With Headliners Future And Juice WRLD, The First-Year Event Aimed To Bring Hip-Hop Closer To Its Suburban Fans. Did It Succeed? On Some Levels, Sure!
All photos by Breanna Loose.
Coming of age in rural Texas is nothing like how it’s depicted in Richard Linklater movies.
It actually sucks.
We’re talking about a world where teachers staple black trash bags to the walls of an auditorium and call it “prom,” and towns where you have to drive 20 miles just to buy groceries from a place that isn’t a Dollar General.
Sure, life can suck in urban communities as well. But at least teenagers in these areas have more access to culture. For this set, a trek to the Bomb Factory for a show can be as simple as taking a DART train to Good-Latimer and walking a couple blocks.
Teenagers in rural communities such as Celina or Van Alstyne, on the other hand, have things far worse. They have to go on an hour-long drive to take in a concert of note. And, if one has only recently obtained a driver’s license, let’s be honest: Driving around Downtown Dallas can often feel like entering a lawless hellscape.
Of course, that’s why the Dallas Cowboys decided to get involved with a concept like this weekend’s Unruly Citizens event on Saturday. By hosting a day-long music festival at its The Star complex in Frisco, the team was betting big that it would be able to draw into its realm teenage music fans from rural and suburban areas, and with the full approval of parents who fear sending their kids down to Big, Bad Dallas for a night out.
It wasn’t an altogether bad bet, necessarily. In its first year of operations, Unruly Citizens drew somewhere in the vicinity of 6,000 attendees to its 12,000-capacity stadium venue — this despite fairly weak marketing for an event boasting noteworthy hip-hop headliners as Future and Juice WRLD.
No, it wasn’t quite a home run. While by no means a luxury lifestyle event a la the similarly Cowboys-backed inaugural KAABOO affair hosted at AT&T Stadium earlier this year, Unruly Citizens seemed unsure how to best make use of the arena that hosted it. The entire venue only features a single non-concession booth — one dedicated to the Tiny Meat Gang podcast, which targets suburban trap and internet culture fans with its millions of Twitter and Instagram followers.
Worse, security was way too noticeable throughout the grounds. Dozens of police officers, including uniformed members of the bomb squad who drove around the complex in military-grade vehicles, lingered in every direction, looking a little too prepared for things to go haywire.
“There’s a long history with some of the groups that are here,” one cop told us when we asked what was up with the massive police.
He didn’t expand on that, but yeesh.
One thing that didn’t need any expanding was the lineup. While adored local performers such as Yella Beezy, 10K.Caash, Tay Money and Splurge were indeed excellent lineup additions, the dozens who played earlier in the day were unnecessary add-ons, playing to sparse crowds of no more than 1,500 before the sun even threatened to set outside of the stadium.
That said, the later-in-the-day offerings were quite memorable — and those who did make it out to the show appeared to be having the time of their lives as they took these sets in. The sheltered suburban teenagers in attendance on Saturday will surely never forget those mosh pits. And they’ll without a doubt brag to their friends for some time about seeing Yella Beezy’s postponed set abruptly cut just as he was getting ready to crowd-surf for reportedly the first ever time — and how the rapper then went ahead and crowd-surfed anyway as police and security officers took to the stage to escort his crew out.
It says a lot when even a bad experience only makes the event look dope.
To that end, noted Yella Beezy rival Mo3 was a late scratch from the festival, having been arrested upon his arrival at the venue. An Instagram post from the festival clears up what happened some: While Yella Beezy was paid for his appearance, Mo3 reportedly offered to perform at the event for free, claiming his beef with Yella Beezy was over; Frisco PD caught wind of the booking and asked Unruly to remove Mo3 from the bill, which it did as a safety precaution; but Mo3 showed up anyway to reap the press rewards of getting arrested for showing up despite warnings not to do so.
Those shenanigans aside, the festival offered good value at $50 to $75 a ticket for its intended audience. (Keep in mind: Single-night tickets for Juice WRLD’s two-night stand at Bomb Factory in June went for $65 a pop.) And while Dallas often feels inundated with events that feel similar in scope to this one — in addition to JMBLYA’s annual offering, the last Oaktopia Festival in 2017 featured 21 Savage and Lil Yachty, a 2015 event called Rageville also snagged Future to headline its 2015 Bomb Factory affair and a late August event at Bomb Factory called Family Business will feature Young Thug, Smokepurpp the late Unruly Citizens cancellation Trippie Red and more — you just don’t see events of this scale in the suburbs.
(Well, not ones that actually happen, anyway.)
Plus, the venue proved itself a solid host, at least on technical grounds. Even with trap music being more abrasive and bass-heavy than previous performers at The Star like James Taylor, the sound on Saturday seemed up-to-snuff, and there weren’t any technical difficulties to speak of.
Could this festival really take off in later incarnations? We like to think so. It’d be cool to see events like this one given the time to blossom, rather than shuttered after one or two efforts as they so often are.
But, for God’s sake, they really need to chill with law enforcement presence if they’re going to do this thing again at some point down the road.
Because, for a festival dubbed Unruly Citizens, there sure were lots of police officers all around the place. Like, an uncomfortable amount.