Friday, June 12, 2009

One Big Festival

I'm being a little alarmist worrying that the major New Orleans festivals will eventually become one big festival, but it's worth noticing that Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played Voodoo, Jazz Fest and are scheduled to play Essence Music Festival on the July 4 weekend. Overlap between any two of the festivals is very common, but the announcement today that Widespread Panic will be one of Voodoo's headliners adds a serious Jazz Fest-y jam band vibe to a festival that has rarely had that, even with a Jazz Fest-y stage.

The announced headliners so far - Kiss and Widespread Panic - only further underline the challenge of booking headliners for festivals. Last year's headliners - Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails and R.E.M. - dated back to the '80s and '90s, and now Kiss takes us back to the '70s and Panic, aesthetically, further than that. The consensus among promoters is evidently that there are few artists from the 2000s who can draw festival-sized crowds, which is sad and interesting. There's so much interesting music being made today, but the implication is that it's being made for increasingly subdivided genres, so much so that few recent bands have the necessary mass appeal. It's possible that future nostalgia will change that - was STP really that big that they cut across genres/audiences in their heyday? Really? - but if not, there's something sad in the notion that there are fewer and fewer experiences in our culture that are shared. I'm not quite ready to yearn for the monoculture, but I understand the impulse.

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