With winter waning, it’s the time of the year when most major summer festivals start announcing their respective lineups. It’s a very exciting time if you plan on attending any of these major events in the United States or in Great Britain where the majority of these musical monoliths are held (Benicassim in Spain an exception). There’s the ubiquitous Glastonbury in the UK. There’s the now world-renowned Coachella that takes place in the desert of California. There are also up and coming festivals like Sasquatch in Washington state, and the Pitchfork sponsored festival in Chicago. We cannot forget the smaller festivals all over the world that each add a little bit of flavor to the summer melting pot, but they are too numerous to list entirely.
George Clinton - 1995 Alachua Music Harvest
My festival history is fairly sparse, at least in regards to just being a patron. My first rock festival actually took place in the fall. It was the Alachua Music Harvest in Gainesville, FL back in 1995. The star attraction of that festival was a performance by George Clinton and The P-Funk All Stars, which I have great memories of, if only because it was the first time I ever smoked marijuana publicly. I was 17 and that was really the age when popular music galvanized me and going to concerts became a high (no pun intended) priority. The majority of that bill was fleshed out with local bands from a time when the Gainesville local scene was thriving. Acts today that are well known throughout the world that were considered “local” to this particular timeframe were groups like Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, and (I hate them) Sister Hazel. I consider this particular festival a turning point in my adolescence in many respects. The A.M.H is sadly now defunct and it reached a high water mark when it lured James Brown, Lenny Kravitz and a few other nationally known acts in the years to follow. I was unable to attend any other of the Harvests and I believe the one I attended was only the second out of about 5 or 6 total, maybe even less.
As an adult, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few of the more well known festivals in the world simply as a fan. First, was T In The Park which takes place in Scotland in the beginning of July. I attended the 2004 festival at the invite of Franz Ferdinand. This is and remains a very special festival to me if only because of the extraneous things that occurred outside of the spectrum of just musical performance. I was VIP and had all access due to my friendship with some of the performers and to this day it is something I will never forget. The lineup was fantastic, especially on the Sunday, which had the likes of PJ Harvey, The Strokes, and it was the first time I witnessed the greatness of the Pixies live and in person. I also had a fantastic discussion with Fergie of all people, who at the time I found pretty cool. I can’t say I like her public persona these days, but I know for sure she has musical taste despite her current group’s crap. This is also proven by her attendance at the recent Asobi Seksu show at the Mercury Lounge which I attended and recently reviewed. An interesting note is that this was the time when Kings of Leon were at their best creatively and before they went down the tubes to become one of the worst bands on the planet. I vividly remember sitting amongst the artist caravans and seeing the dirty Followills lounged out in ratty clothes, smoking something, and looking like rock stars.
My second major festival was Coachella in 2007. This had arguably the best lineup I’ve ever seen offered by a festival, bar the headliner on the Saturday. On Friday of the festival’s opening: Bjork, a reunited Jesus & Mary Chain, me standing within arms length of Scarlett Johannson, Arctic Monkeys, DJ Shadow and more. The Saturday was a bit weaker as the headliner was Red Hot Chili Peppers who I am not a fan of , but still had Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, and The Black Keys. The closer on Sunday was Rage Against the Machine who reunited specifically for that festival and put on one of the most ferocious sets I’ve ever witnessed. The Sunday was also my intro to Explosions in the Sky, who are one of my favorites today and having not heard a note of until their amazing set at Coachella was a perfect introduction.
For me, the most important aspect of festivals is not the lineup, but the setting. The fact is, virtually anyone can find something they like at every festival on the planet, but comfort is not a guarantee. T In the Park remains my favorite because of how picturesque it is. It takes place in Kinross in Scotland, which by my estimation (not consulting a map) is probably halfway in between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It’s an absolutely beautiful scene and weather was also perfectly comfortable. If you can find a place that boasts 50-60 degree temperatures in July within the United States, I’m moving there provided they get good gigs. This isn’t a knock on Coachella as the desert scenery is very picturesque especially at sunset, but the heat and hassle of getting into the area where its held is definitely not a good time. The hassle of Coachella traffic is a force to be reckoned with. In contrast, T In the Park has public transportation to and from the site from Glasgow (unsure of Edinburgh, but Id bet that it also has).
Another comparison aspect is just sheer scope. Coachella is an absolutely massive site. T In the Park is large as well, but to me, it seemed a lot more accessible. No doubt that weather also played a huge factor as it was a marked difference in comparing the two and there’s points during Coachella where you find a spot near a stage and just don’t want to move because of the heat.
For my dream festival, setting is just as important as lineup, so I am using that as my jumping off point.
With that out of the way:
Name of my festival: BenStock – Yes, it’s pretty derivative, but it is mine after all.
