Forbidden Fruit and festival headliners
Forbidden Fruit shows its hand and raises some interesting questions about festivals and headliners
From the newswires: Forbidden Fruit became the latest festival to show us their apples when they published the initial line-up for the two-day soiree (no three day bash this year) in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham in Dublin (no mention either of last year’s mooted expansion plans to other cities, which always struck us as a blast of hot air) on June 1 and 2. It’s an announcement which contains good news for fans of Kasabian, Primal Scream, Crystal Castles, James Blake, Chic, Four Tet, Neon Neon, James Blake, Daphni, Daughter, Austra, IamamiWhoami, Mykki Blanco, New Jackson, Frank B, Le Galaxie, Bondax, Fight Like Apes, Lee Scratch Perry, Girls Names, Tieranniesaur, Everything Everything, Kormac’s Big Band, Cyril Hahn and Woodkid, as all will be playing. Weekend tickets are €99.50 and day tickets are €54.50 (both plus TM D8 tax).
You’ll never get a perfect festival line-up because it’s impossible to come up with a bill which will keep everyone happy. You will be able to keep the hip music fans happy by splashing the cash and coming up with an amazing bill like Longitude (easily the most attractive bill you’ll see in Ireland in 2013 in my humble opinion), but it remains to be seen if spending huge money on acts on this occasion will pay dividends for the newcomer. Are Phoenix (around €100,000 for their services, for instance) and Vampire Weekend, for instance, capable of pulling the numbers needed to make a festival go into the black or, at least, not be so much in the red to scupper a run in 2014 or 2015? It’s not like every promoter has money to burn anymore. It’s ’13, not ’07 or ’08. Sure, the undercard also matters, but it’s the name at the top of the festival which defines where you’re going with things.
Which brings us to Kasabian. They are truly one of the worst bands in the land, an act who have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever, a band who make music which is turgid, bloated and unpalatable, a band I wouldn’t cross the road to see. But they have fans, lots of them. Last year, they played in Dublin’s Marlay Park and pulled 12,000 on that occasion. They’ve also played high on the bill at Oxegen in the past. When they play an Irish show, you can be sure they’ll open well with a couple of thousand sales right off the bat. That’s the thinking behind why Kasabian are topping this one. It also explains why Primal Scream and Chic, acts we’ve seen so many times by now that we know the setlist insideout, are top of the bill at Forbidden Fruit. They’re also acts with fans who will be quite happy to saunter out to Dublin 8 to see them and then saunter back home to spend the night in their own beds.
Yes, there is a disconnect between those headliners and the rest of bill, but there is also a disconnect between where Forbidden Fruit was pitching its tent in the last few years and where it is this year. Much of this is down to the fact that Longitude has simply out-shouldered and out-spent them for so many of the acts on the circuit. While booking bills like this is dependant on everything from a band’s availability and fees to how friendly the booker is with the agent, there’s no doubt that Longitude has taken most of the acts who might have been directing their tour buses towards Kilmainham. And this is before we get to see what those other festivals like Body & Soul, Castlepalooza, Sea Sessions and Indiependence have to offer. Anecdotal evidence from various bookers and agents shows that this is a year when MCD are really flexing their muscles and pulling out all the stops when it comes to booking for Longitude’s debut.
For all that, though, there are still plenty of acts playing here this summer – and acts who can really sell tickets too – not promoted by MCD. Blur (playing Dublin 8 on August 1), The National (a sold-out show in Cork on June 28) and Kasabian were long-time MCD clients – in fact, MCD have promoted all of these bands’ shows in Ireland, bar The National’s very first Irish tour in 2002 – and it’s strange that the company were prepared to let acts of that calibre walk without a fight. Any of those acts would be worth a decent pay-day for a promoter. There are also acts playing this summer who have yet to announce an Irish date – come on down Nick Cave, Portishead and My Bloody Valentine, all of whom are touring this summer and would look fine on any festival bill.
Speaking of bills in search of acts….two of the country’s biggest festivals have yet to show their hand. Let’s start with the self-proclaimed “Europe’s greatest music festival”. Oxegen took 2012 off but, per MCD boss Denis Desmond, will be returning on the August bank holiday weekend. Given that Longitude has taken all the hip acts and that other headliners of old like Eminem and Kasabian are playing elsewhere, we’re probably looking at a festival populated by big draw dance, hip-hop and pop acts, who’ve yet to feature on anyone’s radar. Seeing what we’ve seen with the last few Oxegens and last summer’s Swedish Hous Mafia show in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, that’s a festival which would definitely pull a crowd. Desmond did say that the festival’s line-up would be announced in late February and we’re now in early March so we’re assuming it’s still going ahead.
Another festival still in the TBC saloon is the Electric Picnic. While there have been assertions in the past that the event will go ahead, there have been further developments since that statement which cast a shadow over this. OTR understands from sources that there is currently some doubt over whether this year’s event will go ahead due to a dispute at board level between the various entities who control the festival. Of course, given the fact that so many acts who would have been expected to feature on the Picnic bill are now playing elsewhere in Ireland this summer, it may well be the case that there are simply no acts left with blank dates in the diary when the booker gets the green light to make some offers. The Picnic’s 10th outing is turning out to be one hell of a drama long before Stradbally Hall opens its gates.