Google+ Q Dot: What I hate MOST about summer festival season

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I hate MOST about summer festival season

Summer festival season is my favorite music season and I can't even honestly say that i've been to any major festivals. I just love to look at all the lineups, especially the names underneath the headliners that are the ones you've never heard of. As someone who has booked festival lineups and even started a festival it's always fun to see who's booking who to play what.

As a musician on the other hand it's quite the head scratching experience. Especially in the Northwest. 

We're lucky to have a big array of summer music festivals in this region from Bumbershoot to Sasquatch! to Capitol Hill Block Party to Music Fest Northwest to Treefort to Doe Bay and the list goes on and on and on and on and with that number of festivals you'd think there's enough stage time for a plethora of acts across all genres to get their piece but it doesn't happen that way.

The one thing I absolutely can't stand about the summer music festival season, especially here in the Northwest, is that it is painfully obvious that the people booking these lineups only have but maybe a passive interest in hip hop and the lineups are creepily predictable.

Want to know what your favorite festival's lineup will look like here in the northwest? Pick a really cool, really popular set -maybe 3 or 4- of headliners that span across all genres of music. Fill in about 40% of the remaining lineup with bearded, flannel sporting hipster indie folk rockers that range from popular to buzz worthy touring status to relatively unknown. Fill in the other 30% with some experimental, left of center bands who's music almost too niche to even have a real audience then fill in 20% with bands with some sort of a shtick. Maybe they're an a cappella group or a big band made up of senior citizen dog lovers, whatever that gimmick is, you get my point.

And the remaining 10%? Hip Hop acts that are so blatantly predictable it makes me want to vomit.

See, what's cool about these festivals is also what makes it hard for me to swallow as someone active in the hip hop community. The cool part is that obviously, the person booking the lineup has a great taste for music and is willing to take a chance on an unknown. In my one-time-festival-booking-logic, that's why you'll see band names on lineups of some of the biggest festivals that you'll likely never ever see again. But then you'll go to find them on social media and see that they're "followers" and "likes" are in the low 100's and think "well what is it about THIS band that made this HUGE fest pick them up to play?" One answer is the booking agents are likely pushing their bigger acts and throwing in their experimental garage jug band into the package which is all good for them but sucks when there's an MC or a DJ somewhere itching for that opportunity. Truth be told, there's a touring MC that's just like that touring or unknown hipster band that would probably not only be more entertaining but also more appreciative of the opportunity.

So what hip hop acts get picked up to play these festivals? The ones that are a part of the local circle jerk of course. Nothing against those guys but if you're from Seattle it's pretty predictable.

All you need to know in order to find out what hip hop act (that's not a headliner) is going to play a local fest is see first of all:

1. Who would be considered a "safe" act
2. Who's played the bigger Seattle venues in the last year
3. Who's made a splash with a video release/album release and most importantly
4. Who's "in the scene"

That last part is the most crucial because i'm "safe", i've played the big seattle venues and i've made my fair share of splashes but i'm not "in the -real or not real- scene" so guys like me don't get chosen to play big local events like CHBP, Bumbershoot, Sasquatch and the like.

So when you see the usual suspects of local hip hop heads on the festival bill don't be frustrated my friends, just laugh knowing that their formula is lopsided to please their organic coffee sipping, hipster friend's tastes as well as their own. The fear of hip hop in many of these booker's psyches is real - no matter how much Drake and Kanye they listen to.

You can also laugh knowing that for summer 2015, there WILL be a hip hop festival in the Northwest and yes there will be headliners. Yes there will be buzzworthy touring acts and YES there will be those weirdly named, unknown, ethereal, experimental HIP HOP acts on the bill. And maybe just for shits and giggles, i'll book 2 or 3 or 4 really predictable local indie folk bands...just so we can all collectively sit back and laugh about it.