This weekend will see The Download Festival and Isle of Wight Festivals launch, heralding the start of an ever expanding Summer festival season.
But looking at the line-ups to some of the festivals I can’t help but feel that maybe the concept reached its zenith a while ago. And I’m not just saying this as some sort of whiny rock fan, it has nothing to do with Jay-Z headlining Glastonbury despite what Noel Gallagher would have you believe.
Festivals have in general, begun to look a little stale. Let’s take the Isle of Wight Festival for example, yesterday the Kaiser Chiefs brought an end to the first day, has our demand and relentless pursuit of new and ‘fresh’ music gone so far into overdrive that bands who have released two albums are declared suitably venerable to headline international festivals?
What happened to genuinely big bands? Bastions of the genre who have both received popular and critical acclaim. I don’t care how many column inches you’ve gotten in the NME or Q, there’s something not right about bands who have only released two albums headlining an international festival.
This trend was evident last year with two album wonders the Arctic Monkeys and The Killers headlining the Friday and Saturday respectively at Glastonbury last year. Whilst the so called “Other Stage” hosted Bjork and Iggy and the Stooges.
The “over commercialisation” of the festival has not only lead to festival organisers forgoing booking genuinely “big” bands in favour of the “flavour of the month” But has also created a increasingly crowded market, which inevitably leads to crippling overlap.
Rank and file festival artists and bands such as The Wombats, The Enemy, The Hoosiers, The Cribs and various other NME “The” bands, seem omnipresent at all Summer Festivals these days. The NME led growth and recovery of the rock genre and music festivals as a consequence has led to an increasingly unilateral view of who should grace the festival stage.
However it’s not all doom and gloom, as a reaction to this trend there is a growth of ‘specialist’ miniature festivals such as Latitude, which appear champion real ‘alternative’ music, with Blondie, Sigur Ros, The Mars Volta and Joanna Newsom, genuinely ’big’ and brilliant artists who seem to get overlooked by the more commercial heights of the festival circuit.
Glastonbury’s well publicised failure to sell out is therefore perhaps not indicative of the death of the music festival, rather the ‘democratisation’ of it and the growth of specialist festivals catering to an increasingly diverse and nebulous range of music tastes.
Or maybe as Drowned in Sound point out, we’re about to herald another age of Stadium rock…if it ever went away.
As an aside to this post I thought I’d share a track of Fleet Foxes album. Not much point devoting a whole post to them as they’re already getting hyped quite heavily around the internets, so in the unlikely case that you haven’t heard anything by them, here is ‘He Doesn’t Know Why’.
I think the best soundbite I’ve heard to describe them is “The Beach Boys as an Appalachian folk group”