Lana Del Rey, boygenius, Maggie Rogers, MUNA, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ethel Cain. The names speak for themselves — if only you could avoid the packed crowds, inadequate facilities, rude fans, boggling logistical decisions, delayed and cut set times and multiple passed out audience members.
Hosted at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., All Things Go is Washington, D.C.’s annual music festival featuring traditional headliners as well as up-and-coming artists. The venue — split between the main pavilion and the smaller, intimate Chrystler stage — holds up to 20,000 attendees.
This year, for the first time, the festival was split into two days, taking place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. The festival prides itself on its inclusivity, partnering this year with Spotify EQUAL to uplift the women and queer artists headlining the event.
Day one, which featured Suki Waterhouse, Peach Pit, Dayglow, Lizzy McAlpine, Carly Rae Jepsen and Maggie Rogers, revealed cracks in the Pavilion’s ability to hold the festival without negatively impacting listeners’ experience.
Audience members could comfortably find a space in the standing area at the Pavillion without much hassle, whether that be the barricade or a blanket on the lawn with a clear view of the stage. The standing-only hill of the Chrysler stage resulted in cramped spaces, though it was easy enough to maneuver through between sets.
The performances themselves were stellar. Waterhouse angelically guided the audience into bliss with stunning harmonies, while Peach Pit riled up the crowd with electrifying chords and clear vocals.
Issues arose on day one when Dayglow had a delayed set due to technical issues, followed by another delayed set and early closure from McAlpine. The two seemed uninterested while performing, setting a disappointing atmosphere despite their solid sets and vocal work.
Jepsen and Rogers quickly course-corrected with on-time and incredible sets, giving their all to the audience. Rogers, a Maryland native, particularly bared her soul to the audience, speaking about her dream of playing at the venue since seeing her first show there in sixth grade.
Day two of the festival — however magical the performances from Ella Jane, Leith Ross, Ethel Cain, Alvvays, Arlo Parks, boygenius, MUNA and Lana Del Rey — was an off-kilter, low-grade disaster.
The Pavilion lawn, which according to the All Things Go Instagram account had already reached peak attendance levels relative to other Merriweather shows at 3 p.m. the day before, seemed beyond capacity even at noon. Moving around the Pavilion was almost impossible, as people were camping for Lana Del Rey throughout the day. The Chrysler stage became a wild jungle of bodies with no room to move, making it difficult for someone to leave the pit if they wanted to switch stages.
Water, bathroom and food lines reached peak levels with no relief, taking over an hour to reach the front of each. The venue also did not provide water to those camping, which resulted in several passouts during the sets of Leith Ross, Arlo Parks and boygenius. The spotty cell service and lack of venue Wi-Fi made matters worse, effectively stranding those who needed to communicate with other attendees for safety or location reasons.
Many fans — particularly those hoping to see Del Rey — talked over the sets of other artists, particularly during the slow ballads of Parks, Cain and Ross. Additionally, almost every artist commented on Del Rey’s attendance at the festival during their own sets, taking the metaphorical role of an opener rather than their own entity.
Delayed set times, which diminished the value of the festival experience, also plagued day two.
All Things Go announced that boygenius would have an extended 90-minute set after Beabadoobee dropped out of the festival due to scheduling issues. Boygenius then ended up starting around 20 minutes late, cutting out the extra songs the festival promised.
MUNA followed boygenius at the Chrysler stage, which was a safety issue of its own. MUNA and boygenius share overlapping fan bases, precipitating social media backlash claiming it was not safe for audiences to rush from boygenius to MUNA in only five minutes.
All Things Go extended the time between the sets to 10 minutes, playing it off as “the besties have spoken” rather than truly addressing safety concerns. MUNA joked about the “stampede” over to their stage between the two sets in an Instagram post.
Del Rey also started late, resulting in a cut set. Del Rey commented about the hard curfew deadline of the festival, opting to play one of her most popular songs “Video Games” early just so audiences could hear it. It is unclear if the venue had the option to pay the curfew fine, but for selling 20,000 tickets at a three-figure minimum price, they should have had the cash on hand.
Del Ray shocked festival attendees with a surprise visit from Jack Antonoff, longtime Grammy-award winning producer, in the middle of the set. They played “Venice Bitch” and “Margaret” together while Antonoff strummed on his guitar, which was a treat so delectable it almost absolved the day’s drama.
Frustrating logistical failures aside, the festival lineup was an indie, alternative, gothic-lover and sad-music-aficionados dream. These artists performing together in the same space for the price of one premium ticket to a normal concert was absolutely invaluable.
One cannot help but wonder if the festival might benefit from selling fewer tickets for a better experience and figure out the kinks in the process. Going from one to two festival days is a big bill to foot, and All Things Go struggled to pay it.