Location: Just outside of San Francisco, CA. I choose this location because it’d be easy to get to from a major city, the weather is sublime around the time of year I’d hold my festival, and I believe that a traditional festival is something that Northern California, especially the Bay Area, is lacking. My second choice would be another attempt in the NYC area as that is where I live now, but logistically it’s a very hard place to pull off something proper because of lack of camping space, not to mention its been tried before and not without hitches (see All Points West).
Pre-requisites to selection and extra crap: My festival would be a standard three days over a weekend, preferably in June or early July. There would be only two stages and the performances would have staggered starts in order for people to get to and from each stage to catch an entire set if they so desired. I’d also limit ticket sales to avoid any major problems. Of course, there’d be the requisite tented areas with merchants and other activities, but I’m not going to get that detailed. I will only be doing my lineup for the Headliner Stage. My choices have to be active as of today, so outside of a few deviations, no “dream” reunions or dead acts are named. Each act would have a 60 minute set until the 3rd to last acts which would get 90 minutes, 2 hours, and then 2.5 hours if they chose to fill it. Lineup is in order of appearance. All music starts at noon on each day. Saturday would be a late night event.
Sarah Chang versus Hilary Hahn in a violin throwdown to open my festival on the headliner stage. I have never witnessed classical music in a festival setting and being a huge admirer of both of these virtuosos, and it’d be a fun thing to have them do a bit where they try to outdo each other, perhaps backed by a rock orchestra. This idea was completely inspired by that episode of the Cosby Show where Cliff is tapdancing.
Camera Obscura – One of my favorite bands out of Scotland, Camera Obscura would be a perfect fit following a classical set. It’d be sunny hopefully, and the orchestra could stay out and provide backing for some of their songs that sound incredible with that instrumentation behind them.
School of Seven Bells – Switching it up a bit with an shoegaze/rock/electronic outfit out of New York City. They would be the first rock out set to grace the headliner stage.
The Coral – Out of that place called Liverpool, are the unheralded and remarkable The Coral, who in the heat of the afternoon would bring their pitch perfect pop sound to my stage.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Straight out of LA is one of the best psychedelic bands in the world. Id actually give them a two hour set so we could all witness their greatness as the sun went down.
The Roots – I think it’d be rather interesting to follow up a psychedelic rock band with arguably the greatest live hip hop band ever. They would be the first act of the “nighttime” festivities on the first day. I think they could get the crowd hyped up and ready for…
PJ Harvey – The best female rocker on the planet who absolutely kills a festival stage.
Was there! 🙂
Arctic Monkeys – Easily my favorite rock band going today, Alex Turner and company can rip it up live with their high energy and fantastic songs.
Doves – Opening the Saturday would be UK’s Doves. A great alternative rock band that sort of remind of a perfect mix of Oasis and Radiohead.
The Duke Spirit – Led by the goddess, Leila Moss, this stomping rock-blues-punk hybrid would definitely get the masses going.
MEW – Danish alternative act MEW would be the perfect act at this point in the day.
The Walkmen – NYC/DC’s The Walkmen would be a perfect fit at this point during the day, where they have the ability to rock out and lower the energy level in the heat.
Explosions in the Sky – A perfect bridge from the heat of the afternoon to end of the day and the true beginning of the evening. Explosions’ instrumental rock prowess would bring us to the first act of the evening hours.
Kasabian – UK rock act Kasabian would lead the charge into the evening hours.
The Black Angels – An incredible psychedelic rock band out of Austin, TX, I would give them a high billing simply because I feel they are arguably the most underrated band on the planet.
Radiohead – Quite simply, the best band on the planet and an excellent act in a festival situation.
DJ Shadow – Would spin the night away following Radiohead’s set.
The Love Language – North Carolina’s The Love Language would open the Sunday proceedings with their strong heartfelt pop nuggets.
Asobi Seksu – Another personal favorite, Brooklyn’s Asobi Seksu would bring their dream pop/shoegaze hybrid to the stage as we get ready for our final sundown of the festival.
Rose Elinor Dougall – One of my personal favorites of the last year, Rose’s English girl pop would be a great way to spend an hour on the final day of the festival.
Mogwai – Switching it up big time would be UK’s answer to Explosions in the Sky, Scotland’s Mogwai. Quite a bit different than Explosions as they employ vocals and more beat-centric music, Mogwai would be a great last day set.
Richard Hawley – One of the UK’s pre-eminent singer/songwriters, Richard Hawley would bring his old troubadour soul to my stage.
The National – One of the best bands in the world would be the choice for the sundowner on Sunday with their melancholy poetic rock and roll.
Noel Gallagher – Nearing the end of the festival and the first act of the final night would be Oasis’ former guitarist and lead lyricist, the ubiquitous Noel Gallagher.
Fleet Foxes – Closing my festival would be arguably my favorite band of the last two years, whose upcoming 2nd album is easily my most anticipated this year.
And that, is pretty much it, aside from the 2nd stage, which I decided not to do.
Filed under: Music | Tagged: 2011, Music, Personal | 1 Comment »