Summer festivals: for latitude seek Longitude, for attitude draw Oxegen

As this summer’s festival line-ups are announced, it’s clear the promoters are tailoring to their audiences

Great outdoors: Kraftwerk, who will perform at Longitude in Marlay Park this summer. Photograph: Peter Boettcher

Great outdoors: Kraftwerk, who will perform at Longitude in Marlay Park this summer. Photograph: Peter Boettcher

 

A packed market for music festivals in Ireland this summer tees up some intriguing battles for audiences as festivals target specific audiences and jostle for dominance.

The one-festival-suits-all-youngsters approach of Oxegen saw numbers diminish over the past couple of years, leading the festival’s organisers to take a year off and reflect on its future. The result is a dancetastic line-up. While many saw the split between indie and pop a mile off, rock fans took to the festival’s Facebook page to complain about the calibre of acts and the genres of commercial dance music, pop and hip hop monopolising the big field in Kildare.

The idea that Oxegen is alienating guitar-music fans probably won’t perturb MCD too much, given that some of its biggest-selling gigs last summer, including the Swedish House Mafia-headlined show in the Phoenix Park, which was overshadowed by violence, and David Guetta’s stint in Marlay Park, showed that the mainstream is where the money is. The promoter is depending on the many young fans of contemporary commercial pop to shift the tickets.

That audience is certainly there, evident from the large crowds that acts such as The Saturdays, David Guetta and Deadmau5 have attracted, while the broader impact of electronic music on global youth culture continues to beef up crowds for acts that musos dismiss.

For years, disgruntled rock-music fans at Oxegen resented sharing the same space with boisterous dance and pop partygoers, so splitting the audiences appeared to be the smart option. Announcing Guetta, Calvin Harris, Example and Rizzle Kicks for Punchestown, while booking Phoenix, Kraftwerk, Vampire Weekend and Yeah Yeah Yeahs for Marlay Park’s Longitude seemed like a no-brainer. There would be no more paltry audiences at Oxegen for acts such as The National, and the kids would be kept happy. Hipsters aren’t complaining: they know Oxegen isn’t for them, and instead are content with their well-priced tickets for Longitude, with a line-up that is perfectly honed to its target audience.

A brace of gigs in the Phoenix Park will cater for the Facebook commenters raging about the lack of Biffy Clyro and Kings of Leon. Mumford & Sons will play with Ben Howard, The Vaccines, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes, and another gig from The Killers is bolstered by a supporting line-up of Two Door Cinema Club, Haim and Frank Ocean. That, of course, instigated another moanfest from those who like the support acts, but for whom the Killers have lost their kudos since Hot Fuss disappeared over the horizon a decade ago.

But festivals that don’t have an identity or a USP will really suffer. The decision by Forbidden Fruit to plonk the lad rockers Kasabian at the top of its bill, thus diluting the cool status of the Kilmainham festival, could prove disastrous. Tickets are selling slowly, and, with the festival still fairly new having nursed the cuts and bruises of a bar “systems failure” in its inaugural year, in 2011, it has scaled down to two days, with Longitude taking the wind out of its sails.

And then there’s the festival that probably garners far more media coverage than any other, Electric Picnic, which is late to the party. With Longitude tickets flying out, the return of Glastonbury pulling a large Irish crowd, and the annual favourite Primavera on many music fans’ calendars, the Picnic needed to pull a lot of tricks out of its bag. It has done well with Bjork, David Byrne & St Vincent, Arctic Monkeys, Fatboy Slim and two very hot new acts, Disclosure and Savages, and loads more. The celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary will also be a big draw, and the goodwill towards the Picnic cannot be overestimated, but the race to shift tickets is on.

Whatever about the punters down the front, it’s going to be a fun summer for those observing from the sidelines.

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