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Brandi Carlile's Girls Just Wanna Weekend 3 Review

Spend the day with me, walk into my house, sit down in my studio, and you will quickly discover that I am a huge Brandi Carlile fan. That's why when we decided to book our tickets for Brandi Carlile's Just Wanna Weekend 3 back in 2021, we were excited to spend almost a week celebrating bringing back live music after a long Covid break and reuniting with music fans. We are back now, and I needed to take some time to recover and collect my thoughts after a dramatic vacation! Wow!

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What is Girls Just Wanna Weekend?

At the heart of what is Girls Just Wanna Weekend is the idea that women in music have been pushed aside at music festivals in the past, but Brandi Carlile gathered female collaborators and put on a music festival featuring an all-women lineup. Heading down to Mexico, Brandi and friends take the stage for night after night of great music. Like other vacation-type music events, you get the opportunity to catch small shows with lesser-known artists. Events like this are an opportunity to share fan excitement with music-themed events, and a chance to see your favorite artist letting their hair down and enjoying the event themselves.  

This wasn't our first music vacation. We LOVE our trips on The Rock Boat, and we love to travel for music and food. However, one thing that does set this event aside is that this event is also a dominant LGBTQ+ fan base.   Brandi Carlile and her wife Catherine are a power couple in the music industry and show up and represent LGBTQ+ parents making it work. So it's great that they are also drawing in their fans who love having a safe place to express their love and sexuality. 

Lucious puts on a great show. Their set with Cheryl Crow was amazing and they were dynamic this week. One of the best shows at the event.
Breakfast outside every morning was glorious way to start the day. The staff always went above and beyond at Unico to make sure we were happy.

The Music:

Brandi Carlile is the headliner for this event. Even though it felt like you didn't get a lot of her own music, she and the Twins always put on a great show. They only did the first night with their music and popped in and out for the rest of the event. As a Brandi Carlile fan, I really wanted to hear and absorb their music.  It would have been a great time to have seen Tim and Phil Hanseroth perform their own music, as they are doing other festival events without Brandi as well. But it is billed as a “Girls” lineup.  So I can see the issue.

Margo Price took the Main Stage on the first night after the welcome toast. She put on a good show. She's got a great range and did well. 

Celisse was a last-minute addition to the lineup after two others dropped out. She is a talented guitarist.

Allison Russell, however, not only wowed everyone, but we walked away as fans ready to purchase her music and tickets to see her shows. 

Brandi & Friends was an old-school variety show type thing. There were kids, some group songs, and it was a fun night.

The highlight of the week was seeing Lucious, who not only knew how to do a great live show but were also fabulous throughout the event with their costumes and charisma. 

Sheryl Crow and Indigo Girls took us back in time and made us sing along. Great shows! 

KT Tunstall was a surprise hit. 

All in all, the music was decent. The Ladies of the '80s was a little campy but fun to dress up for that last night and be silly. 

The Event

Going back to the safety precautions due to the pandemic. I wasn't impressed by Cloud9 and its hosting.  The crowds were smashed together up at the front, some fans claiming their space hours before the shows. However, they did manage to try to get people to spread out at the back of the event tunnel area by offering seating and food at the back. But seemed to forget all of that with a booze-filled face-grabbing pool party that left no room for social distancing or personal space. 

While there were fans who were feeling the love, there were others who were feeling uncomfortable.  

Throughout the event, it was growing that this wasn't as much about the music, but about the obsession of fans who came to have a religious moment with their idol. I wanted to love this. I wanted to love the music and the moment. But I didn't… in fact, it's possible that I left this week feeling that maybe Brandi Carlile isn't for me after all.  I've been a fan for almost 20 years, and left feeling a little sad and disconnected. 

The Stay and Location

Here is where things went so well that it brought everything to a better place. We stayed at the Unico hotel, a sister hotel away from The Hard Rock, where the main event was held. This was an option for those without children who wanted a more luxurious stay at the cost of a 15-minute bus ride to the event hotels and back. 

From the minute we stepped out of our transport, we were wrapped up in luxury, hospitality, and beauty. From our personal concierge, who was ready for anything we needed. Everything at Unico is done right, from the beautiful beach to the exquisite restaurants and expertly staffed wait staff. Our stay was amazing, and we hated leaving the resort and skipped some of the other shows just to relax and enjoy our stay at the hotel.

Unlike The Hard Rock, everything at Unico was relaxing. The pool was quiet, and even though the drinks came quickly and were included, the guests weren't over-indulging or loud. We heard it compared to The Hard Rock was the Frat Party, and the Unico was where the parents stayed. So if you were looking to party hard and pretend to be a rockstar, go The Hard Rock.

One of the frustrating things to learn after the event was that Brandi made an effort to be a part of the Hard Rock pool shows, but didn't appear at our resort once. I guess that's the trade-off for a better hotel and food. 

At Unico, it was easy to sit on your balcony and relax as performers like Allison Russel brought out a sweet vibe that made you so happy to be there. I didn't feel the FOMO while sipping cold drinks and listening to her amazing voice. She was truly the star and a delight for the event. 

How Did Cloud9 do with planning GJWW3?

This is pretty complicated, which is why the straight-up answer is… Meh. 

We would likely not attend this event again unless another event organizer hosted it. Most of our issue with this event has roots in Cloud9's lack of communication, poor customer service, and bad planning.

To answer this, I have to give you some backstory to it. We purchased our tickets at full price right after the release of the Covid-19 vaccines. Both Michael and I got our shots and were hopeful that we would see a decline in Covid cases in a year, and it would be “safe” to travel again. However, this event had already been canceled the year before due to the Covid rates and precautions. So we considered that if it weren't safe, they would cancel again. ( We were wrong. Despite many objections and even petitions, the event was held during the virus's highest infection rate and rise. It was NOT a good idea to go. )  However, cashing in on travel insurance isn't as easy as advertised, and we were presented with the option of not going and losing the 5k that we spent on tickets or going and making the best of it, which is what we ended up doing.  

I will repeat it. This event should have been postponed. No making excuses that only a dozen people were infected and quarantined. Those were the people who tested positive at the resort, tested by a JOKE testing program. Testing was done improperly, guests were mixed up, and I have no idea how anyone tested positive unless they sneezed all over the swabs. Covid vaccines were not required, masks were not worn, and there was NO social distancing anywhere.   

Because of all of this, I had to knock several stars off my review. Not that it matters to anyone. Those who wanted the show to go on did so loudly and in your face. 

There was also an issue that differently-abled people were asked to stay back away from the stage areas and the ADA area was in the back and uncomfortable. It was insulting and not friendly to the fans who wanted the same access as anyone else.

There were also many issues with how cancelations were handled, failure to answer questions, removing comments and blocking comments on social media, rudeness when asked about upgrades or assistance with room issues, and much more.

In my opinion, there were a lot of failures on the part of this event organizer. We won't ever be booking anything through them again. 

Dinner every night at the Unico was a culinary experience worth waiting all day for.
There were a LOT of people at The Hard Rock.
Imagine our surprise as champagne and roses were delivered to our suite to celebrate our anniversary, compliments of the hotel!
Booked through our private concierge, we took a truffle making class and enjoyed eating and learning about chocolate. YUMM!

Final Thoughts

Even though, I met a few cool new friends, one who I met before the event and she and her wife didn't make it to the show. I wasn't filled with the euphoria that many fans claimed to experience. Those who had gone to the two events before seemed to have a Members Only type clique that proclaimed themselves friendly and loving, but didn't actually act on any of that. My husband and I are always open to meeting new friends while on our adventures. We were met with single-word responses and a loud signal that was far from friendly and open. 

We've met some of our best concert friends at music events, and it's so much fun to see them again at the shows. But this clearly wasn't going to happen at GJWW3. 

So overall, we weren't “rocked”. In fact, we were barely impressed. It wasn't healing or a revival, despite the opportunity to reunite after two years to celebrate music and a common connection to the lyrics and heart of the Brandi Carlile band. 

Overall, I left happy to have the experiences I did. But also sad for losing some of the happy feels that I used to have at seeing Brandi Carlile – the band perform. Replaced now by weird moments of watching from a distance, with my mask on, as BC was no longer the down-to-earth singer I'd met in a bar 20 years ago, and now she was “Queen Bee” holding a drunken court. 

I wanted to be filled with love, wanted to meet new friends, wanted to love BCB more than I did before. And now, I want to go back in time and just book a vacation at the Unico at Rivera Maya and have one more fancy fruity drink on the beach. 

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