Over at Hitsville, Bill Wyman responded to my ravings about Coachella–specifically, my love for the sets by Prince, Portishead, Kraftwerk, the Breeders, and the Verve–with the riposte “Didn’t I see this show in 1995? I certainly could have, except for Kraftwerk…” A fair point, and one that I found myself thinking about a fair bit during the course of the weekend (like, for example, when Swervedriver tore into “Rave Down” and “Son Of Mustang Ford” back-to-back–not that I wasn’t thrilled, but you know). But are there any acts who have come up since the turn of the millennium who can headline a 50,000-capacity festival? And what does my having to think long and hard about rounding such a list up to five (1. Jack Johnson; 2. Hmmm….) mean for the future health of the festival circuit?
My initial answer: It’s not good. And further thinking about this looming crunch has made me wonder if the current festival bubble we’re seeing now isn’t dissimilar to the housing bubble that’s been deflating over the past 18 months or so–festivals are in the “unsustainable growth on the backs of depleting resources” part of the cycle, with the big reunions and big names that draw in people now being sort of analagous to “exotic” mortgages in that there’s a payoff now (Prince appearance that results in Saturday night being a sellout/smaller mortgage payment that allows you to spend money on frivolous items like Coachella tickets) that will turn into a liability later unless people get creative (reunion shows coming around for the second time and losing their “special” luster/whopping increase in mortgage payment). In the case of avoiding the high mortgage payment, “getting creative” meant flipping the house before the market went tits-up, but how are organizers of festivals this year going to do the same? Forcing Prince and Roger Waters to engage in a dance-off to figure out, once and for all, whose house each festival site actually is? Getting Jay-Z and Stephen Malkmus to do a half-assed version of “The Slack Album” live? Or maybe, in an effort to maximize crossover potential, having T-Pain on hand for run-ins during every single set of the entire weekend? (At the very least, imagining what My Morning Jacket will sound like with Teddy Pinned-Her-Ass-Down glommed onto their sound has made me giggle for the past five solid minutes.)
The best show of the year? [Hitsville]