The decision this year to move headlining comics indoors to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has proven to be highly unpopular with a lot of Clusterfest attendees, as the venue's seating capacity means not everyone has been able to get in when they want.
In order to accommodate headliner John Mulaney's many fans on Saturday, festival organizers scheduled him for two shows, one at 8:15 and one at 10:15, with opening acts Julio Torres and Sheng Wang. Heading into the fest on Saturday I noted that twice as many people had put the earlier show on their schedule on the Clusterfest app, and by evening it turned out that indeed, everyone wanted to get into the early show. (I attended the late show and the balcony seating was only 2/3 full and most of the standing-room space on the main floor was empty, and Mulaney killed it.)
The disorganization involved with making attendees line up outside Bill Graham to potentially not get a seat or a space to stand created a ton of frustration, however, and this had not been a problem at the two previous Clusterfests because the biggest-name acts all performed on the outdoor main stage.
KPIX spoke to one attendee who claimed he stood in a line for four and a half hours (this seems implausible), and SF Weekly points to multiple tweets about hours of line-standing — lines also form to get into the two smaller "club" venues in side rooms within Bill Graham, and getting into those requires making reservations on the app first, due to the limited capacity of those rooms.
The other problem, and this has happened in previous years: Because it's a festival, people simply camp out in seats at Bill Graham for multiple shows and save seats for friends. Security personnel reportedly tried to disallow seat-saving Saturday evening, because so many seats were already full from people who never left the previous Chelsea Peretti-led set.
Much of the misery being tweeted about regarding the situation inside and outside Bill Graham on Saturday could have been avoided if some of those people simply chose to attend the later Mulaney set. The festival also tweeted out to people in line that they should consider the later show, which would be exactly the same, but no one apparently listened. And comparisons to the Fyre Festival are a bit over-wrought.
As SF Weekly's Zack Ruskin puts it, "This will really be a case of most people wasting two hours," so yeah, not exactly the same as being stranded on an island with no food or proper shelter. There was, however, a major over-capacity issue for the early show because organizers clearly lost control of the crowd, and there were reportedly a lot of blocked aisles.
I can’t believe the parkour I had to do to get back to my seat for the early John Mulaney show last night. Those aisles screamed fire hazard. They definitely weren’t ready for crowds that big and it feels like they oversold. #Clusterfest— Kyle Buis (@kylebuis) June 23, 2019
To those of you who might be interested in #Clusterfest: You missed absolutely nothing. Terrible planning, uninformed and aggressive (and racist) security, and lines around the block. Literally the worst event I've ever been to. #NeverAgain #fyrefestival #@clusterfest @Superfly— Vikash Parekh (@VikashIsCool) June 23, 2019
In case you are wondering, here is the massive @mulaney line at @clusterfest - keep in mind many waited for several hours (with tickets) before being told it was full/at capacity. His second show was eerily EMPTY. Somethings not right. #clusterfest @clusterfyre pic.twitter.com/JYAV24XcuD— Deaf Mute (@contron) June 23, 2019