The One Size Fits All Festival
When I first moved to Arizona, my goal was to attend Coachella as soon as possible. It seemed that's where everything cool started. Win Butler was filming music videos in the audience and hip celebrities were making appearances. The music and arts festival has now come and gone twice and I have no regrets in letting another weekend filled with music and hipsters slip away from me. I just looked at the headliner for Day 1 and rolled my eyes: AC/DC.
I actually love the Australian band. Who doesn't appreciate songs about loose women, big balls, and the work it takes to get to the top for the privilege of rocking and rolling? The problem is they are too mainstream for a "music and arts festival." The band's merchandise is sold at Wal-Mart. They have nothing to prove to anyone because they have tested their mettle over and over again, even after losing the great Bon Scott.
If anything, the metal quartet set into motion the festival trend of 2015: the one size fits all festival. Bonnaroo booked the piano man Billy Joel, Outside Lands snagged his contemporary Elton John, and Lollapalooza got the Beatle who inspired them all: Paul McCartney.
Getting musicians that receive more airplay on classic rock stations than those with an alternative format change the feel and the demographic of the festival experience. I understand the need to make money and to appeal to the widest audience possible, but the focus of the festival becomes scattered and lost. No self-respecting hipster wants to go to a festival where their parents want to join them, and don't get me started on how much it costs to attend a festival now that marquee talent is hitting the stage.
When Lollapalooza became a stand-alone festival in 2005, I went with my friends because it reflected our tastes and interests and I found 100,000 people who felt the same way. I finally got to see The Pixies. I witnessed The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols reunite onstage. I was introduced to the weirdness that is Blonde Redhead. Spoon and I began our long, hot love affair. Finally, on the hottest, stickiest day of the year, a little band called Arcade Fire sent chills up my spine with a little album called Funeral.
When I returned four years later, everything was bigger. There were more stages, more days to attend, and more headliners, but the spirit still felt the same. I got to see Lou Reed, of Montreal, and Ben Folds on the same weekend, but it was becoming obvious that the smaller festivals couldn't pull the same caliber of talent. Rothbury was there one year and gone the next, but Coachella would soon be expanding from one weekend to two. Other festivals would soon follow suit.
Going to a festival was my way of introducing (or in some cases reintroducing) myself to music I wanted to connect with. Now it's tailored for everyone. When Lady Gaga started showing up I knew this special thing I found couldn't last.
It's easy to say all this even though I wasn't at Coachella and I can't afford to return to Lollapalooza. I risk sounding like an old man yelling at the kids on his lawn, but on that lawn I saw my heroes Devo sing "Girl U Want," met Danny Masterson as we watched The Strokes perform, and introduced myself to the slam poetry of Saul Williams. As much as I like Billy Joel singing "My Life" or Brian Johnson screaming "Hells Bells," I'd rather experience something special.
Did you attend Coachella this year? How did it compare to the other years you attended?