The reactions to Thursday's Voodoo lineup say a lot about festivals and their audiences.
Facebook's collective "meh" over the talent lineup for Voodoo 2015 left me wondering if the lineup really didn't work, or if my perception was skewed by comments I saw from--as best as I could tell--rock-oriented commenters. The lineup received more mixed reviews on Voodoo's Facebook page, but it wasn't until I went off-road to Twitter that I found real enthusiasm. Sunday's lineup came under the most criticism, but one person tweeted, "Bro Safari, Third Eye Blind, Chance the Rapper, Deadmau5, and Zac Brown Band?! Sunday of @VoodooNola is going to be AMAZING!"
The Twitterverse was hardly unanimous in its love, though. "If you could redo the lineup to make it not suck that would be great thanks," one person wrote.
The spilt decision is partly a function of a lineup that is so varied it almost feels random. It's hard to have a sense of Voodoo's self-definition based on a lineup that seems to include everything--Ozzy, Zac Brown Band, the Hot Topic rock of Gerald Way, the dance rock of Django Django, disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder, commercial rock band Third Eye Blind and the reunited grunge band Babes in Toyland. Add to that the EDM offerings and this year's lineup looks like an effort to check-off market boxes than to present a coherent, distinctive musical experience.
That variety is a now a hallmark of the regional summer rock festival. Hangout Fest's lineup was similarly scattered (and involved a number of Voodoo performers). The ACL Festival in Austin has less overlap, but it too reaches to EDM and rock audiences, booking cutting edge artists and older artists who made their fame in the '90s and 2000s. That scattergun approach is a nod to a basic truth: That promoters can't deliver large numbers in this festival climate with a rock show, and maybe they can't with a simply EDM festival either. The death of the monoculture took the idea of artists that reach a broad swath of American culture with it.
Perhaps because of that, it will be hard from here on out for promoters to come up with lineups that, taken as a whole, are genuinely exciting. More likely, the Twitter responses below illustrate what we'll see--people thrilled enough by a few artists to go along with whatever else happens to be there.
I wonder if we'll see Voodoo-like festivals five years from now, and if so, what form they'll take. Chasing headliners and market segments has to be a joyless game. I wonder if the future isn't in a different approach to the problem. Rather than figure out how to pull together a mass audience, maybe the way forward is to figure out how to make a smaller, more targeted festival profitable. Online, clear, defined voices win; maybe the way forward for festivals is to speak to sensibilities and aesthetics rather than demographics. That seems to be Buku's approach with its orientation toward dance music. Could it work for other sensibilities?
For me, this lineup is more interesting than I first thought, primarily because Zac Brown Band, Third Eye Blind and Clutch jumped out as red flags on first look. But Florence + The Machine killed when she last played Voodoo, and while Ozzy on his own doesn't do much for me, Slash, Morello, and Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler have my attention. I will want to see Jason Isbell, Chance the Rapper, Joey Bada$$ with The Soul Rebels, Django Django, Girl Talk, Hundred Waters, Ryan Bingham, Santigold, The Cult and The Struts without checking acts I don't know on Spotify to see who the names I don't know are. And Giorgio Moroder was a genuine Holy Crap! moment for me when I saw him on the lineup.
As we'll see below, a lot of people had those moments, but they came with a lot of WTFs as well.