I have loved going to festivals of any kind since I was 10 and this has not changed in the slightest as I have gotten older. The only difference is that I have other things to preoccupy my time with and possibly the largest factor, no money. When I really think about it I should feel awful about complaining on my lack of funds for extravagant music events such as festivals. Most people don’t even care or cannot even fathom the idea of spending cash on a multi-day musical event. However let us just pretend that in a perfect world we could all go to one of these events in the U.S. or the UK for arguments sake. The first question would most likely be who has the best music festivals or in another sense the best music scene? This is a very loaded question because deciding who has the best, is entirely dependent on someones particular music taste.
It is because of this that I have decided to focus solely on festivals because in the ever-changing music landscape, the festival scene is becoming more and more popular. The answer to why festivals are becoming a booming market is easy. They are multi-day events with performing artists of various genres that come from all walks of life. It is not merely just an event, it is an experience that captures the thrill of the the unknown and the freedom of choosing what you get to see and hear. If you are not convinced by my flowery choice of words then in a more economic view it would be more reasonable to spend money on a day chock full of entertaining artists that you know then spending that same cash on just one. Albeit a concert is much cheaper then a festival ticket, but if you want variety or perhaps two of your favorite bands, who would never tour with each other, are playing at said festival then the decision is clear. This brings us to the whole point of this article and that is, who has the most exciting festivals? The U.S. or the UK?
Let us first start by discussing what makes a good festival line-up? Years ago it would have mostly been focused on how popular the headliner was but recently the undercard has been the primary focus on many line-ups around the world. For example the massive UK festival Glastonbury, which is in many peoples eyes the pinnacle of music festivals had a very straightforward and in my opinion lackluster set of headliners this year. Not to say that Arcade Fire, Metallica and Kasabian are not amazing live or that they do not deserve the critical acclaim they receive, but for one of Europe’s largest and most talked about festivals I was expecting something like in 2013, when they managed to nab the legendary Rolling Stones. Despite its headliners the overall line-up was fantastic as festival organizers managed to get acts from every genre like Dolly Parton, Jack White, The Black Keys, Massive Attack, Jurassic 5, Lily Allen and waay more. So in the end while the headliners of any festival are initially important, it really comes down to the undercard to sell the rest of those tickets.
While Glastonbury’s historic reputation is motive enough for bands to want to play on its stage, other major music festivals like U.S. based Coachella must rely on different tactics. Coachella, much like Glastonbury had an eclectic line-up that focused on all kinds of genre’s to draw in the crowds. The only difference is that this year Coachella managed to grab one of the most hyped about reunions in the music industry today. Outkast may be touring the world but they were first announced to be reuniting at the Polo Fields and this will go down in history as the start of their historic comeback. In fact Coachella has become known for it’s gigantic hip-hop headliners and EDM laced rosters. Not only that but they also managed to get stadium rockers Arcade Fire and Muse as headliners. While people may view this as a mainstream/money making move I do not think the festival organizers even care, mainly because the event sells out year after year.
While both festivals have eclectic line-ups that cater to almost every concertgoer there are still some key differences that separate the two. For one, the Glastonbury grounds are much larger then Coachella’s but it sells only up to 135,000 tickets, while Coachella gets around 175,000 festival goers. If you are talking about longevity then Glastonbury wins this hands down since it has been drawing crowds since 1970 and Coachella first started in 1999. Regardless of these statistics, any festival will get massive attendance records solely on the the quality of acts it procures. While more artists went to Glastonbury I believe that in the end it was Coachella who slightly edged out Glastonbury in regards to the line-up. Having managed to get one of the largest reunions in hip-hop history along with a killer undercard I cannot see how Coachella would lose. I mean it seems pretty difficult to beat acts like Beck, Queens Of The Stone Age, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Knife and Motorhead. This is just the tip of the iceberg and of course I respect the solid line-up Glastonbury came out with and some of the unique acts they brought to the table. However it really felt like they chose the most popular bands from the last three years and put them all on the same bill. It is a strong showing but there is nothing people have not already seen before.
Coachella is daring enough to try for newer and more obscure acts that eventually get extremely popular. Call it what you want but the ballsiness of the Coachella organizers keeps the festival at the top and this tactic does not seem to be slowing down. I would have had to say that Glastonbury would have won, no questions asked a year ago, but it seems like the festival is currently aiming for older marquee acts and not focusing on the younger more buzzed about bands. This does not mean it will be any less amazing but the festival will need to learn how to evolve and adapt in the festival landscape so it does not become obsolete. The winner by a thin margin in my U.S. vs UK festival musings is Coachella Valley Music Festival for sheer creativity with their line-ups and the willingness to try new things!