Jelly's Free Pool Parties Cost About $500,000 This Year, Aren't As Much Fun To Put On Anymore
"I kind of hate the Pool Parties now," notes Jelly NYC co-owner Sarah Hooper in the last (!) graf of this not terribly sunny NPR report on the promotion company's current mindset. "It's no longer the series we envisioned," she notes elsewhere. "Every time we've done an event, we approach it like, 'What can we do to make it better and more fun for the audience?' And when it gets to the level like we're seeing now where we're no longer able to make it fun for the audience in the way we want to, we start rethinking things."
The scene at Sunday's Cut Copy fete. Pic by Sam Horine.
And what is the issue, precisely?
Cost is one: This year's slate of seven Pool Parties apparently cost half a million dollars, and is tougher to recoup than ever: The move to East River State Park starting last year doubled their rental fees, not to mention, y'know, the recession. ("'It's been a tough year for everyone,' Hooper says. 'This summer has been about digging ourselves out of the hole of last year's Pool Parties.'") More broadly, the company longs for the halcyon DIY splendor of their McCarren Park Pool Days:
Hooper told me that when Jelly first threw concerts at McCarren pool, the sponsors were more modest, and more local. Neighborhood restaurants offered to sell food at the events and to give the company a cut of the returns; a friend of a friend knew the local rep for a beverage company and convinced them to "throw in some cash."
"[This is] the thing with free shows: the best-case scenario is to be some place that's a little OK with being loose and letting you be who you are," Hooper says. "If you're providing a really fun experience and everyone's having a good time and no one's [providing a service] out of pocket, to me that's a win."
Getting folks to "throw in some cash" is much harder in 2010, I'd imagine. It's highly probable that this year's Pool Parties slate (which has seemed to do just fine, albeit with a few stressful blips) might not've happened at all without the largesse of Chuck Schumer; it's far from assured even that will make a difference next year. Per the article, Jelly seems to be leaning heavily toward their smaller ventures, like their recent set of Rock Yard gigs. (The Slip 'n' Slide returns!) "Rock Yard parties are also cheaper to produce and feature mostly local bands," the piece notes. "Jelly may decide to abandon the large-scale Pool Parties and focus on smaller events, but Hooper remains enigmatic: 'I would venture to say we'll make announcements in the near future.'"