The Nethermead in Prospect Park is one of the most beautiful and amazing areas of this city and a perfect spot for a music festival. The 9th St. Bandshell is a wonderful music venue, of course, but The Nethermead is completely natural and out of sight to cars or buildings. I had seen a Carribean festival there about 10 years ago, but nothing since, so when The Great Googa Mooga, a craft food, beer and wine music festival, was announced there, I was amped! I dutifully claimed my free tickets the moment they went on sale (80,000 sold out in about 10 minutes) and headed over on Saturday to find an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE! The lines were insane for everything and they were requiring a cash conversion to “Googa Moula”, which was apparently intended to be a debit card system that failed and was replaced with an arcade-style raffle ticket currency, which would have been hilarious had it not caused a complete meltdown, both of commerce and my mental stability. After 2 hours (!) of waiting, and just when we reached the front of the trading line, they ran out of tickets. This epic currency crash finally broke the organizers and they reverted to everybody’s favorite method of exchange, The Dollar.
As the lines disappeared and food and beverage flowed in perfect weather, the festival recovered nicely, and Saturday afternoon featured some great music from The Roots. We arrived on Sunday fearing the worst, but the situation had been alleviated and I was able to sample some delicious food and drink with minimal waiting. I love Porchetta sandwiches, which I normally have to travel to Manhattan to enjoy, but there they were, in the middle of Brooklyn, finished off with a Brewer’s Blondie from Baked in Red Hook. I attended the Hot Sauce Takedown and melted my face off on ten local sauces, proudly supporting my friend’s Daliente entry, which won The Audience Choice award! The Beer and Wine Tents were packed with quality selections, and I sampled probably too many. I also witnessed what may be the most entertaining performance of my life in Peelander-Z, a Japanese punk band with wacky costumes and zany antics, playing much of the show from/with the audience, moving through and around us and behind us, climbing up us and then onto and down the string of port-a-potties… Lez Zeppelin is an all-female tribute band who rips it like the record with the stage swagger of all four members, and the festival closed with Hall and Oates, who sound almost exactly like their Greatest Hits album.
All in all, it was an amazing recovery for what was about to go down as the worst New York festival disaster since Field Day ’03. It brought together so many of the things that I love about living in the city; food, booze, friends and music, in one of my favorite spots. I am grateful to the organizers for bringing this here and hope they have learned from their mistakes and will continue to develop this community celebration.