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?

Oh, you want some music? Well the last stream of Cat Power’s Jukebox – out today – didn’t last too long but here’s another one. Let’s see how long it stays up. She’s at the Kool Haus on February 9.

Stream: Cat Power / Jukebox

By : Frank Yang at 8:26 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. alan says:

    i heard vegoose was finished after the 2007 edition…. can’t find a source for that anymore…

    planning to hit bonnaroo, ottawa blues fest, wolfe island, and some others like osheaga or something else that comes up, all depending on lineup, price and timing of course.

    i hate the fact that Jack Johnson is a headliner at Coachella. That’s awful and they should be ashamed.

  2. Derek says:

    I’m going to ACL again this year – 4th year in a row – and maybe Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo – but it all depends on the lineups for those two. I’m also going on a cruise in a couple of weeks – http://www.cayamo.com to get my folk & country fix.

    I will most likely go to Virgin here in Toronto and some of the Jazz Festival.

    The Coachella lineup is not too impressive – I was thinking of going but it’s not worth it for me.

  3. stellasplice says:

    Add Wakarusa M June 5-8 to your list. The lineup always improves as the festival nears, but right now it looks like this:

  4. matthew says:

    I’m amazed that Osheaga will happen again this year…2007’s edition was an absolute disaster in terms of both attendance and the amount of money they lost…

    As for what I will attend: definitely CMW/Pitter-Patter and almost definitely Pop Montreal, but beyond that, nothing I’m aware of at the moment.

  5. Frank says:

    really, Matt? That’s interesting. I have no idea if it’s actually happening – I’m just assuming as such… maybe it’s not.

  6. PaulL says:

    Going to my first SXSW this year.

    It’s all about spending that one week in beautiful Austin, in summer-y weather while back home it’ll be cold and miserable. The partial list I have of bands who’ve confirmed their presence (Longwave, A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Keys, The Duke Spirit, The Kills, Nicole Atkins, The Life And Times … etc)is not too shabby.

    Osheaga was awesome last year. Surprised it’s back on aswell but a nice at that.

  7. James McNally says:

    This is the first time I’ve noticed how many festivals have goofy names. Was this after Lollapalooza? They all sound like Web 2.0 startups. Bizarre.

  8. Scott says:

    I may attend V-Fest Toronto this year… I held off last year due to the complete clusterf**k of 2006… but all reports implied many of the bugs were worked out. I do hate the island (makes departure a nightmare), but if the lineup is good (read: Verve) – I’m in.

    I tend to prefer one-off shows. More set from the artists I really like… not always possible, but it’s a preference.

    On the show front – anyone heard what the Reid brothers are doing? Any shot at a JAMC/MBV tour? [smirk]

  9. Wheatsheaf says:

    Having a limited traveling budget, I hope to hit Osheaga, Ottawa’s bluesfest and V-fest this year (although I was less than enamored with the V-fest line up last year). On that note, I would include Ottawa’s Bluesfest (http://www.ottawabluesfest….) to your list of festivals as it usually contains a large contingent of indie acts.

  10. Frank says:

    yeah, I left the Ottawa Bluesfest off because it’s stretched out over what, two weeks? and seems like more of a pick-and-choose each act rather than the more immersive, concentrated event-ness of the others. but I’ve never been and could be wrong. And hillside should probably be on there as well, but they’re deliberately kept small.

  11. Quinn says:

    Is Sasquatch going back to 3 days, for sure?

  12. Frank says:

    no no no – I’m talking out of my ass. Don’t make travel plans.

  13. Ricky Lam says:

    I’ll probably attend V-Fest, despite the usual crappy placement on the island.

    Coachella was so good a few years ago when I went..Radiohead, Pixies, The Cure..Kraftwerk..basement jaxx. Now Jack Johnson is headlining? wtf.

  14. victor says:

    I’m a regular coachella attendee but forget this, its missing a lot of bands "tha should be there" and the insult that it is tyo have jack johnson in the lineup nevermind as a headliner, it’s a sad sad day, time to look elsewhere.

  15. mike says:

    In regards to Ricky Lam’s comment, the one and only time I went to Coachella was the same one you went to back in May 2004. Don’t forget the other bands that were there Flaming Lips(the best set of the mainstage!), Belle and Sebastian, Broken Social Scene(before everyone got sick of ’em), Death Cab For Cutie(before major label stardom), Traid of The Dead, and so many more(many that I didn’t get to see, because of the overlapping times, but hey what can you do). The Flaming Lips set in particular was such a high. Too bad Wilco had to cancel that year. I don’t know if anything could top that Coachella.

    Funny thing is I’d like to go back this year, if only to see Portishead.(I’m considering it but we’ll see). I’m not sure if I’d do all 3 days though. Though the lineup might not be as strong as in past years, I think there’s enough of a decent variety of artists that I think I’d still enjoy it…half of the enjoyment(for me at least) was the atmosphere and just being in Sunny California. I like the warmth but I could do without the blazing heat which Coachella had in 2004. Other festivals? Well, I haven’t though about it much but we’ll see what happens.

    re: other festivals I’d like to go to. Well depending on this year’s Toronto V-Fest lineup, I’ll probably go to that(I went in 2006, but skipped last year’s event with only a slight ounce of regret for not seeing Bjork).

  16. Eugene says:

    I know I’m a day late….the Austin City Limits festival is later this year. It’s 9/26-9/28.


  17. Frank says:

    interesting, thanks for the info. I wonder if this was to ease the conflicts with other fests, wait till the weather was a touch cooler or both?

  18. Derek says:

    I think the delay has to do with the schedule of the Texas Longhorns – apparently it is difficult to get a hotel room when they play in town. Plus – hopefully it will be a little cooler at that time.

    I’ll also be going to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco this year – it takes place the weekend after ACL – http://www.strictlybluegras… I’ve been there twice before and it is one of the best festivals around- plus it is absolutely free. A local billionaire who is a big bluegrass fan pays for the whole thing – 5 stages and over 60 bands over 3 days.

  19. Ricky Lam says:

    Oh yea! Flaming Lips were awesome, they brought out the ball and said it was the first time they did that , dunno if its true.

    I also remember getting really annoyed at le tigre for being so loud during radiohead’s "exit film .." song.

    Coachella is different though, for east coasters, since its so far away and i imagine that a lot of people did what we did, which was hang out in LA for a few days before going over.

  20. Jack says:

    Is Osheaga the festival that took place the same weekend as V-Fest, or was that Montreal Pop?

    Whichever one it is that had the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I wish I’d gone to that one instead of staying in Toronto. I might check it out this year.

  21. Aubbie says:

    Just a correction, the 38th annual Bumbershoot will take place Saturday 8/30 – Monday 9/1 this year.

  22. Frank says:

    Who had Vineland in the big festival death pool?

    you win!


  23. gatdude says:

    im from gatineau which is across from ottawa and the rumor mill is really workin away up here…..this is whats been goin around lately….radiohead…..pearl jam….thats the only ones i’ve heard so far.
    and a clue for people tryin to figure out this years line up….look at bonnaroo and ACL…ottawa seems to follow their lead.