REVIEW: Mala Luna Festival at Lone Star Brewery (San Antonio, TX) 10/29 & 10/30

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I went into Mala Luna with mixed expectations. Rae Sremmurd, Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, and Lil Yachty aren’t exactly my favorite artists when it comes to rap music and I didn’t really know what to expect with R&B artists like Kehlani & Tory Lanez. Then there was the question of the culture at the festival, would I enjoy the food? The art installations? The venue? The people? It was the inaugural festival after all, would ScoreMore shows be able to pull a festival of this size off?

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Day One

Arrival was hectic for day 1. One of the main roads essential for getting to the festival was turned into a one way street and without this communicated to us beforehand, it made getting to the in venue parking needlessly complicated. However, once we understood the process and accounted for that change, parking was straightforward for day 2. Parking hassles were only a minor speed bump (pun intended) to what was otherwise a great day one.

Upon arrival, entry was very quick and it didn’t take us too long to get our bearings and some much needed food. By the time we got focused on the main stage, Lil Yachty was on performing for thousands of eager party goers comprised of hip hop, R&B, and a small minority of EDM fans. While Lil Yachty’s set was full of energy, I wasn’t particularly into the music and it was, in my opinion, as a bit of a hip hop snob, a perfect example of everything wrong with today’s popular rap music. Thankfully though, his set was not representative of the other rap sets we saw at Mala Luna.

This is where the night really began to pick up. Rae Sremmurd took the stage after Lil Yachty and with a catalogue full of catchy hooks and singable lyrics, they brought some much needed direction and crowd interaction to the festival. We decided to grab some food after Rae Sremmurd performed and for as unappetizing as queso waffle fries sound on a hot day, they somehow hit the spot. After eating, Tory Lanez gave us our first taste of R&B at the festival by delivering his best singles with a nice R&B touch that complemented the setting sun and the subsequent transition from day to night perfectly. As the sun set, lights began to fill the night and the full extent of the stage production and various other decorations around the festival were finally revealed to us.

Steve Aoki’s set was next and while I do think he swayed away from a usual Steve Aoki set to cater to the audience, primarily not huge EDM fans, his set was a nice change of pace from the hip hop and R&B vibes that dominated the earlier parts of the day and with the sun fully set, the stage production and on stage theatrics were put into full view with the lights meshing perfectly to the tunes being played along with confetti blasts firing out over the crowd on nearly every drop. Not to mention the Texas sized cake brought by Steve Aoki and his team for Aoki’s signature cake toss.

The night was ended by Texas native Travis Scott who opened up in his first few songs with a song by Houston rap group UGK that fully captivated the Texas hip hop crowd. Overall, his set was enjoyable and he lived up to his spot as the Day 1 headliner.

Day Two

With a smooth arrival on day two made even more smooth by an early arrival. We were geared up and ready for day two’s artists, or so we thought.

After watching G Herbo’s set, with his unique delivery and his dark, complex lyrics, we decided to step out of the heat and relax in the El Centro Lounge, which was an extension of the VIP/Media area. That’s when we were greeted by some more familiar tunes. A local San Antonio based vinyl shop, Southtown Vinyl, had set up some decks and was hosting DJs spinning vinyl house sets in the lounge area. This served as the soundtrack to our day two as we took anytime we weren’t paying attention to the mainstage and dedicated it to the groovy tracks being put down by local San Antonio DJs. It was the perfect example of a music festival working with local talent to showcase the local community and its artists and was easily one of my favorite memories of the entire festival.

As the day two crowd began to roll in, Lil Uzi Vert took the stage performing quite a bit like Lil Yachty the day before. With the exception of “Money Longer”, which, for reasons I cannot explain, had me singing along and totally into it, the rest of the set didn’t strike me as anything special. However, if he had better organized his set and removed some of the discontinuities, it could have been extremely good.

We grabbed some dinner at The Box Street Social food truck, which turned out to be one of our best decisions of the entire weekend. The fish tacos and pulled pork sandwich were extremely yummy, not to mention well presented. By the time we finished our meal, which included pictures of the presentation from about 50 different angles, it was Kehlani’s turn in the spotlight. Much like Tory Lanez the day before, she brought out some great R&B songs highlighting a more classical approach to R&B whereas Tory Lanez approached R&B from more of a hip hop angle. Her performance was simply wonderful with the songs, backup dancers, and everything just coming together perfectly to form a cohesive, exciting set that anybody, R&B fan or not, could appreciate.

As the last little bit of Sun fell out of the sky, Jeezy, who replaced Kevin Gates last minute on the Mala Luna lineup, took center stage. Simply put, they could not have found a more fitting replacement. Jeezy perfectly filled the hole left by Kevin Gates and delivered an energetic set full of all of his hit singles spanning the full gamut of his career, perfectly priming the crowd for the first headliner of the night, G-Eazy.

G-Eazy, sticking with the Halloween theme of the festival, dressed up like the joker to perform his set. Despite the outfit, his set was no joke and it was easily the best set I’ve seen him perform out of the few times I’ve been fortunate enough to see him live. While his sets aren’t particularly novel, his music is very good and with his songs massive popularity and general catchiness, he does a wonderful job interacting with the crowd, leading to special moments where thousands of voices join together, singing the hooks of their favorite songs.

After a 30 minute break, which is an eternity in festival time, Kaskade closed the festival out and in typical Kaskade fashion, he totally brought the house down. Maybe it was the hype I had for his set, the fact that I hadn’t seen him since Lights All Night in January, the relative scarcity of EDM at this festival, or a combination of all of those factors, but his set was something special to me. While it started off extremely fast, it slowed down as it progressed from high energy EDM music to the more sentimental tracks that make up a lot of Kaskade’s recent releases. In addition to his carefully selected setlist, Kaskade made sure that the festival ended on the perfect note by playing songs that promoted togetherness and a sense of community, exemplifying the core values behind electronic music culture.

Beyond the Music

Other than the initial parking issues on the first day, I was extremely impressed with how the festival was run. The lineup was very well selected and the artist schedule was also well crafted, ensuring that people saw many different genres and that no genre dominated the main stage area for too long. There was plenty of staff around to help answer questions and security was more than able to keep the crowd under control. The decorations around the venue were more than adequate to maintain the theme of the festival and the stage production looked very good. The food was all very tasty, especially the Box Street Social. Additionally, there were plenty of bars and the water lines were, for the most part, very short in comparison to other festivals I’ve attended. It was also nice seeing the festival organizers working with local artists and restaurants to deliver a uniquely San Antonio experience.

However, there are a few things I think they could have changed.

I was expecting more costumes and for a music festival that sold itself on integrating into the community’s celebration of Dia de Muertos, more costumes and more participation in the holiday would have added a neat crowd dynamic to the festival and would have definitely elevated the experience and the sense of community.

There should have been a food truck or some sort of food option in the VIP area. There was plenty of room in that section for something like that and plenty of people in VIP to sustain a food option.

Food lines to the majority of food stalls and food trucks were around 20-30+ mins during peak hours and it might be helpful to add more food stalls/trucks or to at least space them out so the lines have a little bit more order to them.

Consider booking more cross genre acts to help bridge the gap between hip hop and electronic music. There are a lot of good EDM acts that heavily implement rap and hip hop into their sets and I feel like having one of those acts would have really appealed to the crowd.

Final Thoughts

Mala Luna was a huge success in my opinion. It ran with fewer problems than a lot of established festivals, an extremely impressive feat for an inaugural festival and Lone Star Brewery provided the perfect setting for a Halloween celebration. Until next year Mala Luna!

Picture Credit: Drew Troxler & Nick Landazury

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