Could a lack of variety result in 2016 being the weakest year for UK music festivals?
It’s that time of the year again. The time where myself and hundreds of thousands of music fans pay close attention to multiple music festival’s twitter feeds to see who will be playing this summer. There’s nothing that can really compare to it; the rumoured line ups, everyone throwing in who they think deserves to be headlining and wading through half an hour of Radio 1 to hear the host reveal a handful of new acts: for music fans, this is essentially Christmas.
However, this year seems to have provoked a different reaction than usual and worryingly enough it seems to have happened in a year that has already been plagued by some worrying news regarding live music. We’re only three months into 2016 and there’s already been word about small venues in the UK being under threat which is a major concern to anyone with an interest in music. Now, not only do we have that to take into consideration but we now have our biggest music festivals in the UK facing a bit of a crisis.
This crisis is highly subjective and comes in two parts, the first being the state of festival sites. Unfortunately to address this I’ll have to take shots at the very first festival I attended and that is T In The Park. The state of T in 2015 shocked me at first as the move to Strathallan Castle came with it an amazing new setting and potential to further enhance certain elements of the festival, allowing the organisers to breathe some new life into it.
However, multiple outlets reported that this wasn’t the case and I found this out personally. Friends of mine who have been attending the festival for years complained about the security or the lack thereof with multiple people reporting the high number of violent incidents occurring at last year’s event. Before you point out the obvious, yes, I know violence at a music festival isn’t anything unusual since you’re bound to get that with the drugs and alcohol going about but when people are having to leave a festival due to the fear of their own safety then something has to be done.
While the quality of T In The Park’s site may be oddly specific to that festival alone and organisers have since said they have addressed this for 2016, the quality of the lineups this year are something that, while not worth having a breakdown over, are worth criticising. To do this, we’ll focus on three of the biggest UK festivals as in previous years they have displayed their ability to be diverse and satisfying. We’ll start with Glastonbury who have announced two headliners so far and the moment I saw both, I had to let out a sigh: Muse and Coldplay.
While I’m always the first to jump in defence of Coldplay for being the music world’s punchline, is this what we really want from Glastonbury; two bands that hit their peak around a decade ago? The rumours of Adele being the final headliner has me even more concerned as anyone who has ever looked at a Glasto lineup knows they usually stand out as being different and, dare I say it, controversial. Kanye, love him or hate him, resulted in a massive debate about hip hop at festivals and was the most talked about festival performance of last year without a doubt. Even before then there was Metallica the previous year who were their first metal headliner : do we really want to see a festival known for pushing itself out of its comfort zone go with the 3 of the safest choices imaginable?
In addition to that, the number of female acts at some of these UK festivals is laughable. I’m not going to go into some huge rambling, feminist-esque rant about the patriarchy being behind it all or that it is sexist but just look at the T In The Park lineup: the original announcement contained 4 acts out of 41 that feature a woman in it. 4. You can count all of those acts on one hand.
“It’s not that deep” some people have tweeted and for the most part, they’re probably right. The fact there’s so few female acts on the lineup isn’t down to choice but most likely ignorance as there’s so many to choose from that I’m astounded that the number is so little: Grimes, Courtney Barnett, Halsey, Lana Del Rey, Wolf Alice, Little Mix (I didn’t say they were all going to be good) came into my head within just a few seconds of thinking. If a nineteen year old with a blog can name more female acts in that space of time than there is on a festival lineup then something is seriously wrong.
Let’s end on a bit of a positive note and have a look at the Reading and Leeds lineup which, while it’s not perfect, is a tremendous improvement of what else is on offer. Not only is there more female acts on the Friday than there is on the entire T lineup alone but we seem to have a better representation of music nowadays as well as the past. Boy Better Know are waving the flag for grime which was rudely missed out at the Brits while we get Red Hot Chili Peppers displaying the rock music many will have grown up with. Meanwhile, Biffy Clyro and Foals will be displaying the state of rock music nowadays which, if you’ve been paying attention, is face melting, juggernaut sized anthems that will have everyone in attendance going absolutely awol.
Not to mention Two Door Cinema Club making a return and my personal highlight of Modern Baseball, Basement and State Champs kick starting the Sunday, Reading + Leeds seems to be getting a lot of undeserved flack when really, once you’ve looked past a few of bland acts like The Courteeners and Imagine Dragons, it’s the best the UK is offering this year. A festival that, regardless if you despise it or love it, is showing a great range of acts that will be sure to result in a great weekend.
A step in the right direction.
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