Are aging headliners limiting festivals' musical progression?

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 08 March 2010

With AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop confirmed to be among the major headliners for the big hitter festivals this year, it seems to be a definite trend to give the main stage over to well established music hall legends. There is no doubt it's a good boon for ticket sales, but by saturating the festival main stages with such jaw dropping names are we setting ourselves up for a fall? Can they still perform with the level of genius that their name inspires?

Lately, it seems, the music scene has taken a step backwards with everyone looking to the past for inspiration. Everything has a retro-feel or it’s the revival of this or that old genre. We have either hit a musical glass ceiling, with no new music direction possible, or we have become lazy. We need to get the focus back on the great modern music we’re making. There are so many really great current bands out there who are still capable of delivering face-melting solo’s without arthritis kicking in.
But in this current climate it makes perfect sense to book old-school headliners: chart toppers are copy-pasting genre founders and leaders into their new album sleeves - something only exacerbating the situation. By giving the headline stage to the old-hat, yes we’re pulling in a crowd, but it also means that new bands don’t get the opportunity to play for the biggest audience at the festival and they're not given a chance to really go all out to expand their fan-base and prove themselves worthy of induction to the music hall of fame. So by relying on the already famous we sell-short those with the potential to be our new brilliant.
The headline slot is a big deal and the focus of festival booking really should be about the here and now, a culmination of the best that year has to offer the music scene. When you’re booking a decrepit, albeit legendary, old band that hasn’t put anything new out this year and isn’t even supporting a comeback or tour, then the festival loses its identity. They all blur into one, it’s no longer about who was on fire that term. Instead it is about which band can be coaxed out of retirement and dressed up the nicest with the lowest medical risk. "Remember Reading 2012? Was that the year Elvis was revived and headlined, or was it the one with the zombie led Nirvana?" At this rate it will not be a famous practical joke when a lead singer genuinely gets pushed on stage in a wheelchair.
This year’s festivals should be headlined by 2010’s biggest names. Whether upcoming or established they should be the bands making a splash now, not five to ten years ago. And yes the new breed can be found in the other tents. The “sideshow” tents, but surely most of the bands relegated to the smaller tents must draw a bigger crowd than some of the O.A.Ps headlining? Unless a lot of people take their parents with them to festivals, with the main stage working as a sort of mummy and daddy creche whilst they go off to check out live bands closer to living than otherwise.
For clarification, this is by no means an attack on bands over a certain age. They are still welcome at my fantasy festival but it is they who are sadly relegated to the smaller stages. This is also not damning of the validity and calibre of “older” music. Just that while it still might savagely rock on CD, the band itself has aged and possibly not like a fine wine.
We need to help create new rock’n’roll gods. The festivals should be at the forefront of this. Yes, these legends have their place but it simply isn’t the main stage anymore. Let us have the best of what our generation has to offer on the main stage. Believe in the music we have created. Let that lead the way and throw down the crutch of memorabilia. Who wants to watch AC/DC hobble through a set at Download, when they could be in another tent observing Wolfmother jump, headbang and thrash through theirs? Who would put up with Aerosmith feebly flapping their arms at you when could have Five Finger Death Punch grab you by the throat, kick you in the nuts and head butt you off the stage? Metaphorically of course.

By Matt Miles.


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