Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
Out Standing In Their Field
So what with yesterday being fairly quiet thanks to the US holiday, the biggest news was the announcement of the lineup for Coachella 2008, and the general reaction seems to have any excitement of the presence of Portishead and The Verve on the bill being offset by the overwhelming meh-ness of Roger Waters and Jack Johnson resulting in a net net output of raging indifference with a chaser of indignation.
Now Coachella was not and is not on my radar – I’m not a “standing in the desert” kind of guy and not even if the My Bloody Valentine rumours were true (their management debunked those months ago, by the way, saying that the June gigs in the UK would be their first) would I have hopped a plane to wherever the hell Indio, California is. But this press release marks the unofficial kick off of the 2008 festival season and if you haven’t been paying attention, North America’s dance card is looking pretty full.
It used to be that the massive, multi-day festivals were the domain of Europe and the UK in particular, but after events like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits proved that the massive, multi-day affairs could be successes over here, they’ve been springing up like mushrooms in shit. Consider the North American options for this year (excluding the multi-day, club-hoppy fests):
Langerado: March 6-9 – Everglades, FL
Coachella: April 25-27 – Indio, CA
Virgin Festival: May 17-18* – Vancouver, BC
Sasquatch: May 24-25* – The Gorge, WA
Wakarusa: June 5-8 – Lawrence, KS
Bonnaroo: June 12-15 – Manchester, TN
Virgin Festival: June 21-22 – Calgary, AB
Pitchfork: July 15-17* – Chicago, IL
Lollapalooza: August 1-3 – Chicago, IL
All Points West: August 8-10 – Jersey City, NJ
Vineland Music Festival: August 8-10 – Vineland, NJ
Virgin Festival: August* – Baltimore, MD
Bumbershoot: August 30-Sept 1 – Seattle, WA
Virgin Festival: September 6-7* – Toronto, ON
Osheaga: September* – Montreal, QC
Treasure Island: September 13-14* – San Francisco, CA
Monolith: September 13-14* – Denver CO
Austin City Limits: September 26-28 – Austin, TX
Vegoose: October 24-26* – Las Vegas, NV
Voodoo Music Fest:: October 24-26* – New Orleans, LA
See that? That’s nuts. And I probably missed some (let me know if I did). Some of the dates – those marked with a * – are unconfirmed and pure speculation on my part, but with the exception of V Fest USA, if they fall in line at the same time as they ran last year, that should be correct. The B-more party only ran against Lolla last year so they could secure the Police as headliners – doubtful they’ll do that again, so I’d guess August 16 and 17 is more likely there.
Idolator pondered whether or not the bottom was going to fall out anytime soon, especially with the addition of the two more east coast parties this year with All Points West from the creators of Coachella (via BrooklynVegan) set to take place at Liberty State Park just across the river from Manhattan and with Radiohead headlining and the Vineland Music Festival intended to take place not too far away in New Jersey and on the same weekend, no less.
Now consider that the pool of bands who can and will do the festival circuit each year isn’t nearly deep and varied enough to offer a hugely different lineup from fest to fest – this essentially means that a goodly portion of one festival’s lineup will look an awful lot like the next’s. Even going head to head with another fest as V Fest Baltimore and Lolla did last year doesn’t guarantee diversity – some acts racked up the frequent flier miles playing both and last September, Spoon managed to play ACL, Monolith and Treasure Island. The point being, as more of these crop up in peoples’ backyards, the urge and need to travel diminishes and instead of being events with national appeal, they become more regional happenings. Why fly to Chicago when you can just stay wherever you are and let the big-ass stages come to you? Sure, there’s still the adventure aspect of it all but it all just seems that much less essential. Of course, actually attending the festivals is secondary – it’s the lineup-spotting (and criticizing) that’s the most fun.
Most of the above was just thinking out loud on my part, no grand thesis at work. I’m suspect that if properly run (and the organizers involved have proven they know how to do that), at least these new fests will succeed if not a few more. I doubt we’ll see any Field Day fiascoes anytime soon, but with seemingly every other aspect of the music industry and the economy as a whole trending downwards you have to wonder just how much the market will bear.
Anyway, whether these things continue to propagate or collapse is someone else’s concern. Last year, including the club-hopping dealies, I hit ten festivals in seven cities. That’s just dumb. This year, I’m intending to be more conservative. There’s the in-town ones which are gimmes – CMW (whose schedule is becoming a little fuller every day), NxNE, V Fest and Over The Top but SxSW is the only out of town jaunt currently on the calendar. Though I had a great time at all last year, I’m not committing to Hillside, Wolfe Island or Dog Day Afternoon yet, that’ll depend on lineups and logistics. Pop Montreal is also on the bubble – again, great time but it’s pretty expensive and most of the bands that I can see there make the jaunt down the 401 that same weekend anyways. Odds are one of the big US fests will end up being attended, though which one I’m not sure. There’s actually very few bands out there right now that I would travel to see – I’ve pretty much seen everyone I want to that I can reasonably expect to… Either way, 2008 will involve less sunburn for me. I hope.
Seeing the Coachella lineup, however, has got me wondering about who we might see at V Fest Toronto come September, presumably the 6th and 7th again out on the Toronto Islands. It’s still way early since last year the headliners weren’t announced till mid-March (I remember getting the press release while sitting in a hotel room in Austin) this Drowned In Sound report that The Verve has committed to the UK editions of V Fest makes me think that they might be a good bet for one of the Toronto headliners, assuming the reunion lasts that long. I’m sure the festival circuit is more
financially artistically rewarding and while you could debate their stature in the US (they’re noticeably NOT the top-billed act at Coachella), they could easily close out the Toronto festival.
I dunno, sometimes I love festivals, sometimes I hate them. From a photo op point of view, they can’t be beat but getting access and dealing with waivers and contracts and power-mad road managers can also be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s obviously not the same degree of intimacy you’d get at a club or a theatre but there’s something about the sense of communion in sharing the experience with tens of thousands of other fans. But sometimes – oft times – those fans smell really bad and are drunk/stoned/what have you. And then there’s that sunburn thing. And the dehydration thing. And the portapottie thing. And the transportation thing.
So what are your 2008 festival plans, if any?
Stream: Cat Power / Jukebox