Are you prepared for music-festival nostalgia? Over the subsequent few years, we’re more likely to bear witness to fond remembrances and supersized celebrations as a few of the greatest North American music festivals obtain a degree of longevity meriting acknowledgment. Coachella unofficially turns 20 this 12 months, however the fest itself hasn’t made a peep concerning the milestone — probably as a result of its first installment, in 1999, clocked round 37,000 concertgoers in attendance, falling far in need of an attendance objective of 70,000; the fest rebooted efficiently in 2001, which suggests it’s simply two quick years earlier than a history-recontextualizing 20th anniversary will be ballyhooed.
Bonnaroo will flip 20 in 2022, whereas Woodstock stands to have a good time a whopping three anniversaries this 12 months, ringing in 50th (1969), 25th (1994), and 20th (1999) anniversaries for its respective installments. As anticipated, the latter fest’s commemorative festivities are already within the works; this week, Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang confirmed plans for a three-day tour in August at upstate New York village Watkins Glen. The lineup received’t be introduced till subsequent month, however in an interview with Rolling Stone, Lang gestured at what the ensuing fest would possibly find yourself resembling: a mixture of new acts, previous acts, and new acts paying tribute to previous acts, together with glamping tents, a deal with “social change and activism,” and jugglers. Yes, you learn that proper — jugglers.
The notion of celebrating Woodstock’s anniversary at a time when North American music festivals are coming of temporal age solely serves to focus on the acute variations (moreover the jugglers, that’s) between “then” and “now.” For starters, it’s practically inarguable that, in terms of the expertise that almost all affiliate with the modern-day music pageant, Woodstock possesses no actual sphere of affect; at present’s multiday gatherings are extra instantly indebted to the decades-standing custom of British and European music festivals, a blueprint that Coachella’s original organizers readily admit to have copied.
The unique Woodstock’s oft-romanticized fame as an remoted “occurring” — a uncommon incidence that may be ostensibly unattainable to copy — clashes fully with the dime-a-dozen regularity of music festivals from the mid-late 2000s on. Even because the trade that retains fests going appears to be in the midst of an economic slowdown, the proliferation of festivals huge and small all through this decade have made the act of attendance as exceptional as going to the grocery retailer. For youthful people, music festivals are a ceremony of passage on par with heading into a giant metropolis unsupervised for the primary time; growing old music followers, alternatively, can pack a number of months’ value of concertgoing into one or a number of days spent outside, a feat of food-truck-lined comfort.
Suffice to say, virtually all of those occasions stopped feeling like “occasions” years in the past. When Beyoncé took the stage at Coachella final 12 months to ship a mega-set of a headlining look that felt virtuosic even by her requirements, a large quantity of post-show web chatter surmised that her immediately iconic efficiency rendered all future festival-headlining gigs irrelevant. Of course, such hyperbole is something however overseas when speaking about something Beyoncé does — however, because it sometimes does, the web had a degree. The Coachella and Bonnaroo lineups had been introduced over the past week and a half, and except for the standard pop-culture fantasy-league evaluation of who acquired the biggest-font poster-placement, neither appears able to delivering a Bey-esque sensation.
The latter counts a whopping three headlining units from Phish (much less an indication of laziness and extra a sign of Bonnaroo figuring out their crunchy, jam-friendly model) alongside the Lumineers and Childish Gambino — who additionally sits fairly on the high of Coachella’s poster, alongside Tame Impala and Ariana Grande. Perhaps essentially the most attention-grabbing commentary about Coachella’s first two headliners is that their look signifies new music from them quickly, which we mainly already knew; as for Grande — who’s coming off what’s undoubtedly her most creatively fertile 12 months but — she counts because the youngest Coachella headliner in historical past, in addition to a female-identifying primary occasion inside an ecosystem that’s gradually (albeit not quickly enough) booking more female-identifying headliners.
About that final level: As the music festival-industrial-complex has change into one other method of American life, it’s additionally been more and more and fairly subjected to litmus checks reflecting the elevated social consciousness that society has taken on over the previous a number of years. Drawing consideration to Coachella-operation-company Goldenvoice proprietor Philip Anschutz’s history of donating to anti-LGBTQ causes and Republican candidates has change into as a lot of an annual custom as fireworks on the Fourth of July; final March, the Chicago-based advocacy marketing campaign OurMusicMyBody reported that 90 p.c of surveyed feminine concertgoers (at festivals and in any other case) had skilled some type of sexual harassment. Not solely is the rampant, at-times violent tradition of misogyny embedded inside pageant tradition not new, it’s well-documented — particularly with regard to Woodstock ‘99, a century-ending disaster that resulted in reviews of horrifying situations of sexual assault, together with riots and property injury and an overdose-related demise. (Spin’s award-winning report on the festival from that year is essential, and horrifying, reading.)
Reflecting on the catastrophe that was Woodstock ‘99, it’s mind-boggling that pageant tradition managed to flourish in its wake to start with — and equally dismaying that, considering the brand-celebrating festivities in movement, the organizers appear to be taking away the unsuitable classes. When requested concerning the issues that surrounded Woodstock ‘99, Lang tried to downplay the carnage to Rolling Stone as “nearly 200 youngsters who went on a rampage … Woodstock ‘99 was only a musical expertise with no social significance. It was only a huge celebration.” His characterization is, amongst different issues, blithely ignorant with regard to how the latest previous is intertwined with pageant tradition’s questionably protected current.
In a just-published uncommon interview with the Los Angeles Times, Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett is barely extra pragmatic when addressing comparable considerations, together with a Teen Vogue report from final 12 months by which its author, Vera Papisova, claimed to be groped on the pageant 22 instances over the course of ten hours. “We’re difficult workers and attendees to be an integral a part of this tradition shift,” he said whereas discussing the Every One marketing campaign that can be rolled out for this 12 months’s Coachella in addition to its country-focused Stagecoach offshoot — and that’s included being pressured to deal with the problems inside. In late 2017, Tollett’s Goldenvoice firm parted methods with FYF Festival organizer Sean Carlson after he confronted allegations of sexual misconduct; after assuming full management of the L.A.-based pageant, low ticket gross sales (a typical illness dealing with many mid-to-small-scale festivals over the past a number of years) pressured FYF’s cancellation fully.
When requested about FYF’s common future, Tollett makes use of the phrase “scaled down” in his response, an inexpensive ideally suited that nonetheless ignores the truth that loads of FYF-scale festivals each existent and discontinued face myriad financial issues indicating that the pageant trade’s bubble has lengthy since burst. Even Bonnaroo’s struggled, dipping to a record-low 45,500 attendees in 2016 — a sensible dent in its too-big-to-fail standing. As pageant tradition and the trade that’s created it enters their unruly post-adolescent interval, it’s value pondering past the rising sameness throughout lineups and experiences, as an alternative contemplating whether or not, in 20 years’ extra time, there can be sufficient festivals in existence to resemble one another in any respect.