Two weekends in a row, we went to all-day music festivals sponsored by local radio stations. On Saturday, August 17th we made our way to Willow Island in Madison, WI for JJO Band Camp. The following weekend on Saturday, August 24th we went to Twin Lakes, WI to Shadow Hill Ranch to go to 95.1 WIIL Rock Fest. I will admit I'm a little bit biased because 94.1 WJJO is my home station and I've been going to Band Camp since it's conception 10 years ago, but I think there were great points about both and not-so-great points about them as well.
As far as the venue and setup go, Band Camp has always been on Willow Island, but it keeps getting smaller. Not the island, but the barriers that keep the rockers corralled in. WIIL Rock was at a large ranch in Twin Lakes and it was extremely spacious. I really liked the venue (despite the hill!). In both cases, the setup of booths and tents seems kind of unorganized, but overall Band Camp had a better organizational system to their booths. Shadow Hill Ranch also had a lot of trees that people could sit under when the heat and sun got to them. They also had tents with tables set up where people could hang out, eat and drink beer. One of the trees that was a popular spot was right between two of the stages and right by "back stage" where band members were going in and out.
The food was a no brainer. WIIL Rock had that one down. They had a lot more options, better prices, and even a carnival food booth that had all kinds of deep-fried awesomeness (twinkies, oreos and funnel cakes!). It was affordable and the water and 23oz Arizona teas/juices were less expensive than the soda. The only thing I didn't like was the use of the ticket system, where you had to purchase food and drink tickets at a separate booth before going to one of the many food tents to order. I understand why they do it, but it's just kind of an inconvenience.
I wasn't a huge fan of the lineup at Band Camp this year, but in years past they have blown us away with great bands. WIIL Rock's lineup was similar (though had a few more bands that I really like) this year. Band Camp has 2 stages that they alternate between all day with very little time between bands. WIIL Rock actually had 4 stages. One stage was used only for the 2 opening band and one was the Reverbnation stage that was set so far back that most people didn't even know it was there and featured local bands. The other two were the Jagermeister, which is the equivalent of JJO's second stage, and the main stage. Instead of alternating back and forth, they had a bunch of bands play the Jagermeister stage with about 20 minutes between bands before switching to the main stage with the same lag time between bands. It was good because it gave people the chance to get something to eat or run to the portapotties, but at the same time it seemed wasteful to have so much down time.
One of the things I absolutely hated at WIIL Rock was the tiered tickets. Both shows had a similar price on tickets (Band Camp was cheaper, though), but WIIL Rock had tiered tickets that separated the crowd. They had a gold circle ticket that was more expensive that got you in the area by the stage. The rest of us were in general admission hiding behind fences. It had a bad consequence of creating a huge gap in the middle of the show. I can't tell if the lazy people were lazy due to not enough people in the crowd or because they just suck. We saw about half a mosh pit during one of Nonpoint's songs and not one body surfer. Most of them didn't know the words to any of the songs and I kept hearing people ask if HURT was a new band. Yikes. Sounds like that station isn't doing it's job. In the future, I would recommend they do what JJO does with the Cage tickets where it does not actually put a huge hole in the crowd halfway back from the stage, but provides a "special" area with private portapotties, bleachers, and an autographed guitar.
WIIL Rock allowed chairs and blankets, which farther back in the grass was good but up close was not (see discussion about boring people above). They also had a printable lineup list that also had the times of live interviews with the bands and meet and greets. I would love to see something like that at JJO Band Camp. I did not like how WIIL Rock gave away the meet and greet passes. They would find someone wearing station logos, which is fine... but later people were plastered in stickers and were being told that they didn't have "enough" WIIL Rock stuff on them. That just seemed kinda shitty. And wasteful.
So, who won the battle of the rock fests? I don't know. I'm partial to Band Camp because I love it and have been to every one. I wish there was more room to wander, better food prices (and options), and more shade. WIIL Rock was fun, but the tiered tickets ruined the vibe (do people say that anymore?) JJO always reminds us that we're family, but WIIL seemed to go out of their way to create a separation. Since it seems to be a draw, I award 100 bonus points to 94.1 WJJO Band Camp because... well, because they are the best radio station in the world. Oh yeah, and because they have Ultimate Arts Tattoo (the best tattoo shop ever!) doing body painting and lot of boobies come out to play because of it.