Michael Roffman and I first met on the Lollapalooza message board back in 2007 and came up with the idea to launch a website that catered to music festival news and rumors. At the time, the music festival boom was just beginning, inspired by a jam festival’s decision to book Radiohead. 80,000 people went to Bonnaroo that year — a defining moment for an industry ravaged by Napster and Limewire. People were still willing to pay good money for music, just as long as there were a few potent headliners, a reunion or two, and some of those “indie bands.” The following year Coachella booked Rage Against the Machine, Bonnaroo reunited The Police, and Lollapalooza got Daft Punk. It’s been a rat race ever since, with the major festivals met with increasing expectations, all while new festivals pop up by the dozen.
Last week on Twitter I had my first ever rant, spurred on by an article in Chicago’s Red Eye lambasting the repetitiveness and unoriginality of Lollapalooza’s four leaked headliners (The Killers, Vampire Weekend, Mumford and Sons, and Phoenix). I posed this question: five years ago, what did we think Lollapalooza would look like in 2013? Truth be told, there’s really no environment for an aspiring rock band to grow into a formidable headliner on the level of Radiohead or The White Stripes — not unless said band wants to be barraged with accusations of selling out or being inauthentic. At least that’s how Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon succeeded in becoming headliners to the dismay of the nerds and critics reading this site. The alternative, of course, is repeated headliners, tired reunions, and headliners who probably aren’t headliners.
Needless to say, it must be a lot more difficult to book a festival in 2013 than it was in 2007. That’s why this year’s Lollapalooza lineup should be lauded. Faced with such expectations and increased competition (there are about eight European festivals that take place the same weekend), Perry Farrell and C3 Presents pieced together a lineup featuring three unique grabs (The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, QOTSA), three members of indie royalty (Vampire Weekend, Phoenix, The Postal Service), and even something for the mainstream (Mumfords). The mid-tier of the lineup is also impressive (The National,
Booking a music festival is not easy. Lower your expectations and maybe just maybe this lineup will get the credit it rightfully deserves.