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Great American Food and Music Fest: Lines, Lines, Everywhere a Line

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It was the best of fests; it was the worst of fests. Last weekend Mountain View was home to the Great American Music Fest. It was a grand idea - combining music and food, much in the way that blues and barbecue have successfully married, bringing in the best of local cuisine from all over the country.

You want pastrami? Only Katz's from New York will do. Cheesecake? We got Junior's iconic red and white striped boxes. Anchor Bar Chicken Wings, Tony Luke's Cheesesteaks, and Pink's Hot Dogs also joined the party. Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri were among celebrity chefs. Marshall Crenshaw, Big Bad Voodoo Daddies and Little Feat were on the bill. Saturday promised to be a gorgeous day of music, cooking demos, live music and feasting. Unfortunately, the best laid plans...

First, the anticipated crowd of 2,000 people quickly grew to 8,000. With only 20-something booths, it was a recipe for disaster. Then to add to the madness, the wristbands that were supposed to be filled with money and then scanned at the booths did not work at all, causing total havoc. Eventually the booths had to revert to a cash system.

Waits to get in to the festival were over an hour and waits in line for food averaged 45 minutes. Many people blamed insufficient supplies, but it seemed to be more of a matter of distribution. The only items that ran out were pastrami and cheesecake. If there had been more counters around the event, like three Anchor hot wings stands, and sufficient staff for the additional booths, the waits might not have been such an issue. Another ten vendors or so would have helped too. Foodie paradises like New Orleans and Chicago were underrepresented.

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John Orr of A+A Interactive blog left hungry, and SFoodie describes their frustrating experience.

Still, those who chose to make the best of it had fun anyways. People made new friends in line, shared food with each other, and were treated to some great demos and music. People loooove Guy Fieri and he really brought some energy to the event. SF Weekly's Burger contest between Burgermeister, Pearl’s, MO’s, and the Burger Joint was exciting. The PR people had their act together, and the comraderie amongst the press was wonderful. True, there was a press tent with shade and an occasional goodie, so we had it better than your average attendee.

There is still no sugar-coating it. A lot of people were pissed off. Blame is being thrown in many directions, including Shoreline Ampitheater and LiveNation. But just as many people involved are manning up and apologizing. LiveNation is offering refunds if you call (888) 598-4299. Rock promoter Jim Lewi broke down in tears as he spoke to SFWeekly. Days later, they are still biting Ed Levine's head off over at Serious Eats, but sometimes it's all about making the best of a tough situation. Hopefully next year the kinks will be worked out, and as Ed put it so well in his official apology, ""If you could find it in your hearts to think of this as our first pancake, that would be great."

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