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The (Not So) Great Music Festival

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza are billed as critical cultural events wrapped up in the greatest party on the planet. But with soaring ticket prices, searing heat, tired line-ups, and defective port-o-potties, are they really such fun? Today, Annie Holub, contributor for Pop Matters, and Mark Guarino, music writer for the Chicago Tribune, debate whether multi-day festivals are holy or hype.

Our blog: John Schaefer on music festivals.


Mark Guarino and Annie Holub

Comments [11]

Enrique F. from Elizabeth NJ

I had an interesting experience las saturday in Brooklyn. I got at 5p.m. to the 'summer day party @ the yard' festival -which started at noon-, just to see "Shy Child" that played at 6p.m. The entrance was $10 bucks. They played a few songs, but i liked the fact that i went in and out, just for the Shy Child set.

And i have to say, that the sound was great!

...enventhough i don't like outdoor concerts either. So the practicality of thes event

is something to congratulate. One day, a bunch of indie bands, very well organized and,

you get in and out as you pleased without any problems.

Jul. 15 2008 02:33 PM
Vanessa from New York, NY

Best outdoor festival: Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Clean port-o-johns, diverse food stands, quality music (that sounded great, thanks board guys!) and beautiful views. My advice: attend festivals held in wealthy ski towns. After experiencing that, it made going to hippie festivals held in the middle of muddy, smelly fields impossible to bear (takes away from the music!). Now it's only hotels and small venue shows for me.

Jul. 15 2008 02:33 PM
Abbey Braden from NYC

Yes, it's expensive to travel to these destinations, but I think of it as one stop shopping. I just got back from Bonnaroo and couldn't have been more pleased. I'd much rather fly out to Chicago to see Radiohead than battle it out on Ticketmaster. If you were to add up the individual costs of admission to each of the headliners' shows (Kanye, NIN, Wilco), the price of Lollapalooza seems like a much better deal- especially with the urban creature comforts available.

Jul. 15 2008 02:29 PM
B from Cambridge

What is the joy in seeing your favorite band from 100 yards away or more? I would, and have, payed more than these prices, to see bands in more intimate atmospheres. Even in an arena, the experience is more about the music than the physicality of being outdoors.

Jul. 15 2008 02:25 PM
David Harrington from Manhattan

Meaning --> worst life experience ever: overflowing portapotties, 95 degree heat, $4 water bottles, and a lot of Limp Bizkit and Insane Clown Posse fans.

Jul. 15 2008 02:22 PM
David Harrington from Manhattan

Two words (or a word and a year): Woodstock '99

Jul. 15 2008 02:21 PM
Zak from Brooklyn, NY

The Pitchfork Festival in Chicago has always been extremely well run. You don't have to miss one band to see another and the beer prices are reasonable. Good lineups, too.

Jul. 15 2008 02:20 PM
Zach from Upper West Side

Despite the sometimes extreme heat, the Austin City Limits festival is a great festival. It is easy to walk from venue to venue, they are good about avoiding noise-bleed from stage to stage, great line-ups, and if you are there for three days, you can go jump in the icy-cold springs. Plus the food is surprisingly food. Not too crowded either

Jul. 15 2008 02:17 PM
Chris from Brooklyn

Price, heat, port-o-potties. All good points. But the biggest crime of an outdoor festival is the sound. For the most part, it's horrible. It's all kick drum and low-end.

Jul. 15 2008 02:15 PM
Tara from New York, NY

When your very young the absence of creature comforts are really not an obstacle to fun. I attended many multi-day festivals as a teen, including Grateful Dead shows, and never minded heat, long lines, or lack or quality facilities/amenities. However, the one thing I did not have to contend with was outrageous ticket prices. If I had to pay the type of ticket prices that are asked for now I probably would have never gone to a concert.

Jul. 15 2008 01:37 PM
Jim LaForge from Roselle Park NJ

I've been taking my high school age daughters to the Bamboozle and Warp festival tours in Jersey for the past 4 years ... it is always a great time ..... 50 or more bands per day, great indie rock .... 30 - 40 minute sets that run like clockwork ....the prices aren't crazy ($50.00 for all day), and there are always plenty of toilets .... it's always a good time and a slice of youth culture you can't get anywhere else .... many times I've seen bands on small stages that I'll later see on Leno or Letterman ..... !!

Jul. 15 2008 01:36 PM

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