Death, taxes, and avid concert fans hating on music festival announcements. Those are the three certainties guaranteed in life, especially in early January when festivals release their line-ups for the year.
The cycle goes like this: A festival like Bonnaroo or Coachella asks people to buy festival passes at a discount before the line-up, banking that they’ll go for the party no matter who is on the bill. Some people do. A couple weeks later, they announce the full line-up and promote tickets at full price, banking on the fans spending their hard-earned money and moving the needle on ticket sales.
But in 2019, where every snarky asshole (..raises hand) with a smartphone has a digital voice on Twitter or Instagram, these line-up announcements are almost always met with gripes. Much like hating Ohio State or the New York Yankees or the entire city of Boston, music taste is a subjective pursuit. There are no rights or wrongs, but there is my right and final opinion on music that is good, goddamnit. And music festivals are often delivered a heavy-handed blow from the binary court of public opinion, even if the spirit of the product they’re offering is a righteously noble one (…uniting people around lots of badass art and music).
People are just predictable like that.
Until the summer music festival industrial complex collapses (…it won’t), this blow-back happens every single year, to every single festival. Everyone has an asshole and everyone has an opinion. People split open and melt. You can’t ask for $300+ a ticket with scores of talent on the bill and please everyone.
But you CAN please the people willing to open their wallets up to a good time with their favorite acts.
Bonnaroo, the OG jam band festival that outgrew it’s jam band roots somewhere around 2006 (…when Radiohead headlined), released it’s line-up today. Superfly Presents started the ‘Roo in 2002 largely to fill the void of there not being a Phish festival that year. Because custie wooks like myself had no where else to enjoy their crunchy tunes that summer, 70,000 tickets were sold. Trey Anastasio, Phil Lesh and Friends with Bob Weir, Ween, Widespread Panic, and String Cheese Incident (with Keller Williams!) headlined. The Disco Biscuits played til sunrise in a little tent.
It was everything Woodstock 99, just three summers prior, was not. It was damn good time on some random dude’s farm in the middle of Tennessee. Peter Shapiro’s Lock’N festival largely fills that void on the East Coast now, while Summer Camp, High Sierra, Peach Music Festival, and others do a solid job at wrangling up wooks for a weekend at a much smaller scale.
While the mainstream music industry gravitates to the cultural clout of festival like Coachella, Outside Lands, and Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo remains like your cool, older cousin who operates a ski lift in Crested Butte and constantly talks about how much fun it is to drop acid after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a real cultural grab bag, not totally forgetting its roots in crunchy jam band music but also throwing incredible mainstream acts like Childish Gambino on the bill, because MUSIC, damnit. Awaken My Love was the trippiest album of 2016, like a George Clinton all the way down the rabbit hole after a couple of peyote buttons.
Hey, look! Psychedelic melt artwork! Groovy, man.
Bonnaroo’s 2019 line-up includes three sets of Phish on two different nights (Friday + Sunday), a band that needs no introduction here on BroBible. After canceling their summer festival at Watkins Glen due to flooding in the area, they closed out 2018 by debuting in Kasvot Vox – the band’s best new material in years – on Halloween in Vegas and added another sold out run at Madison Square Garden to their trophy case. 2018 was the year Phish fans faceplanted into rock and learned what space smelled like and everyone largedly lapped it up.
By any traditional standard, you’d think Phish fans would be happy about seeing their beloved band on the bill for a music festival as big and important as Bonnaroo. Lol. Wrong. Phish fans love to complain, much akin to the fans of any NFL team stuck with suckass Sam Bradford in the quarterback position. They love their team (Phish) but, ugh, really another play action in that coverage (..Number Line)? Really?
It’s like this, y’all:
Consider it a sign of caring.
Phish played Bonnaroo in 2009 and 2012, respectively. In 2012, they even brought out Kenny Rodgers to sing “The Gambler”
But this time around, Phish fans weren’t so enthusiastic about the announcement. That’s because Phish festival sets are usually low energy compared to their hard ticketed shows, the dry turkey sandwich lunch of Phish shows. Therefore, Phish fans aren’t so quick to surrender to the flow on this one, dialing up the usual snark:
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, non-Phish fans appear even more distraught about the line-up, especially with Phish getting a higher billing than, say, Cardi B.
People who don’t know how to control their emotions about music festivals they want to go to are are upset on the Internet!
For those of us a little more ambivalent on the matter, the meta commentary on the melts on both sides of the music fan spectrum bring us to a truly joyous moment of ONLY ON THE INTERNET LOLZ.
MEANWHILE, after a busy day of responding to Phish trolls:
Would I go to Bonnaroo to see Phish? Call me levelheaded, but fuck yea I would, *if I don’t have anything else going on that weekend. Or overextend myself financially in other ways throughout the summer, as I tend to do. Because of Phish.
I haven’t made up my mind yet.
I would *also* go to see dozens of the other badass artists on that list. Childish Gambino! Kasey Musgraves! Hell, Gucci Mane! Never saw Gucci Mane before! It’s probably fun as fuck!
The only person who read the fucking book and surrendered to the flow?
This girl. She just want to live while she’s young: