Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Organizers of Botánica Music Festival, originally a two-day event slated to take place in Six Flags Fiesta Texas' parking lot, have announced major changes to its musical lineup and location. As of Tuesday the new festival, founded and backed by local tech industry executives, will be a one-day event on Saturday, March 3, and bands will play on three or four stages inside the active amusement park.
Schedule and location changes, however, meant several acts –including Major Lazer, Blackbear, and Bishop Briggs – had to bow out of the festival, said David Heard, Botánica co-founder and TechBloc CEO.
"[Major Lazer doesn't] have the kind of performance and production setup that will fit in the park," he said, and other artists couldn't make it work with their schedules. They've been replaced with popular, but smaller acts Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Yachty, Doja Cat, and Youth in Revolt. The Deftones, one of the original headliners, remain on the billing, and local electro-pop group Femina-X has joined the lineup.
Ticket prices have been reduced and include full access to the park's rides and amenities. Full or partial refund options are available for those who purchased tickets prior to Tuesday – some may choose to upgrade their tickets, Heard said. Botánica was slated to host more than 40 bands. Now, "between 30 and 40" will perform.
“This concentrates all the fun into one day. ... We’re a new brand and people are learning what the experience is going to be like. This allows us to turn on all the entertainment in the park," he said. March 3 is also the opening day for Six Flags' new Wonder Woman Golden Lasso roller coaster.
The changes were a direct result of community feedback, Heard said. After the festival was announced in late September 2017, organizers began receiving questions about the location and purchasing single-day tickets.
“We’re already at Six Flags, why can’t we walk over and ride the roller coasters?” Heard said, citing an example of one question. "Our first reaction was well, maybe year two ... but the more we looked at it, perhaps the right thing to do is really listen to that input in real time."
Tickets for the two-day event were originally $119 to $399. Early-bird tickets to the new, one-day festival are now on sale for $77.99. VIP packages, which include free parking, are available for $174.99. Regular admission to Fiesta Texas is $77.99 plus fees.
Botánica's Facebook post announcing the changes had garnered almost 200 comments as of Wednesday afternoon. Some were positive, some were negative, but most were friends tagging friends. The post received a variety of reactions: About 250 "liked" and 50 "loved" it while 11 were "angry."
"The transparency of the situation is refreshing, and it’s great to hear that Botánica will be issuing refunds," Nicole Sabijon, 23, wrote on the post. "However, the situation doesn’t help the sentiment that Botánica was trying to combat – that San Antonio is lame. Botánica was supposed to showcase our city as a viable option for a successful large scale event that could eventually compete against the likes of ACL [Austin City Limits]."
Sabijon, a graphic designer with Valero Energy who lives near the University of Texas at San Antonio, told the Rivard Report she was expecting the announcement of even bigger acts, not the removal of some of the most prominent. "I won’t write Botánica out for the future. But this time, the ball was dropped."
Heard pointed to several positive comments, ones that had friends making plans to attend. "The response has been largely positive.
"So far we don’t have a lot of people asking for refunds," he added. "Most are choosing upgrades or partial refunds.”
For contractual reasons, Heard declined to provide ticket sale totals.
Miles Terracina, who founded the local music blog Sobre Sound, told the Rivard Report that he was disappointed by the changes.
"I feel like it was kind of like a Plan B," he said. Terracina works for Front Gate Tickets, contracted to ticket Botánica, but he is not involved in operations related to the festival.
"Mixing it with Fiesta Texas seems kinda like now it’s in this other realm of things," he said. "I feel like it’s a little contrary to their initial messaging." Terracina said he interpreted the festival's original branding as an event for a more general audience of a traditional music festival.
Botánica was intended as a traditional music festival, Heard said, but that path was altered when organizers learned that partnering with Six Flags was achievable and affordable.
“The infrastructure is just really too good to pass up,” he explained.
Botánica will be able to take advantage of the amusement park's existing security, parking, and bathrooms that other festivals would have to construct. There are also more shade, trees, grass, and built-in food and drink facilities that the parking lot venue would have lacked.
"[Fiesta Texas is] used to dealing with large crowds every single day," Heard said. "In a post-Las Vegas world, to provide a safe, family-friendly environment … it just seemed to make a lot of sense."
The stages themselves are also already there, Heard said, adding that Botánica will bring festival-quality sound and video equipment to performance venues that already take into account potential noise distractions from surrounding rides.
The real goal of the festival is to enhance San Antonio's music offerings and act as another puzzle piece toward attracting young talent to the city, Heard said, adding that the tech industry specifically has a gap in skilled workers.
Ilena Gonzalez, who has been working with Botánica organizers as an ambassador since 2016, was initially dismayed with the changes, she said Wednesday.
"But thinking about [the] bigger picture, you need to learn how to walk in order to run," Gonzalez said of the festival. "We can get 100 percent that day instead of 50 percent for two days."
The idea of being able to ride some roller coasters between sets appeals to her. "The first year is full of things to do for an entire day," she said.
The change also allows for some potential surprises, Gonzalez said, noting that headliners Logic and Alessia Cara collaborated on the hit song "1-800-273-8255."
"Putting on a festival is hard. Period. No matter who you are," Terracina said, adding that coming into the scene with a blank slate is "one hell of an uphill battle," but not unheard of.
When he first heard of the pending announcement, Terracina thought Botánica might announce a full-on cancellation. The festival's Facebook page went quiet after Halloween, Terracina pointed out. Meanwhile, the inaugural In Bloom Music Festival (formerly Free Press Summer Festival) in Houston announced its lineup for March 24-25, just three weeks after Botánica.
That, tied with the cancellation of Sound on Sound Fest in Austin late last year due to financial struggles, led Terracina to look closely at Botánica's fate.
"Texas just had a rocky festival market this past year,” he said.
Edwin Stephens, co-founder of music industry advocacy group San Antonio Sound Garden, hadn't heard of the changes until the Rivard Report reached him Wednesday.
"My hope is that music does better in San Antonio in general," he said, "so we’re rooting for everybody."
After finding out initial details of Botánica's new set up, especially the part about being able to hop on a ride between sets, Stephens laughed.
"That is mind-blowing," he said. "I think that could be amazing, I guess.”
"It’s been a while since I’ve been to Fiesta Texas, and, personally, I haven’t been into going to music festivals as I’ve gotten older ... but there’s something intriguing about that [combination]."
This article was originally published on Jan. 3, 2018.