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September 17, 2014

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For the Pastel Project to prosper, a few things need to change

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Bill Hughes

CSS plays the Pastel Project.

It would be easy to shrug off last weekend’s Pastel Project as a wild-eyed failure, considering how much money its creators spent and how few human beings paid to attend the Royal House’s two-day music fest. It would also ignore the high points of a new event that showed some real promise.

First, the good. The sound and staging were totally pro. Bands like The Album Leaf and Autolux, whose dynamics would test the PA systems at most off-Strip venues, sounded pristine at Pastel. Kudos, too, to the First Friday crew, for decorating the Royal’s back lot with interesting installations. And good thinking bringing in food trucks—nothing goes better with electro pop than organic ice cream.

How to make it better? Lots of ways, but let’s start with four.

1. Plan farther out. Promotion, in particular, would benefit from extra time, especially in out-of-town markets. Folks are always looking for excuses to come to Vegas; more room on the calendar only increases the odds they’ll actually make the trip.

2. Schedule smarter. Going head-to-head with Neon Reverb was bad for business. Reverb has already announced its fall dates (September 11-16), so Pastel knows which week to avoid. Taking it a step further, mending the riff with Reverb would help bring doubters onboard, and could unify the local scene behind the newer endeavor.

3. Book bigger. Crazy? Not if Pastel really hopes to be a destination festival. CSS, STRFKR and The Whigs are cool bands, but mobs of Californians aren’t hitting the highway to see them. A few big-name indie acts grouped together (think: Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene, Fleet Foxes …) or one megaband (you out there, Killers?) might even get people on a plane.

4. Consider comfort. If you weren’t in Pastel’s VIP section, you couldn’t sit and see the stage (unless you plunked butt-down on the pavement). Create a lawn, even if it’s made of turf. Instead of charging $10 per car, offer free shuttles. And most significantly, reconsider those ticket prices—$40-$50 per day only works if you’ve got the names onstage to command it. The guess here is if you go cheaper, the extra bodies will more than make up the difference. –Spencer Patterson

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