Festivals Go Mainstream, It’s Our Fault

What the hell happened to “The Music Festival?” What used to feel like a fun weekend full of awesome jams and awesome people, now feels like a douchey faux-fiesta worthy only of Natty Light chugging bros.

Somehow the essence of a music festival has gone from an acid-tastic way to hear new or under-appreciated bands to a mainstream music bonanza full of concert-going posers who not only harsh your mellow but also ruin everything that the festival once stood for.

These “fans” only go to festivals like Bonnaroo or Coachella so they can update their FourSquare and Facebook accounts and show everyone how “alternative” they are. Sorry. Sleeping in the grass in 100-degree weather for four days does not make you alternative, it makes you dehydrated.

As festival season quickly approaches and line-ups get announced I find myself wondering if it’s even worth $300 for the three days of music and sweaty bros.

Festivals have somehow become a one-stop shop for all things on the Billboard Top 40. What happened the the thrift store mentality? When did festivals get so commercial? And further, did the bands make festivals mainstream or did the festivals make the bands mainstream?

Gen Y ruined the festival. But we didn’t do it by ourselves–we had help from the fledgling record companies struggling to make a buck in the age of the Internet and a shit-hole economy.

Case in point: How did the Black Keys sell so many copies of their new album and how did they sell out Madison Square Garden in 15 minutes? Easy: The record companies brainwashed us into thinking these bearded dudes from rust-belt Ohio were cool, thanks to clever PR people and playing up the band’s strengths. And now they’re headlining Coachella and it’s all our fault. We fell for the great record company swindle. We bought the albums and the concert tickets and now we’re all going to flock to Indio, Calif. to pay tribute to the next big band.

Why? Because the record companies and the PR cronies makes us think the Black Keys and bands like them (Mumford & Sons, the Kills, etc…) are cool because they represent what’s now become an all-too-common stereotype, which just makes the fact that they do make good music resonate more. The Hipster stereotype. It’s being forced down our throats with shows like “2 Broke Girls” and “Portlandia.” And because we’ve gone down the hipster rabbit hole, the enterprising festival promoters have latched onto the money teats and started sucking by making these bands headliners.

Further proof: Coachella’s headliners this year include the Black Keys, Bon Iver, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

These summer music festivals have gone from Woodstock-esque night of fun, jamming and great music for the sake of music, to tool-bag infested stages with music for the sake of looking cool. It’s infuriating and a slap in the face to fans who expected more diversity in their line-ups…but therein lies the rub.

We will still go to these festivals. We will still shell out $300 for a weekend of popular “alternative fun” because the record companies and the festival promoters have us right where they want us. Gen Y is broke and busy and festivals give us the most bang for our buck over a short three-day span.

Bonnarroo and Coachella and Lollapalooza are just like Wal-Mart. We can hate what they’ve become all we want, but we’re broke, busy, and want the convenience – so we still shop there. We let the record producers and festival planners become the taste-makers because we’re too lazy to think for ourselves. How long are we going to let this go on?

But how do we get our favorite festivals and bands back where we want them?

It’s musical communism, in a way. How the fuck do we fix this? How can I get back to dancing in circles to “Sigh No More” without random chick puking next to me and complaining about getting vomit on their Birkenstocks? How do I stop complaining about dudes in suits trying to make a buck off a rock album ruining everything I love about music? Unless we boycott festivals altogether or start petitioning the promoters in large numbers, it’s going to be difficult to make a change, but we have to try.

We are stardust. We are golden. We are 10 million year old carbon. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” STAT

Photos by Kid Paparazzi, HipsterRunoff

Caitlin Tremblay I work at Thomson Reuters in NYC and I'm a 2011 graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. I could live off of Ring Pops and cucumbers and I still pay for music. I think tattoos, Chuck Klosterman, Rolling Stone, red pens, day planners and Shakespeare are rad. You can find me on Twitter (@CTrembz).

View all posts by Caitlin Tremblay

11 Responses to “Festivals Go Mainstream, It’s Our Fault”

  1. Alex Pearlman

    Awww man… I can’t even bring myself to buy tickets because a) I’m broke, but mostly b) I don’t want to run into the Mean Girls from high school who, ten years ago, wouldn’t be caught dead at a music festival and now they post their pictures of showing teeny shorts and bikinis on facebook while not paying attention to fleet foxes behind them. damnit.

    Reply
  2. Caitlin

    Preach! I kinda hope it rains at Bonnaroo so if I see any of those types I can “accidentally” fling mud at them.

    Reply
  3. Angela Stefano

    @ Caitlin: So…which category in that pie chart do we fall into? Inquiring minds need to know. I may then proceed to label everyone at Bonnaroo under one of those categories.

    Reply
  4. Caitlin

    I think we’re in the percentage so small that it’s uncharted and that percentage is “People who actually go for the music.”

    Reply
  5. Kevin Wang

    Great post. I’m a two year alum of Coachella, but I’m not sure if I ever will/can go again.

    I think a lot of it has to do with electronic music going mainstream…hmm. I should really write that up already. =]

    Reply
  6. Mark

    You could just go to smaller, local music festivals. You don’t need the ‘brand name’ or large crowds that comes with Bonnaroo, Coachella or Bumbershoot to enjoy a weekend of music.

    Fix the problem by doing what you already do with Walmart – drive right past it and go to something with a bit more integrity.

    Reply
  7. Fluffhead37

    “We will still go to these festivals. We will still shell out $300 for a weekend of popular “alternative fun” because the record companies and the festival promoters have us right where they want us”

    Here is where i disagree with you. I did not, and will never pay $300 to see a festival where the Black Keys, Bon Iver, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are headlining. fuck that. i will find random shows, and do a few consecutive run of shows of select bands, or even take a trip for the weekend and go hiking. but i will NOT pay for this. and i think a lot of people would agree with me. when the chads flock to these festivals, the true music lovers flock to other festivals, smaller festivals, better festivals. other shows, better shows. festivals with great people who still care about each other and the music more than anything. they’re out there, and they’re not called Bonnaroo.

    Reply
  8. Gibbo

    Did you ever think that maybe those “toolbags” are just having a good time and you should get over yourself and have a bit of fun. The people that go to festivals and judge everyone there rather than embracing the experience are the toolbags

    Reply
  9. Gibbo

    Did you ever think that maybe those “toolbags” are just having a good time and you should get over yourself and have a bit of fun. The people that go to festivals and judge everyone there rather than embracing the experience are the toolbags.

    Reply

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