First (hopefully annual) Clusterfest grand opening in San Francisco
“We’re incredibly excited and proud to be partnering with Comedy Central to launch Colossal Clusterfest in San Francisco, a city with such a deep and vibrant comedy history,” said Jonathan Mayers, co-founder of Superfly. “Comedy has been core to our programming at Bonnaroo and Outside Lands for over a decade and we’re thrilled to be creating an experience that shines the spotlight on comedy while still acknowledging our music festival roots.”
By: Michael Milano
All Photos By: The Hollywood Times
As the gates were about to open Friday afternoon, the contact buzz was palpable as we waited to finally experience the very first (and hopefully annual), Colossal Clusterfest in downtown San Francisco. Two Civic Center street stages as well as three stages inside of Bill Graham Music Hall made for some tough set time decisions. Presented jointly by Comedy Central and Another Planet Entertainment, Clusterfest not only boasted a lineup of A-list mirth merchants like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr, Sarah Silverman, Hannibal Buress; but also some upper echelon music acts such as Ice Cube, Chromeo, Vince Staples, Les Claypool and Tegan and Sara. The logistics of such an event are daunting to begin with; however, launching a new fest with no prior template is truly a stress test. A test that the organizers passed with aplomb. The only spec on the scheduling china was a brusquely truncated set by Bill Burrs Saturday night. A happenstance which failed to turn frowns upside down.
Bumping comedy up to Festival size from the depths of the smelly club circuit is almost an exercise in quantum physics. In supersizing comedy to the Festival crowd, the organizers pushed some nostalgia buttons with immersive multimedia as soon as we walked in the gate. Classic Comedy television was beamed in, as if from an another dimension (which it was I guess). Colorful cutouts of life size South Park characters get up in our grill. Festival staff were as thick as Ubers and ready to help with a group pic or directions. All nice folks who were all up-beat, friendly and yakky.
Of course there would be a themed food court. What was I thinking? Comedic cuisine was represented by South Park’s infamous food pop ups, including Casa Bonita, Tweek’s Coffee, and Raisins (a Hooters parody). Just beyond South Park was the Seinfeld area, which included a full-scale replica of Jerry’s apartment, a replication of Tom’s Restaurant stood close to Jerry’s apartment, and right by that there was, of course, a Soup Nazi stand.
One of the hotspots (my personal favorite) was a near perfect recreation of Paddy’s Pub from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Complete with a gross bathroom (strictly for photo ops of course) and plenty of Irish kitsch. You could stop in there early to watch some Sunny bloopers, grab a Grilled Charlie (they really make it too) or a Milk Steak with Jellybeans. However, what made this spot really special was when acts like Trevor Moore (The Whitest Kids U Know) and Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show) would get up on the small stage and do tiny bits of comedy leading into people performing karaoke.
Festivals always have bumps in the road, Aside from some minor issues regarding miscommunications between the attendees and the organizers regarding reservations and such, the festival was very well managed. Considering the caliber of the acts that were scheduled, everything was pretty much perfectly on time. I overheard some people carping about moving everyone out from the ‘Colossal’ stage between every act, but all in all, the staff was all very helpful, and it was quite easy getting around and finding out where everything was simply from the map or by using the mobile app.
I left the festival Sunday night feeling like I had really experienced something…well…different, and in the best of ways. Festival culture and comedy seem a good pairing. That really was part of what made the weekend so incredible was the shared experience between performer and audience. In a club a comic is king, in a Festival, the audience is the star really. The scale. Nobody looked like they were punching the clock for a pay packet. This is their gypsy life on a grand and awesome scale.
In view of its rookie status in the Festival firmament, Clusterfest hit all the right notes and made the Granny Trams run on time. I think we’ll be seeing more Clusterfests in the future. Laughter is a scarce commodity these days. Supply and demand.
The people of San Francisco, and really the Bay Area in general, are no stranger to massive festivals taking over the town for a weekend. For some, it’s a the festival scene, both free and not, paired with the nightlife is a big reason why the high rent is worth the price of living in the city. And it is no secret that events like these are beneficial in juicing up the economy of the host city. While San Francisco is home to plenty of incredible festivals, I ultimately would love to see Colossal Clusterfest back next year anywhere… gee is New Orleans in the running for next year’s Clusterfest? You know I’ll be there.
The festival was produced by Superfly and Comedy Central, in partnership with Another Planet Entertainment.