By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor
Summer music festivals are known for a variety of things: hot new bands, reunited supergroups, huge crowds, and regret at having not packed sunscreen. The concept of music festival food, however, likely brings to mind feelings of underwhelmed resignation, memories of paying seven dollars for gross pizza or splurging on flavorless pad thai. You're unsurprised if it's mediocre, you're delighted if it's average.
Luckily, the tide may be turning. As the culinary attitudes of the millennials who attend these events in droves evolve and advance, festival organizers have been forced to adapt. Heat-lamp grub and overpriced macro-beers don't cut it for the discerning young music fan, especially as the price of admission for these festivals continues to rise. This scenario provides both a challenge and an opportunity. Forced to up the festival food game, organizers have increasingly looked to their local fast-casual dining community, favoring vendors whose dishes reflect local food trends and inspire a sense of community and locavorism. The result is a festival like Los Angeles's recent FYF Festival, which showcased the city's diverse food and beverage scene and provided a model that festivals nationwide would be wise to follow.
Los Angeles has traditionally been known as a spirit city, unfortunately more a reflection on the less than inspiring wine and beer options available than the quality of the city's mixed drinks. Thankfully, this characterization is being quickly swept clean. Craft beer and natural wine are becoming more and more popular in the city, with geek wine bars and micro-breweries popping up constantly to meet the demand of a population craving high-quality beverage options. FYF recognized this trend and capitalized, with an entire beer, wine, and cocktail garden dedicated to artisan, local options. Thirty-two craft beer options were available, all from Los Angeles area breweries, including small but highly-regarded breweries like Smog City, Noble Ale Works, and Macleod Ales. Telegraph Brewing poured their award winning California Ale, a light, yeasty saison that was a perfect mid-day thirst quencher. Patrons seemed delighted at the bounty of delicious beers.
“I've traveled throughout the country to different festivals, FYF definitely has the most beer options of anywhere I've been” said Carlos Pidilla, a self-described beer fan who traveled from Denver for the event. “Different festivals don't have such a variety of beers. If you're not used to craft beer, it could be a little bit overwhelming. But then if you're a craft beer aficionado, you look at it and you say, this is quite interesting.”
Though the sheer number of craft beer options easily dwarfed the wine and cocktails available, quality could still be found. One particularly encouraging option was the 'Rose Dewitt' from California winery Forlorn Hope, a relatively unknown producer who consistently puts out fantastic products. Carefully constructed cocktails were also available, including a particularly delicious Don Julio Oaxacan Old Fashioned, made with Reposado tequila, mezcal, Antica Formula Carpano and mole bitters. The beverage garden was consistently filled, a clear indication of the desire for better beverage options among festival-goers.
Vegan and Health-Consciousness
There's arguably no better city in America to practice veganism than in Los Angeles, a city that prides itself on its innovative, quality vegan cuisine. Millennials are increasingly buying in to the vegan food trend, as the health benefits of the diet are becoming more and more apparent. FYF catered to this crowd, offering quality local vegan options from restaurants like Echo Park's Sage Vegan Bistro, who brought both a food truck serving their farm to table vegan dishes. KindKreme, a Los Angeles dairy-free ice cream outfit, served scoops of their delicious, creamy desserts to people eager to beat the August heat. Equally refreshing was Moon Juice, a local cold-pressed, 100% organic juice and nut milk shop from Venice. The rise of cold-pressed juices has been a trend in Los Angeles for the last few years, and patrons were delighted to find Moon Juice at the festival (though hopefully no one was attempting a cleanse). Atwater favorite Dune was also in attendance, and their huge, massively flavorful falafel was one of the highlights of the festival's many quality food options. People noticed the diversity and quality of the health-conscious options available, and they were consistently impressed.
“I was really excited about the stuff available,” said Morgan Riley, a New Yorker who visited for the festival. “I've been to festivals on the East Coast before, and it tends to be more fair food, like fries and pizza, and they have that! But it's also nice to be able to get real food. The juice, the vegan options, it feels good when you're worn out and dehydrated from standing in the sun all day.” Her sister Connor, an LA resident, echoed the sentiment, though living in LA may have prepared her for the healthy options available, “I'm impressed, but not surprised”. Health is big in LA, a desire that FYF was all too happy to appease.
Even among its less-than-healthy options, FYF made sure to provide its patrons with recognizable, and often beloved, local favorites. Highland Park's Donut Friend was a natural fit; its donuts, in addition to being innovative and delicious, all take their names from rock acts (festival goers there to see Morrissey could enjoy the S'morrissey, Joyce Manor fans had the Joyce Lavender). Local deli Cantor's had a truck there selling their classic sandwiches, Berlin Currywurst brought their delectable German street food, and Big Daddy's Poke Shack fed those taken by the city's current poke craze. Blurring the line between health and fair food, local bakery Clara Cakes populated a booth full of vegan desserts and junk food, including a vegan mac and cheese waffle with vegan dipping sauce that even the most skeptical carnivore would have happily devoured.
FYF hit it out of the park with their food and beverage selections, providing patrons with options that reflected their local community and the pervading trends in the local food industry. One of the more exciting developments that has occurred as a result of the “foodie” movement is the blurring of traditional lines between the type of people who would typically seek artisan cuisine. Millennials are almost as serious about their food as they are about their live music, and new venues such as these provide valuable opportunities for businesses to reach out to potential customers.