close to him. I didn’t know Mark is from Orange County, and I could see how happy he was to be back and perform in Huntington Beach. He got on stage around 7:30 pm, so the scenario was perfect: the sun was setting – and sunsets in HB are breathtaking –, the weather was starting to get cooler… And then Mark McGrath started singing some of Sugar Ray’s most loved hits. It couldn’t get any Orange Countier. It was just the perfect picture of the OC.
While there was no one on stage, I would walk around the festival and check out some of the art and food booths. Food wise, the options were great (from sushi burrito to ribs mac and cheese), so I got a bit overwhelmed – what should I try first?! I had to get the sushi burrito because, well, it’s two of my favorite foods combined! And I can tell you that my lobster burrito was amazing – just imagine sushi rolled in a flour tortilla. It doesn’t sound great, but I promise it’s very, very good.
Also, I couldn’t resist trying out Texas Outlaws Ribs. The smell and the food looked great – and I’m not the biggest meat lover – and I could see they are an award winning restaurant. My husband and I had the ribs and a small rib mac and cheese, and I can honestly say it was the best ribs I’ve ever had. The sauce was heavenly good (not too sweet) and the meat would melt in my mouth. The portion was pretty big, but we enjoyed every single bite of it. I talked with the ladies that worked there and with the owner of the restaurant, too, and they were so friendly and passionate about their business. It just reminded me that great people make some great food.
Unfortunately, the art part of the event was not as great as the food and music. There were just a few booths with paintings, prints, posters and some crafts and jewelry. I don’t even have much to say about it, really, because there was nothing great to see, sadly. I was expecting a more crafty and creative type of art, but I guess the organizers of the event wanted it to be more “refined”, as I heard. I could see people weren’t enjoying it that much either – the booths were just very empty.
As a first year event, I think The Huntington Beach Food, Art and Music Festival learned a lot of things, in so many aspects; and maybe they’ll work even harder next year to make a great festival. I just think that this time they didn’t get the current Orange County vibe – people are looking for different things, different points of views and fresh perspectives. The OC is also all about the mixture of cultures and ideas, and the festival didn’t reflected that very well.
Also, maybe they can consider making it a free event. When it comes to the music attractions, then I totally agree people should pay to see it; no discussions about that. But it sounds a little weird to me having to pay to get in just to see a few art booths and food trucks – get in for free, get some food and buy some art, right? Doesn’t it make more sense?
Overall, I did have a good time at the festival, but I’m looking forward to see how the next one is going to be. Surprise me (in a good way) next year, HB Fest!