Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The future of the music festival is 1993

It’s not just the record business who want to go back, way back, to a better time and place. I surely wasn’t the only one who was thinking “1993″ when Barcelona’s Primavera Sound announced their line-up yesterday. Blur, the Jesus …

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 09:25


It’s not just the record business who want to go back, way back, to a better time and place. I surely wasn’t the only one who was thinking “1993″ when Barcelona’s Primavera Sound announced their line-up yesterday. Blur, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Nick Cave, My Bloody Valentine, Swans, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr, the Wu-Tang Clan and Dead Can Dance top the bill, something which would whet the appetite of indie fans twenty years ago. If you’d that line-up for Feile 1993, you’d have been elected (better than The Levellers, The Christians and Chris De Burgh who did trip to Tipp that year). In fact, all four of the bands who featured on 1992′s landmark Rollercoaster tour are featured on this year’s bill – Blur, JAMC, MBV and J Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr crew. When Irish Independent journo Eamon Sweeney tweeted that Primavera was now “an aging indie kid theme park by the sea”, you knew he was on the money.

1993 acts, 2013 prices

Of course, Primavera fans will quickly point to the plethora of current acts on the bill. It would be churlish not to admit that there are several acts on the bill that even an old snob like this writer would be happy to see (Killer Mike, Poolside, Matthew E White – who plays Dublin’s Whelan’s on Sunday night – Death Grips, Foxygen, Savages etc), but there will be other opportunities to see them this year. One of a festival’s chief attractions – aside from vibe, location and price, all of which are Primavera positives – are its headliners and there’s nothing here which gets me going “hell yeah” and booking flights to Catalonia.

There will also be opportunities to see this year’s headliners elsewhere this year because the problem with the predominace of acts from 20 years ago is not confined to Parc Del Forum. To mangle that “as Ohio goes so goes America” maxim when it comes to US presidential elections, Primavera’s booking policy is totally characteristic of where music festivals are going. We’ve ran out of new headliners. The system by which acts went from playing small clubs to headlining festivals is broken. For every act like Two Door Cinema Club who can make the leap, you have hundreds of acts who fail to make the leap. Nothing has come along to remake the process which used to be in place. And you can’t have the Kings Of Leon, Coldplay and The Black Keys, to name three acts who’ve came through in the past couple of years, on the road every summer.

But the conservative, old-school nature of the headliners does also point to the conservative, old-school nature of your average festival-goer these days because they’re prepared to put up with this widespread recycling of the past. They’re also the ones who seem to have the cash to splash out on festivals. Some will argue that many of those who will go to see these acts weren’t even born 20 years ago, which is a point you can’t really dispute, but it still amounts to a lack of adventure when it comes to music. Would the indie fans of 20 years ago have put up with a festival bill made up of acts from 1972? It’s one thing if those headliners were creating their best music now, but it’s quite another when the vast majority are trading on past glories (though it should be noted that Swans’ “The Seer” album from last year was widely acclaimed). What the hell is going to happen when those acts finally stop touring?

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