Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bonnaroo Lineup Fails to Blow Us Away

BonnarooTwo weeks ago the unveiling of the 2008 Coachella  Music Festival bill was met with much criticism from music fans across the world. Many thought the absence of a long overdue reunion (say, My Bloody Valentine) or a true 'superstar' headliner (namely, Radiohead) indicated the festival had "jumped the shark" or "lost its edge." Nevermind that the quality of the acts is as strong as in year's past (especially among the second and third tier acts), many fans have expectations that are virtually impossible to fill. Call it the price of success or the consequences of an increasingly crowded pool of competing festivals worldwide, but the fact remains that Goldenvoice has set a standard for Coachella that is as high as any festival in the world.

Yesterday the folks at Superfly & AC Entertainment lifted the curtain off the lineup for their Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and quickly learned what backlash feels like. The main headliners Pearl Jam, Metallica and Jack Johnson don't quite carry the importance or must-see factor of the much rumored Led Zeppelin. Furthermore, the inclusion of Metallica is sure to anger Bonnaroo's core base of concertgoers who view the festival as the standard-bearer of freethinking musical happiness (read: hippie jam bands) for festivals across the the country.

Indeed, such criticism is similar to the outcry of die hard fans of the Coachella Message Board, who feel Goldenvoice "owes" them a lineup with far-fetched band reunions (seriously, how many millions does Morrissey need to turn down before people stop spreading the Smiths reunion rumor?) and notoriously reclusive artists (Boards of Canada and Prince come to mind) every single year. While it is always great when these mega-festivals can up the ante each year, such an expectation is simply impossible. Not every legendary band will reunite for the right price (Talking Heads and The Velvet Underground ain't gonna happen. Pink Floyd is a longshot) and not all artists are receptive to the idea of sharing the spotlight with 100 other acts when they could easily cash in with a nationwide tour of their own (U2 and Bruce Springsteen).

Because of the immense success enjoyed by the two festivals over the last few years, a "letdown" was bound to happen sooner or later. Eventually, most of the big time artists would have played one festival or the other at least once, leaving very little room for big surprises. I'm sure Superfly and Goldenvoice tried their damnest to get the likes of Led Zeppelin, My Bloody Valentine, or Outkast to sign on to their events, but sometimes money isn't enough to pull these things off. Instead, we as music fans should focus on who is there rather than who isn't. Any objective look at each festival's complete bill will yield many artists to get excited about, so why can't we just embrace all the good music ahead and stop all the negativity? 

*Photo courtesy of flickr user Fen Branklin

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